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Dealing with Tembec’s tough temperatures
Tembec’s Cochrane sawmill operation had a wide choice when it came to choosing a new wheel loader, and in opting for a Volvo L120G machine they have a piece of equipment that is delivering reliability in the -40 temperatures of northern Ontario.
Story and photos by Ron Mullins
Sawmill management faces a daily challenge: they know what they have to move at the mill, where they have to move it to, and how quickly it has to be done.
However, the question remains: what brand of equipment is best for the job and will provide the greatest return on investment (ROI)?
That was the challenge being faced by the team of Paulo Gignac and Greg Murphy, senior managers at the Tembec Forest Products Group, Cochrane, Ontario sawmill.
Following the major forestry market downturn of the past few years, the industry was once again on solid footing and making a significant rebound. To keep their Tembec mill productive and profitable and eliminate as much potential downtime as possible, both Gignac and Murphy knew they had to begin replacing their aging fleet of wheel loaders. To that end, they began to collect information.
Tembec is a Canadian based manufacturer of forest products—lumber, pulp, paper and specialty cellulose—and a global leader in sustainable forest management practices. It has operational facilities in both North America and France and employs approximately 3,500 people. The company manages nearly 10 million hectares of Canadian forestlands. Their Cochrane dimensional lumber sawmill, established in 1976 and with approximately 120 employees, is a key industry in this quaint, northern Ontario community. Working two shifts daily, six days a week, the mill is currently producing approximately 115 million board feet of dimensional lumber annually, that is shipped to markets across North America.
General Manager Gignac and Fibre Supervisor Murphy are veterans of the lumber industry and over the years have had experience with many different brands of wheel loaders. They knew that there were several brand options available to them.
Both knew the best place to start to collect the necessary purchase-decision evidence was in their own mill yard. Here they found several brands of wheel loaders, including two Volvo models, each with close to 100,000 hours of operational time, a Clark Michigan and an aging Michigan L160 wheel loader with over 160,000 hours on the clock.
The first Clark Michigan wheel loaders were built in 1954 and the company and their complete line of wheel loaders were brought under the Volvo banner in 1985. So really, there were only two wheel loader brands in the Tembec yard.
Keeping this fleet of aging wheel loaders fully operational in a demanding lumber mill operation and in the harsh climatic conditions of northern Ontario is not necessarily easy. Not easy, but really quite simple according to Tembec head mechanic Serge Thomas. His secret: lots of regular maintenance. “We clean and/or change the air filters every week, blow the radiators clean as often as is necessary and change the engine oil every two weeks or 250 operational hours, whichever is soonest. Engine oil is cheap—engines are expensive.”
When asked about loader performance when there is plenty of snow and the temperature often dips to minus 40 Celsius, Thomas said: “The loaders are always parked outside and we keep them plugged in at night. We never have any problem getting them started. I ask all the operators to let them warm up before they start to use them—and it works.”
According to Greg Murphy, the Tembec equipment acquisition team looked around at various competitive brands and even demo’ed a couple, but were always drawn back to the Volvo brand. There were a number of reasons for this, according to Murphy.
First, they felt that some of the competing brands were not going to be as reliable or as fuel efficient as their existing Volvo models. “Second, our operators really liked the visibility, lifting power and stability of the Volvo loaders. Thirdly, we had established a solid working relationship with Strongco (the Volvo Construction Equipment dealer based in Mississauga, Ontario). Fourthly, who can argue with reliability? All of our aging Michigan and Volvo wheel loaders have in excess of 100,000 hours on the meter and we still use them every day.”
Also assisting with the purchase decision was the close alignment of Tembec’s core values and those of Volvo Construction Equipment. Volvo core values embrace quality, safety and environmental care. Tembec demonstrates industry leadership through its commitment to quality and environmental protection as well as the health and safety of its employees, its customers and the public. “This close alignment meant a lot to us and we certainly took it into consideration when making our decision,” says Murphy.
