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Pendulum shift in harvesting
Nova Scotia logger Steve Saunders has been part of a pendulum shift in timber harvesting, working with both Eco Log 580 and 590 harvesters equipped with independent pendulum arm suspensions.

By George Fullerton

Contractor Steve Saunders checks in with Eco Log 590 operator Chris Lenihan. The Eco Log 590’s unique pendulum arm suspension technology helps level out the rough terrain, allowing the machine to gain a solid stance.

teve Saunders knows that to be successful in business he has to be open to innovation and opportunity, and adapt to gain an edge in the increasingly competitive harvesting sector of the forest industry. Opportunity can present itself in many different forms.

Saunders thought he saw one of those opportunities when he looked at an Eco Log 580 harvester, the first imported to North America. He saw that the independent pendulum arm suspension might give him a competitive edge in the notoriously boulder- strewn landscape of western Nova Scotia, where he harvests wood on private woodlots and Crown lands.

Repeated periods of glaciation have left western Nova Scotia, save for the Annapolis Valley, peppered with granite boulders that range in size from man-moveable, right up to the size of a respectable house. The terrain is notoriously tough on all sorts of harvesting equipment—it presents challenges to operators when machines tip as the centre of gravity shifts as booms are extended to cut trees. More than a few harvester heads have pounded granite boulders in the process of getting the wood cut.

The Eco Log harvester’s unique pendulum arm suspension technology helps level out the rough terrain, allowing the machine to gain a solid stance. It gives operators the confidence to reach out for any tree within reach and cut it down and process it without concern for the machine shifting.

Saunders purchased the 580 with a LogMax 7000 head in 2004, and has been well satisfied with its performance and the dealer support he has received. Saunders says he ordered the 580 machine with the 7000 head because the head had the capacity for processing large and rough hardwoods. Log Max Forestry Inc of Dieppe, NB, handles the Eco Log line, as well as the LogMax line.

“We have put 8,000 hours on the 580 Eco Log, and we have been very satisfied with its performance,” Saunders explains.

And when he saw its sister machine, the Eco Log 590, the experience with the 580 convinced him he should sell his buncher and processor, and run with two Eco Log harvesters. After operating the new 590 harvester for a few months, Saunders says he is convinced that investing in the first one to hit Canadian shores was a good decision. “We are very happy with the performance of this new harvester. It has proved to meet all the expectations I had for it, and it is getting the wood cut.

“The 590 is bigger, stronger and more powerful, and it handles the LogMax 7000 head, and whatever hardwood we cut, very well. We got the 580 with a 7000 head because we wanted the 7000’s capacity for the big hardwoods we cut. But it was not a perfect fit. The 580 has to struggle a bit with really big trees, while the 590 handles even the largest trees with ease.”

Saunders has had experience with a variety of tracked harvesters and realizes the rough ground takes a toll on operators and noticeably increases their fatigue factor, not to mention increasing track and general machine maintenance costs.

Saunders purchased an Eco Log 580 with a LogMax 7000 head in 2004, and has been satisfied with its performance and the dealer support he has received.

 “We were running the Eco Log 580 beside our processor. Sometimes I would shift the operators, and it was remarkable to see the guy come out of the tracked harvester, worn out from a day’s work, and sit in the 580 and go to work as if he was starting his shift. That pointed out to me that my operators could be a lot more productive in the Eco Log machines,” explains Saunders.

The Eco Log 590’s pendulum arms connect to each of the two front bogies which run 700/50 x 30.5 rubber, and the two rear (710/55 x 34 tires) wheels. The pendulum arms are extended and retracted by hydraulic cylinders attached to the frame. Each arm operates independently of the other arm, providing a very wide degree of machine leveling options.

Robert Moran of Log Max Forestry explains that Eco Log is not the only manufacturer that has experimented with pendulum arm suspension, but they have brought the technology to a highly advanced level. “Western Nova Scotia is legendary for granite surface boulders and it provides very serious operational and wear factors for harvesters. Steve Saunders is very ably showing how the pendulum system performs in that adverse environment,” says Moran.

