MX front loaders show engineering pedigree
Their chief purpose is to extend the capabilities of a tractor, converting it to a materials-handling vehicle in addition to its roles as a draught tool and power source.
Making the most of the tractor
Here in Ireland the concept remains popular with farmers despite the appeal of specialist machines which, their proponents note, tend to have quicker cycle times, greater performance and higher capacity that adapted tractors.
Yet, not all operators require the extra abilities of a telescopic handler or wheeled loader, especially so if it involves the expenditure on another vehicle, and it is this ability to perform the greater number of farm tasks, combined with a lower overall cost, that still makes them an attractive proposition.
Naturally, where there is a demand there come companies keen to fill it, and one such manufacturer of front-end loaders is MX Loaders which hails from Brittany, France and are imported by Farmec, of Co. Meath.
70 years of production
The manufacturing company was established by Lois Mailleux in 1951, initially producing ploughs before its first loader appeared in 1963, giving it nearly 60 years of experience in this field.
Today, MX produces loaders, front linkages, and counterbalance weight blocks, all complementary products that go a long way to increasing the effectiveness and safety of a tractor.
There are two subsidiaries: Manip, which manufactures buckets and attachments and Mach Connectors, which produces the control systems and hydraulic connecting blocks.
It is now the largest producer of front-end loaders in France, and the second biggest in Europe, with smaller factories in France and India, producing loaders for Claas, Iseki, Case and Kubota, as well as to be sold under its own name.
MX know the product
Despite this growth and global presence it is still very much family owned with the third generation of Mailleux’s still active in running the company.
The loader market is a competitive place and to build and retain a lead has taken a lot of hard and time-consuming work. There are 65 people in the research and development who are mainly tasked with ensuring that the company is able to fit a loader to every major brand in the countries they export to.
Presently, this list extends to 41 tractor manufacturers with brackets available for over 9,500 different models, although they are not all currently produced.
Requiring so many people to study new tractors may sound somewhat excessive, but it is essential that no loader, when operated within its design parameters, can cause damage to the tractor.
Thus, it not only becomes important to know the various dimensions, but also the effect of the stress on the tractor’s frame as a whole.
This entails analysis of the components making up the tractor, especially the engine block, and the amount of reinforcement, if any, required to ensure nothing bends or cracks under load.
The company manufactured 13,400 loaders last year with everything for the European market being built in France. Sheet steel enters at one end of the factory and completed loaders emerge the other.
Yet MX is not standing still, and there is a €27 million investment programme currently underway, aimed chiefly at reducing lead times to a matter of days rather than weeks.
Getting the right fit
The reason for concentrating on this aspect of the production process goes back to the desire to ensure every tractor is matched with the correct loader.
There is a fear that if a loader is immediately required by a dealer to go on a tractor awaiting delivery, an incorrect model may be fitted just to get the job done, leading to problems further down the line.
By having the ability to deliver the correct loader within a few days there is less temptation to mess about trying to get the incorrect bracketry to fit, and so safety and effectiveness is persevered.
However, just in time delivery has suffered something of a setback over the last couple of years due to bottlenecks in the supply chain, so there is some understandable hesitancy on the part of Farmec to reduce its stock of loaders in the warehouse.
Four levels of competence
The company makes four ranges of loader to fit most tractors normally sold within Ireland, these may be as small as 15hp, or right up to 400hp machines.
The basic models are known as the ‘A’ series which are frills-free and do the job that is required of them. They tend to be popular on smaller tractors where only occasional use is required.
Next comes the ‘U’ or utility series. These are the bread and butter models that are suited to most farm situations and are the biggest sellers.
However, if the loader is to be used more intensively the T series may be the better option. These are of a more rugged build and tend to be appreciated by contractors on tractors of up to 300hp.
For larger machines the TX series is available, which is suitable for larger machines with 400hp being the general limit. Naturally, they are of a much stronger construction to handle the power that drives them, and although Farmec has sold a few into Ireland, they are rarely brought over from France.
One of the main selling points for the company is the bucket crowd angle which MX claims to be the best on the market, giving 20% extra bucket capacity than some competitors.
It will also point to the ease of mounting and dismounting the loaders as well as smaller details such as the oversized joint pins and bronze bushes.
The hose connection block also couples the electrical services as well as an additional pipe which diverts oil back down into the reservoir should the bucket impact on an obstruction, activating the pressure relief valve installed to prevent this causing damage.
The rate of improvement in machinery design has accelerated tremendously over recent years and the success of a manufacturer will depend to a huge extent on how it has kept up with the wave.
MX Loaders would appear to be highly aware that standing still is not an option and continual improvement through research and development is essential to survival in its chosen field.
This might lead to the assumption that it is prohibitively expensive for many farmers, yet the standard range remain at about 10% the cost of the new tractor, a rule of thumb which has been around since front loaders were invented