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BC loggers had a chance to see the Ponsse harvester and forwarder combo in action at field demonstrations near Prince George and Kamloops, supported by Ponsse staff from North America and Finland. Ponsse is represented in BC by dealer Woodland Equipment Inc.

Equipment manufacturer Ponsse is bucking the tough times in the logging industry and is beefing up its presence in Western Canada, introducing its Bear harvester and Elephant forwarder.

By Jim Stirling

Look out for the bear and the elephant roaming the forests of British Columbia’s Interior. While most forest equipment manufacturers are hunkering down trying to survive the unprecedented downturn in the industry, Ponsse management believes the time is right to introduce their Bear harvester and Elephant forwarder to logging contractors in Western Canada.

“We’ve been studying this market for a long time,” says Marko Mattila, president and CEO of Ponsse North America Inc, based in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. “We believe the time is right. There are big changes going on in BC’s forests, and we’re trying to make the changes as easy as possible,” he adds.

Mattila believes the Bear and the Elephant, working as a team, can deliver competitive and productive harvesting and forwarding functions in cut-to-length wood in Western Canada forest types and terrains, with the added and significant benefit of fuel economy.

Ponsse Oyj began commercial scale production of log harvesting equipment in Finland in 1971. The company is now represented on four continents.

Ponsse has maintained a North American presence for 10 years and has been successful moving machines into log harvesting markets in Ontario and Quebec. Now it’s the west’s turn with the introduction of Ponsse’s Bear harvester and Elephant forwarder, top-of-the-line Ponsse machines in terms of size.

The harvesting duo was featured at this year’s Forest and Resources Expo in Prince George, BC. They are represented by and have found a good fit with dealer Woodland Equipment Inc, which has one of its four locations in the central Interior city.

The only change they’ve had to make to the Komatsu was to extend the heel rack. The machine is equipped with an extra large grapple from T-Mar Equipment, of Campbell River, BC. “The grapple was hanging too low and got in the way while pulling yourself around when hoechucking,” explains Graham Lasure. “So Pierce and SMS Equipment engineered a change for the heel rack, and sent us the blueprints. We cut it apart and welded in the extra two foot section ourselves.”

BC loggers had a chance to see the harvester and forwarder combo in action at field demonstrations near Prince George and Kamloops, supported by Ponsse staff from North America and Finland.

Mattila emphasizes Ponsse’s move into Western Canada is part of a master plan, and not an opportunistic excursion. He says Ponsse as a company is used to researching and developing new markets with patience and commitment.

“Our values are loggers’ values and we want to work with and learn together with Western Canadian loggers,” says Mattila. He adds he fully understands the importance of customer support in terms of parts and service—and he says he has full confidence in Ponsse and Woodland’s ability to deliver it. “It’s not just talk,” he promises.

The cut-to-length Bear harvester and Elephant forwarder performed in visually impressive manners during the Prince George area demo. The wood at the site east of the city was small, the terrain level and together they presented no significant challenges to either machine.The stems averaged about 0.3 cubic metres, and in an hour the Bear cut and processed 124 stems producing 37.5 cubic metres of wood. That included stopping and starting to let visitors ride in the machine’s spacious cab for an operator’s perspective.

Fuel consumption averages 18 litres an hour, depending on conditions, reports Mattila. Engine and hydraulic efficiency with low rpms contributes to reduced fuel consumption, he explains. While fuel prices have eased in recent months, fuel efficiency is still expected to be a major consideration when cash-strapped loggers make equipment decisions.

The Ponsse Bear harvester’s H8 head can handle trees up to 72 centimetres in diameter with a single cut. The head has a three-roller feed system. Ponsse says a feed speed of up to five metres a second, when matched with machine power, makes the Bear efficient and fast in falling and delimbing good size wood.

Features of the Ponsse C55 crane include its 11-metre reach. Its two slewing motors produce 36,882 pound-feet of swing torque. A plus or minus 20 degree base tilt angle on the crane table allows the unit to function well on steeper ground. The hydraulic system permits simultaneous head and crane movements.

The operator’s cab and the crane on the Bear harvester are not cheek by jowl as they are on many harvesters and feller bunchers. One of the advantages of that, says Ponsse, is an improvement in operator vision and less vibration.

The Bear comes standard with a Ponsse OptiControl system. It integrates the machine’s varied functions to a single in-cab display screen to make life easier for the operator. The system monitors the machine’s functions and adjusts engine power to appropriate levels.

The same OptiControl system similarly lowers operating costs on the Elephant forwarder. Like its counterpart harvester, the Elephant is designed for larger wood and demanding operating conditions. These include steep slopes, soft ground and deep snow, aided by nearly 32 inches of ground clearance on its eight wheels.The Elephant offers a load carrying capacity of 18,000 kilograms in 6.25 metres of expandable load space.

Ponsse says one of the Elephant’s telling features is the energy efficiency generated by its 275 horsepower Mercedes -Benz engine. It operates at lower rpms than similar size engines, without sacrificing power and hydraulic efficiency.

The results include lower fuel consumption and quieter operating conditions.

The Elephant comes standard with a Ponsse K100 crane with a reach in excess of 9.5 metres. The Elephant’s operator comfort represents another feature. For one thing, there’s plenty of space in the operator’s cabin, excellent visibility from it and a noise suppression system.

Brian Orsetti, branch manager for Woodland Equipment Inc, in Prince George, says plans for the Ponsse Bear and Elephant combination include putting the duo through its paces with their own operators to gather more hard data relating to performance and operating costs.