Volvo Construction Equipment is the world’s first construction equipment manufacturer to partner with the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in an initiative to cut carbon emissions. With its Climate Savers program, WWF asks companies around the world to commit to reducing their carbon footprints. WWF-Canada tells the story of how Tembec was the first major Canadian company to commit to Forest Stewardship Council certification.
So the evidence was gathered, a purchase decision made, the contract signed and last year Strongco delivered a shiny new Volvo L120G wheel loader to Tembec’s Cochrane operation. Since that time, this new wheel loader has taken up a leadership position with its aging brothers.
Working two shifts per day, the L120G takes its turn at both feeding and unloading lumber from the sawmill, stacking lumber in the yard, feeding and unloading the kilns and loading the bundled lumber on trucks and railcars. In its spare time, of which there is very little, it gets fitted with either a bucket to work the chip pile or a blade for yard clean-up and road maintenance. In winter, snow clearing is added to this list.
The catalog of standard equipment on the L120G is extensive It starts with a reliable, certified Volvo Tier 4 Interim engine, delivering 267 net horsepower. Providing high torque at lower rpm’s, Volvo engines are able to consistently deliver industry-leading fuel efficiency, lower environmental emissions and less noise both inside the cab, as well as outside the machine. The advanced diesel particulate filter operates automatically while the machine is working with no impact on performance. The all Volvo drive train—engine, transmission, axles, hydraulics and steering—is designed to maximize performance and extend machine life.
Volvo’s patented Torque Parallel Linkage provides superior rollback strength and lift force. Load sensing hydraulics give horizontal stability through the entire lift range. This feature alone makes it the ideal log and lumber handling wheel loader, says Volvo. High breakout torque, even in the highest bucket or fork position, means plenty of power for even the toughest, heaviest jobs.
A spacious and comfortable Volvo Care Cab provides exceptional all-around operator visibility, is fully ROPS/FOBS compliant, keeping operators safe and productive, even on those long, difficult shifts, and includes climate control. Lighting for night operations is fully customizable.
CareTrack, Volvo’s telematics system, is also included as standard equipment. This industry-leading technology provides detailed information on machine usage, fuel consumption, location reports and service reminders in addition to providing the data needed to reduce costs and maximize the owner’s ROI.
When the new L120G arrived, Volvo and Strongco provided all Tembec Cochrane operators and mechanics with a full day of on-site, hands-on-training. This training touched on operator best-practices as well as new-practices that can be employed to enhance operator comfort, improve production and lower operating costs.
So what have been the immediate rewards to Tembec as a result of their decision to purchase a new Volvo L120G wheel loader?
Bertrand Fortin, operator, 37 years’ experience: “It runs real nice. Visibility is great and the rear view camera, which is on all the time, makes it easier and safer for the operator and the crew. It shifts real nice and it’s pretty easy on fuel. Visibility, everything in the cab is great.”
David Blackburn, operator, 38 years’ experience: “They keep me pretty busy unloading logs and when I’m not doing that they give me the Michigan. But that new Volvo is a very nice machine.”
Greg Murphy, Superintendent Fibre, Yard and Kilns: “I like the CareTrack system. It lets me know how the machine is being used, all uptime and any downtime, any alarms that may have happened and it tracks the fuel usage. Compared with our other wheel loaders, we are saving between 45 and 55 liters of fuel per shift with this new Volvo loader and that’s very significant, especially with the price of fuel these days.”
Paulo Gignac, General Manager, Cochrane Sawmill: “I’m very pleased with the performance of our Volvo machines. Our Volvo equipment has treated us very well.”
There is not a lottery at the beginning of each shift to see who will be operating the new L120G, but it is a very popular machine, both with the operators and the accountants. A subcontractor who does work for Tembec-Cochrane was so impressed with the performance of the new Volvo L120G that he purchased one as well. The Tembec, Cochrane management team is very pleased with their new Volvo. So pleased that they have a new Volvo L150G on order.
This story was provided by Volvo Construction Equipment.