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John Deere showcases latest technologies at virtual event

May 11, 2021  By Andrew Snook

Rock to Road editor Andrew Snook recently attended the virtual John Deere press event. Photo: John Deere

The John Deere 2021 Spring Construction Equipment Virtual Press Event took place on April 6, showcasing the company’s latest technologies for the construction sector.

The event was kicked off by Kara Ferry, marketing communications manager for construction equipment for John Deere Construction & Forestry.

“It’s hard to believe the last time we were altogether, and in-person, was at CONEXPO 2020.”

“We’re so excited to have you join us in this virtual format as we share the latest developments at John Deere,” she told attendees.


Jason Daly, global director, production systems, technology and marketing, presented the first session and discussed John Deere’s Performance Tiering Strategy originally unveiled at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020.

“Here at John Deere, we understand our customer’s needs, and acknowledge that customers must remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. We experienced this in 2020, which is one for the record books to say the least. Our customers trust us to deliver the equipment needed to operate and perform at superior levels,” he told attendees. “We believe every job presents different opportunities and customers want machine solutions that can be personalized to meet their diverse needs. Especially when it comes to application fit, performance, technology, innovation, price and comfort. This is why we developed the John Deere Performance Tiering Strategy.”

The 644 G-tier. Photo: John Deere

Tiering strategy

The three tiers are X-tier, P-tier and G-tier models, which all offer varying levels of technologies and features. The X and P tier models are available in Canada and the U.S., while the G tier are available in Canada and other global markets.

X-tier: The X-tier models are designed and equipped with Deere’s most innovative technologies and features, offering the highest levels of productivity. The 644 X-tier 5-metric-ton wheel loader features the company’s E-Drive technology, which is comprised of a diesel-electric drivetrain.

P-tier: The P-tier models offer advanced features designed to deliver exceptional performance, efficiency, comfort and service life in high-demanding applications. The 444-724 P-tier machines reflect the performance capabilities and features that most customers expect from John Deere, such as those found on the current L-Series wheel loaders, including a redesigned cab, standard parallel lift Z-Bar loader linkage, high-lift plus option, electrohydraulic controls and dual return-to-dig settings.

G-tier: The 644 G-tier is the first model to be available in the lineup of G-tier Wheel Loaders. Leveraging proven components and technologies, the 644 G-tier is equipped with an all-new cab designed to boost operator comfort and productivity. Customers can customize the machine through a variety of base-level packages, including axles, tires, ride control, seats, radio and rear chassis work-light selections.

Loading in the pits and quarries

Luke Gribble, solutions marketing manager for quarry and aggregate and ag material handling for John Deere Construction & Forestry, offered a virtual walkaround of the new 644 G-tier wheel loader.

“The 644 is going to be first machine in our G-tier solutions portfolio and is currently available in Canada and select Latin American countries.”

“For this wheel loader, we’ve created a practically equipped, no-nonsense machine that takes the fundamental strengths of John Deere equipment and applies them to the completion of common construction tasks. The strength of proven components from our K and L series loaders powered the initial design of the 644 G tier, but we’ve made the overall build economical with the idea providing a machine best suited for light- to medium-duty applications,” he said. “With this machine, with an operating weight of just under 40,000 pounds, and a net horsepower of 235 from the reliable John Deere PowerTech 6.8-litre engine, we know that the 644 G-tier is well-equipped to do things like loading trucks and hoppers, stockpiling materials, complete short load and carry tasks, manage fork work, and much more.”

The machine’s standard Z-bar linkage is based on the 644K standard design.

“This means it’s not only time-tested, but an example of the versatility that we kept in mind when designing this machine. The 644 G-tier will also accept 644K pin-on buckets, and, when equipped with the optional hi-vis John Deere coupler, 644K and L coupler buckets and attachments will go on this machine as well,” Gribble said.

The machine is offered with a number of bucket options, including John Deere’s 4-cu.-yd. general purpose, hi-vis coupler bucket; or a 4.25-cu.-yd. pin-on coupler bucket.

“All of our John Deere enhanced production buckets feature a centre-section spill guard and curved side guard cutters for optimum bucket fill and material retention,” he said.

In addition to wide variety of additional features, the 644 G-tier comes standard with JD Links telematics.

Gribble also discussed the 333G SmartGrade Compact Track Loader, which was unveiled at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020. The 333G is the first compact equipment the company has offered with fully integrated grade control technology.

“Expanding the abilities of our equipment through leading-edge technology is at the forefront of our priorities,” Gribble said. “By adding SmartGrade technology into the 333G Compact Track Loader, we are providing our customers with the industry’s first-ever machine fully integrated with grade control technology, helping them do more with less on the job.”

Deere 350G excavator. Photo: John Deere

SmartGrade excavators

Justin Steger, product marketing manager for site development and underground, presented an overview of John Deere SmartGrade for excavators.

“This is one of our latest and greatest developments and it will be launching in the U.S. and Canadian markets very soon,” he said.

“We’ve equipped the 210G LC and 350G LC with SmartGrade to give operators of every level of experience the ability to quickly and confidently achieve grade.”

One of the key features on the excavators is the ability to prevent the operator from digging below grade.

