Ponsse Elephant King forwarder equipped with a Herzog SynchrowinchSTEEP SLOPE LOGGING, European-style

Ponsse dealer ALPA Equipment recently demo’ed some European steep slope logging equipment—a Ponsse Elephant King forwarder equipped with a Herzog Synchrowinch—to two of New Brunswick’s largest forestry operators, to help meet the growing interest in what’s available in steep slope logging technology.

By George Fullerton

There is no shortage of challenges in the woods these days and logging equipment manufacturers are constantly working to try to meet the requests of loggers for advancements in technology to address those challenges.

As part of this effort, Ponsse dealer ALPA Equipment recently brought some European steep slope technology to Canada, and demo’ed it to two of New Brunswick’s largest forestry operators. The demonstration brought a Ponsse Elephant King forwarder—equipped with a Herzog Synchrowinch—to test the combination on some of the steepest forest operations that woodlands managers could find.

Ponsse Elephant King forwarder equipped with a Herzog SynchrowinchSerge Landry, general manager of ALPA Equipment, which is based in Balmoral, New Brunswick, explained that Ponsse has established itself as a leader in steep slope solutions with the Herzog winch attached to both forwarders and harvesters. Landry has seen them work productively in operations in Europe, Brazil, Asia as well as Oregon. Ponsse wants to promote the technology widely in North America, and J.D. Irving and Twin Rivers Paper Company had expressed interest in seeing the technology in action. “We took the initiative, with the support of Ponsse, to put on a demo,” says Landry.

Klaus Herzog founded Herzog Forsttechnik AG, and has been installing winches on forestry machines in Europe since 1999. Ponsse’s German dealer, Wahlers, has delivered over 60 winch-equipped Ponsse machines to customers since 2008 in Germany. Ponsse and Herzog have had a global partnership agreement for the past four years, which makes the Herzog Synchrowinch exclusively available outside of Europe only to Ponsse machines.

Morel Couturier, manager of ALPA Equipment’s Edmunston branch, was the central figure organizing the New Brunswick demos. He explained that the forwarder winch is delivered by Herzog complete with frame and load balusters, and it bolts to the back end of the Elephant King, replacing the normal tail end of the frame.

Couturier explained that the winch is equipped with 350 metres of cable. The cable winding is synchronized with the forwarder’s travel motor output. In the forwarder cab, the operator can observe a screen showing load rating and other technical information on the winch, in addition to a video feed of the winch and cable. The winch is designed to provide 10 tons of continuous pulling force.

Ponsse Elephant King forwarder equipped with a Herzog SynchrowinchThe recommended work method for forwarding is to establish a well-rooted anchor tree at the top of the slope where logging is being done. The winch cable is attached to the anchor tree with a webbed sling (anchor trees can be connected in tandem when there are anchor stability concerns). The forwarder then proceeds (forward) down the slope to the extent of the cable or to an appointed work area, and begins loading, backing up the hill with the winch providing pull to stabilize the forwarder.

Couturier pointed out that the winch is not designed to pull the loaded forwarder, but rather to offer additional traction, up to 50 per cent of needed traction force. This added traction provides smooth movement and increased stability.

He underlined that the Synchrowinch is only providing traction assistance. “The rule of thumb is if the machine doesn’t stand stable on the slope, without support from the winch, then it’s forbidden to operate in the area,” Couturier said.

Mechanized harvesting equipment on steep slopes avoids the necessity and added costs of employing other logging methods, such as skyline yarding, hand falling and cable skidding, and the accompanying safety risks.

Adding a winch to existing mechanized harvesters allows owners to gain greater utilization from their capital investment in equipment.

Properly managed, mechanized harvesting with traction assist winches reduces soil disturbance, since the machine is not spinning to climb the slope. The traction assist reduces stress wear on machines and reduces fuel consumption. The traction assist winch also reduces stress on the operators.

In a harvest situation—where machines have to travel around a steep slope area to gain access to operate—the traction assist winch will eliminate the time and fuel cost of the extended unproductive driving time.

Klaus Herzog says that there is no particular slope value that limits harvesting and forwarding operations, “The slope operations depend on soil conditions and terrain layout,” he explained. “Basically the rule of thumb is if the machine can stay on the slope without sliding, it is ok to operate. This winch system is not a safety winch, it is a traction aid. The winch has a maximum pulling capacity of 10 tons, and it has a 20 ton cable. The machine itself can handle slopes up to 45 degrees, so if soil conditions are favorable with this slope, then the job can be done.

“Payload restriction relates to the soil conditions, as well,” Herzog added. “If the machine can stay in one spot with its payload and not slide, then it is ok to operate. Of course this will be determined as the machine travels down the slope, and watching the tension in the cable.