He explains that the 590 was specifically designed around the LogMax 7000 head and targeted to North American operations with a high volume of large and limby hardwoods and softwoods. Moran points out that the 590 is a bigger and heavier machine than the 580 series, with significantly more horsepower. The 590 features the Cat ACERT engine, rated at 315 horsepower, compared to the 580’s 250-horsepower engine. The boom on the 590 has a reach of 9.4 metres and is rated at 25.5 tonne per metre, while the 580 has a 22.5 tonne metre rating.

Another unique feature with the Eco Log design is having the boom and cab pedestal mounted (as with tracked harvesters), so that the operator has the processing head continually directly in front of the cab. The boom-beside-cab configuration also allows operators to more easily make the transition from a tracked to a wheeled carrier.

Chris Lenihan began operating the new 590 after clocking more than 3,200 hours in the 580 over a year-and-a-half. Lenihan has a lot of admiration for the new harvester. “The comfort and production levels we see with the Eco Logs are way ahead of what we could do with tracked harvesters. The Eco Log has a great seat and it is very stable.

Part of the equipment line-up for the harvesting operation is a John Deere 1410 forwarder .

“As an operator, I’m confident that when I reach out for a tree, the machine will not suddenly shift. There is absolutely no need to brace myself for machine rocking or shifting like I would in a tracked harvester. It is an extremely comfortable machine to operate.

“The machine also has a great computer and is very user friendly,” he adds. “The 590 is heavier and stronger than the 580 and it is a lot better matched to the 7000 head. It handles those big limby trees with a lot more finesse.”

Steve Saunders says that another big advantage with the Eco Logs over the buncher and processor has been fuel economy. He points out that fuel consumption with the new 590 is around 18 litres per hour, similar to the 580. Fuel consumption on the buncher and processors was about 30 litres per hour each.

“We get the same amount of wood cut with two Eco Logs as we did with three machines and the fuel savings are major, which helps our bottom line in a very big way,” says Saunders. He adds that he does not miss the high cost of track maintenance that his previous machines had. He says the pendulum arm suspension has proved to be dependable and cost effective, and low maintenance.

Traditionally, Saunders has been a private woodlot contractor, taking occasional contracts with Louisiana-Pacific’s Canexell mill in Chester, Nova Scotia. The Canexel mill uses hardwood fibre to produce siding and paneling products.

“In 2006 we didn’t do any work for Canexel, but there have been a lot of changes in the Nova Scotia forest industry, and they have seen their traditional suppliers cut back on operations. As a result, Canexel has picked up a lot of Crown land wood, and they have contracted us to the point that we have a full year’s work ahead with them,” says Saunders.

Saunders operates both his Eco Log harvesters on single shifts. He figures the only advantage with double shift is that it simply sells more machines. He is convinced that by operating a single 10-hour shift, his machines have a significantly longer life and he avoids a lot of headaches associated with running double shifts. The production target is 500 cords per week.

Saunders runs one John Deere 1410 forwarder, predominantly on a single 10-hour shift basis, but with additional evening shifts as required to keep the wood cleaned up.

Forwarder operator Corey Hirtle is witness to the Eco Log harvester’s ability to operate in very rough ground, saying they can process wood in places where the Deere 1410 cannot easily access. He points out that harvester operators continually have to make efforts to ensure the forwarder operator has a safe and practical trail to allow him to reach the wood.

“In some regions you don’t need the pendulum suspension, but in the country we work in, it is the answer,” adds Chris Lenihan. “We are looking for production and the Eco Log machines are getting it for us. They are up and running all the time, in whatever ground conditions come our way.”

They are very happy with the performance of the new harvester, says Steve Saunders. “We’ve had the parts and technical resources that keep us running. The new 590 has met all the expectations I had for it, and it is getting the wood cut.”