“By controlling the boom and bucket, this semi-automatic technology frees up the operator to concentrate on the arm function, resulting in fewer periodic grade checks every time,” Steger said. “John Deere understands that every contractor has different business needs, and therefore, different requirements when it comes to returns on their investments. Thankfully, SmartGrade reinforces our belief that every operation deserves to benefit from the advancements technology has to offer. That’s why we now offer four different levels of grade management solutions packaged with intuition, growth and application in mind.”

The four levels of grade management are SmartGrade, SmartGrade-Ready with 2D, 3D Grade Guidance and 2D Grade Guidance.

The SmartGrade-Ready with 2D option provides a 2D system with semiautomated functions, improving the ease of use without the need for GNSS technology or 3D design plans. Additionally, the SmartGrade-Ready machines arrive from the factory prewired for the SmartGrade system, enabling the owner to upgrade in the future, if desired.

The 3D or 2D Grade Guidance options provide reference information to the operator in the cab to improve productivity. The 2D Grade Guidance option shares bucket tooth and cutting-edge elevation information relative to a benchmark with the operator through the in-cab monitor.

The 3D Grade Guidance option accurately provides the horizontal and vertical bucket position using GNSS technology and can make use of a 3D design plan. All guidance and control options are available with an optional laser receiver, which leverages an ultra-precise local external elevation reference.

Photo: John Deere

Precision Construction

Andrew Kahler, manager of technology solutions, unveiled Precision Construction, the new John Deere innovation solutions portfolio.

“What was once referred to as John Deere Worksite has branded to an innovation portfolio known as Precision Construction. This new strategic direction is entirely focused on our customers. Each solution in this portfolio is focused on helping resolve customer pain points, as opposed to technology for the sake of technology. If it doesn’t work for our customers, it doesn’t work,” he told attendees.

“Precision construction technology is about delivering more intelligent, connected machines and solutions so our customers will be able to make more informed decisions, maximize uptime, and get more done, more efficiently.”

John Deere’s current offerings have been organized into four focused pillars: Connected Support, Grade Management, Payload Weighing and JDLink Telematics. This is designed to enable customers to identify and incorporate technology solutions based on their unique needs. The company stated that these core areas will be added to in the future, “carving a path for new introductions that further support the automation-to-autonomy journey.”

Photo: John Deere

Motor graders

John Deere announced new industry-exclusive features for its Grade Pro (GP)-Series motor graders: Auto-Pass and Auto-Shift PLUS.

“The John Deere motor grader lineup has a legacy of technological and mechanical innovation, dating back decades, with the notable introduction of the industry’s first mastless 3D grade control system in 2019,” said Matt Goedert, solutions marketing manager, John Deere. “Fast forward to today, and we’re still striving to deliver industry-leading capabilities that allow any operator — new or experienced — to work more efficiently on the job site. The latest features build upon that legacy, allowing us to put even more power and precision into the hands of the operator.”

The Auto-Pass feature programs machine movements at the beginning and end of grading passes.

While adjusting the speed of these movements and rotating the blade 180 degrees, the machine will simultaneously place the blade on the ground while preparing for the next pass.

Available as an option on the GP-Series models and standard on SmartGrade motor graders, this feature can also be programmed to raise and rotate the blade at the end of a grading pass, mirroring the finished angle.

The AutoShift transmission, Auto-Shift PLUS, removes the need for using the inching pedal. This enables the operator to use the throttle and brake, offering increased control of the machine. Auto-Shift PLUS allows for the machine to come to a complete stop without stalling, helping reduce fatigue while cutting smoothly around obstacles or structures.

Another standard feature now included on all GP-Series machines is Configurable Float. With this feature, float switches can be programmed to control any auxiliary function, allowing programming of up to three float switches through the monitor, which adds versatility in applications where auxiliary functions are used often.

Dozer updates

John Deere also announced upgrades to its largest dozers, the 950K and 1050K models.

“Our time spent on customer sites has allowed us to confidently design an undercarriage for the 1050K that drastically improves operability and productivity on rough terrain,” said Matt Goedert, solutions marketing manager, John Deere. “With the updates to the 950K and 1050K machines, such as the Extended Life undercarriage life option, we’re delivering increased machine uptime while also significantly enhancing the operator experience.”

The suspended double-bogie track frame on the 1050K was designed to improve ride quality. The frame features a second layer of bogies, new isolators and refined geometry to increase durability and a smoother ride for reduced operator fatigue.

The Extended Life undercarriage option, now available for the 950K and 1050K models, features John Deere-exclusive SC-2-coated track chain bushings. Produced using a proprietary coating that forms a hard shell, the SC-2-coated bushings are designed to deliver up to twice the wear life of standard bushings, significantly increasing machine uptime.

The 1050K model’s Semi-U blade has been re-designed with a more productive profile. The new profile is designed to offer increased capacity with improved roll performance and standard cast end bits. As a result, the Semi-U blade reduces material plugging and carries more dirt where it needs to go with every pass, boosting machine productivity.

For more information on the latest upgrades and product releases from John Deere’s 2021 Spring Construction Equipment Virtual Press Event, visit

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