Saskatchewan is breathtakingly beautiful and impressively immense.
Fertile prairies stretch as far as the eye can see. Rich amber wheat stalks sway gently in warm summer breezes. About 100,000 crystal-clear freshwater lakes dot the landscape. And thick forests add splashes of deep green to a vast Canadian canvas.
Here, people are as friendly as frigid winters are long. They’ve met neither a stranger nor a job too tough to complete.
This spirit of rugged independence is everywhere, particularly in rural towns like Rose Valley. That’s where you’ll find folks like John Deere customer Kendale Dosselman, a burly former oil-rig worker whose indomitable will is every bit as strong as the crankshaft on his beloved 60G Compact Excavator.
“Back in January of 2015, I was helping a farmer friend of mine build an elk fence on his property,” Dosselman explained. “I was operating a big post pounder when it happened. We got a little too close to a power line up above. And when I touched the controls, I felt something, and then it gave it to me, so to speak.”
In an instant, everything changed. He doesn’t remember being rushed to St. Paul’s hospital in Saskatoon. He doesn’t remember his lungs filling with fluid. But he does remember waking up from a medically-induced coma to discover doctors had amputated both of his hands.
“Oh, before that point, I took many things for granted,” he said. “And I had no idea what you really lose when you lose your hands. Now, it’s a whole different life.”
The next few years were, suffice to say, difficult. The scars began to heal. The pain lessened. And the real work began.
“I had to have patience to overcome all of the challenges,” Dosselman recalls. “I told myself to keep with it. Stay strong. I had to do it for my family, and that’s the biggest thing. Just keep going.”
I have to learn how to eat? Just keep going. I have to learn how to comb my hair? Just keep going. I have to learn how to drive? Just keep going.
“My wife, Jody, and I have two young kids,” he said. “I had to do something.”
Dosselman knew that to get back to work, he had to just keep going.
Deere Steps In
Giving up isn’t part of Dosselman’s DNA. So, despite life-altering injuries, he decided to start his own contracting business and bought a Deere 60G compact excavator.
“The Saskatchewan provincial government contacted the Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute (PAMI), a John Deere supplier that performs field tests on machines built at Harvester Works,” said Mark Colvin, supervisor Engineering, John Deere Dubuque Works. “PAMI then reached out to Deere to see if there was any way to modify Kendale’s excavator.”
In May 2018, the request was sent to the Custom Engineering team at Dubuque Works in Dubuque, Iowa.
“We were honored to help a customer who was trying to help himself,” said Ryan Camps, engineer, Dubuque Works.
Camps was determined to make Dosselman’s excavator usable, despite the challenges of retrofitting the controls.
“The first thing I did was find off-the-shelf parts within Deere that were used on other products. That, in and of itself, was a huge win because we could review specifications ahead of time, and we knew they met all our standards,” Camps said. “More importantly, we could order parts quickly and have them arrive within two or three days.”
Once everything was in-house, the team began the modification design process. Since many of the parts such as control valves and shuttle checks were manufactured for the Japanese market, changes had to be made to meet U.S. standards. That meant designing custom hoses and fittings, which had to be fabricated on-site at the factory.
“After the design was complete, I had the new system installed on a 60G compact excavator that we had at the Dubuque Works product support shop,” Camps added. “I had to verify hose pressures, flows, and cycle times to make sure they were equal to or better than what’s provided on current 60G models. We had to figure out a way to allow the auxiliary foot pedal control and the rocker switch on the right-hand joystick to operate independently. And we did.”
The Deere Product Safety & Compliance team took a close look at the design and, after installing safety interlocks to prevent accidental machine movement, approved the changes. The modifications were then sent to a John Deere dealer in Saskatchewan for installation.
A Grateful Customer
Today, Dosselman is back to work, and his contracting company is growing. He has a couple of employees, a few skid steers, and, yes, his beloved excavator.
“Deere made it much easier – a lot easier – in fact, to operate,” he said. “I have more ways to work a little longer, and the modifications made it simple to use because I’ve got movement now on both the joystick and the thumb. It’s astonishing to do things by myself. It’s like ‘wow, I did that!’”
It’s equally astonishing for Deere engineers, too.
“To see a guy go through something traumatic, and want to keep moving forward in life, shows the will of someone who will not quit,” Camps said. “Creating a solution for an issue that will hopefully make his life easier shows me that we can try to help every customer we encounter.”