Following in the footsteps
By Paul MacDonald
When Cougar Inlet Logging’s Bob Lee talks about the company and how it approaches harvesting operations, the word “communications” often crops up, as in how important communications are throughout the entire operation.
One of the more important parts of the communications process is making sure its customerand joint venture partnerMill & Timber Products Ltd is supplied with the timber it needs.
“It’s a bit unusual having a contractor in partnership with a licensee in a logging company, with conflicting interests at times, but it’s actually worked very well,” says Lee. “There’s a lot of give and take. You have your differencesbut at the end of the day, you make it work.”
Communicating with his associates on the mill side is central to making things work.
Cougar Inlet operates in remote areas of the mid-coast of British Columbia, and supplies Mill & Timber with the western red cedar logs the company needs for its mill on the Fraser River in Surrey, BC. Being focused on cedar, the sawmill is high value, rather than high volume, and produces 70 million board feet a year. That level of production still requires a steady volume of logs, which can be a challenge at timesespecially this spring, when there was a scramble for logs on the BC Coast due to extreme weather conditions through the winter.
“With the shortage of logs on the coast right now, it makes more sense than ever, especially on the mill’s side, to have a contractor and mill working closely together,” says Lee.
The logging is done mostly around the Seymour Inlet area of the coast, with workers flown in to the company’s camps to carry out logging on two forest licences. That also means parts and supplies for all their equipment have to be flown in as well.
“We stock a core number of parts at the camp,” explains Lee. “But we usually have aircraft flying in every day, so if we need additional parts, we’ll bring them in on the plane. And occasionally, we’ll fly in breakdown parts even if no flight is scheduled that day.”
They work hard to minimize major repairs in the bush. Over the course of the year, equipment is cycled through the shop in Campbell River, across the straits from Seymour Inlet, to stay on top of things, maintenance-wise. “Usually, we’ll have minor problems that the operators can see coming and they’ll pass it on to the foreman or the shop guys, and we’ll be able to handle it on site.”
He adds that they also rely on good communications with the equipment dealers who initially supply them with logging equipment, and just as importantly, support them with parts and service. “For us, beyond getting what we need in the equipment itself, it’s the relationship with the dealer that counts. Our shop crew gets to know their people, talks with their people all the time, and we rely on them. That’s a big part of it.”
A big part of their equipment picture has been Komatsu equipment, from BC Komatsu dealer Coneco Equipment. “We’ve had good success with themour very first machine when we started Cougar Inlet Logging in 1996 was a Komatsu.”
They now have nine Komatsu machines working in their logging operations.
Cougar Inlet recently took delivery of three new Komatsu machines: two new PC 00LL-7 log loaders and a PC 00LL-7 roadbuilder. And they are living up to the reputation established by their predecessors.
“The service we’ve had from prior Komatsu models has been excellent,” says Lee. “We had a PC 00HD-5 log loader which we ran for 20,000 hours. It was an excellent machine.”
Lee notes that the Komatsu log loaders, and roadbuilders, though they have been good in the past, have continued to evolve and improve they’re now purpose-built for the forest industry and tailored to meet the industry’s needs. Their roadbuilders are put into service
in some of the most steep and severe terrain on the BC Coast. “We work our equipment hardthere’s no doubt about that,” says Lee. Their roadbuilding program goes seven days a week, 11 hours a day. They will generally keep roadbuilding equipment for three years, during which time they will put between 6,600 and 7,000 hours on the machines.
“At that point, we could bring the equipment in and replace the undercarriage, but at that stage there are other things that start to show up. And operating where we are, we don’t want to be spending a lot of time dealing with repairs.”
According to Komatsu Canada, the PC 00LL-7 represents the first of a new family of Komatsu forestry machines. Komatsu began with a “blank sheet of paper” to create structures and operator features that stand up to working in the woods, says the company. New platforms enable the base machine to be configured to meet several applications with minimal modifications, and components selected from within the Komatsu family of excavators provide optimal performance and durability. This results in a machine offering proven Komatsu performance, quality, and “woods-tough” durability throughout.
“They’ve made them stronger with heavier deck plate, increased the swing capacity and the undercarriages are heavier,” notes Lee. “They really are a skookum machine.
“The hydraulic systems on the Komatsus are a very strong point for us. We’ve never had a hydraulic pump failure on a Komatsu. They run cooler and their hydraulic systems seem to run very well.”
Cougar Inlet’s log loaders and roadbuilder came from Komatsu and Coneco Equipment ready to go. The loaders are equipped with a custom Pierce boom, and grapple/grapple saws from T-Mar Industries of Campbell River, BC. “The roadbuilders come pretty well set up, except for rockguards and an extra fuel tank.”
Building on the successes of earlier versions of the “Dash 6” logging machines, Komatsu took the opportunity with the PC 00LL-7 to bring in-house many of the guarding and fabrication procedures that were once left to the aftermarket. Revolving frame underguards, engine and pump sheet metal doors, battery box guards, walkways, heavy duty tow hooks and other critical components to a machine operating in the harsh logging industry are now built by Komatsu, reducing overall cost to the end user and adding durability, says the company.
The design concept for Komatsu’s new family of logging machines is to utilize the next-larger-size-class swing and track components, so the PC 00LL-7 features many of the performance qualities of the larger PC400 hydraulic excavator.
The PC400’s swing machinery and swing bearing have been built-in to provide increased swing performance
(9.5 rpm swing speed, 96,50 ft-lbs swing torque), while PC400 track drive motors provide 71,650 lbs of drawbar pull for impressive gradeability and steering performance.
The PC 00LL-7 also features Komatsu’s patented, load-sensing HydrauMind hydraulic system that automatically adjusts machine operation to compensate for the difficulty of each given application.
A hydrostatic drive system with three-speed travel, auto-shift function and planetary reduction final drive powers the machine. Additional track components, including a nine-inch pitch link, have been upgraded to match the PC400, further aiding in maneuverability and machine power.
The standard “high and wide” forestry undercarriage features 0-inch clearance with forestry guarding, double flanged carrier rollers and heavy duty recoil springs for added mobility around stumps and debris on site.
Getting this heavy equipment around in Seymour Inlet and on the mid-coast is not as difficult as it may seem. Equipment moves for Cougar Inlet are contracted with Inlet Navigation Ltd and Marine Link Transportation Ltd, both of Campbell River.
“Most people who are not familiar with a remote camp might wonder how it could possibly work. But it works very well and although it’s an added cost of doing business in remote locations, it’s not as expensive as you might think,” says Lee.
“Moving a large piece of equipment is not much different than low-bedding it 0 miles down the highway. In some ways, it’s easieryou just run it on the barge and then run it off. Weight isn’t an issue and you don’t need a pilot car.”