The operator will know the stability (traction) of the machine as he gets a good feel for the soil conditions. He must remember not to rely on the winch to pull him up—again, it is there to help with traction only. The winch helps alleviate spinning and in turn helps with soil erosion control.

“In the forest, we can never have the guarantee that anchor or steel rope never breaks,” cautioned Herzog.

The estimated lifetime of the cable is between 1,000 and 2,000 winch hours, depending on the driving style of the operator and working conditions (steepness, type of ground, machine weight). Daily maintenance is about 30 minutes, in addition to normal machine maintenance. Weekly maintenance is about one hour of cleaning and inspection. At 600 winch hours service, an oil change and a close inspection of all wear parts is required. At 1,200 winch hours, a filter and oil change is required, as is an inspection of brake discs and drum bearings.

Ponsse Elephant King forwarder equipped with a Herzog SynchrowinchALPA Equipment says steep slope harvest operations have to consider a few extra practices, including maintaining good anchor trees at the top of the slope. Harvesters must pay close attention to cutting stumps low, and not leave standing trees that might interfere with the cable, and work to avoid boulders, rock outcrops and unstable soils.

ALPA’s Morel Couturier said that there are several basic rules regarding steep slope operations, such as regular eight-wheel machines have greater stability and climbing ability than six- or four-wheel machines. Good tire tread is a bonus and the selection of tracks will provide optimum traction on slopes. Fluid loading tires will also increase traction characteristics. Telescopic cranes/loaders lower the centre of gravity, and extend operability on slopes.

Operators also have to be concerned about machine fluid levels on steep slopes. Couturier explained that since 2010, Ponsse has been manufacturing tall and narrow fuel and hydraulic tanks with bottom pickups, to address working in the increased steep slope operations. Ponsse has also redesigned engine oil pans to accommodate steep slope operations. Couturier added that balanced bogie technology (option) also provides added traction for steep slope operation.

He said steep slope harvest operations have to consider a few extra practices. The first is to maintain good anchor trees at the top of the slope. Harvesters must pay close attention to cutting stumps low, and not leave standing trees that might interfere with the cable. They must work to avoid boulders, rock outcrops and unstable soils. “Typically the harvester avoids those things to make their job and operations easier and more stable, and that helps make a good path for the forwarder,” said Couturier

He also explained that tilting operator seats make steep slope operating a lot more comfortable and productive for the operator.

For the J. D Irving demo, Ponsse brought in Dan Fuhrer, a Ponsse trainer/service rep from Alberta. On the Twin Rivers demo, they selected a young guy with good operating experience.

“We just showed him the Elephant King and the winch, and he went to work with it,” said Couturier. “At the end of the demo, he said he could produce on steep ground using the Synchrowinch at the same level he did on level ground.

“While riding in the forwarder, empty or loaded, I felt very safe and secure,” added Couturier. “But when I started down the slope on foot, I realized how steep it was and how it was difficult to walk down.”

Ponsse Elephant King forwarder equipped with a Herzog SynchrowinchEach logging site is, of course, different. “Because of traction aid, there might not be a need for tracks in certain situations,” explained Marko Mattila, North America rep for Ponsse.

“When you don’t have tracks, it reduces the soil damage. This is one of the reasons why winch systems must be used in some areas in Europe. Landowners don’t want to have big soil damages after logging,” said Mattila.

Ponsse operates in over 40 countries worldwide, and they can offer steep slope solutions wherever they are needed. Over the years, Ponsse has delivered both winch equipped forwarders and harvesters all across Europe, to Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, China, and a few years ago, to an operator in Oregon.

Mattila says Ponsse sees good potential and product demand for steep slope gear in North America. “There is lot of steep slope logging that needs to be done. There is a big need to improve the safety and efficiency in those operations, and with the Herzog Synchrowinch, Ponsse has a proven product to meet that demand.

“We have been in Oregon with winch machines for about three years,” he noted. “Ponsse’s eight-wheel harvesters perform extremely well on very steep ground, and the Herzog Synchrowinch is just another big step to improve safety and efficiency in those steep slopes.”

Mattila contends that it’s best to see the winch in action to appreciate its effectiveness. “So far, I haven’t met anyone who can truly understand the concept without seeing it in real life,” he said.

The next time Ponsse will show the machines in action is at DEMO 2016, taking place September 22-24, in Maple 
Ridge, British Columbia.

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
July/August 2016

On the Cover:
Everything is in place for the largest live logging equipment show in North America this year—DEMO 2016, to be held at the UBC Research Forest near Vancouver from September 22-24—and the package is impressive. Read all about DEMO beginning on page 38 of this issue.

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Steep slope logging, European-style
Ponsse dealer ALPA Equipment recently demo’ed some European steep slope logging equipment to two of New Brunswick’s largest forestry operators, to help meet the growing interest in what’s available in steep slope logging technology.

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