Woody head handles the wood well
By Jim Stirling
Arlan Wium has learned through the years to keep an open mind about what harvesting equipment makes sense for him and his logging contracting business. His company, Anything For A Buck Contracting Ltd, does what it must to respond to the unprecedented challenges facing the forest industry in the interior of British Columbia.
The value of the Canadian dollar, the collapsed US housing market, the 15 per cent softwood lumber tax and the oversupply and deteriorating quality of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle epidemic are headliners. But there’s a full back-up cast of issues contributing to a perfect storm scenario of the cruelest kind. The shortage of skilled labour, the siphoning of forest land for non-industrial purposes, regulatory delays and requirements and increasing operating costs are a few examples. Sensibly, Wiumwhose business is based in Burns Lake, BCconcentrates on what he can control.
He knows that if you look after and properly maintain older harvesting equipment, it can do a good job for you over the long term. Conversely, he’s got an eye for new equipment and technologies that can complement his operation. His Woody 60 harvester falls into the latter category. Wium saw the heads at their first public airing at Forest Expo 2006 in Prince George. The Austrian-made Woody was being displayed by fellow Burns Lake resident, Craig McIntyre. His McMass Industries handles the Woody equipment line which also includes cable cranes and tower yarders.
The size of the Woody was right for Wium’s purposes, he recalls. It’s a good fit for a 200 class of carrier. And the Woody head combines the advantages of falling standing timber and processing logs to specified lengths and diameters with an in-cab measuring and control system. And that’s important, to salvage the highest quality stem sections from the preponderance of beetle-killed wood.
“You have to be able to meet the quality specs set by licensees,” points out Wium. His son, an equipment operator, put the Woody through its paces at a subsequent demo and gave the harvester head the thumbs up. “He liked it. It holds a tree very well and produces less bar trouble,” reports Wium.
Anything For A Buck ended up buying a Woody 60 head. “We’ve only been able to put about 1,000 hours on it but it’s performed really well,” says Wium. “We’ve found no structural defects at all with it and we have cut some big spruce.” The Woody is rated for a 24-inch clear cut.
As with every piece of equipment, there’s a learning curve for the operators to fully achieve the head’s potential, notes Wium. “To me, the Woody is both smooth and quick and you can load short logs with it,” he adds.
The Woody 60’s delimbing speed is rated at up to four metres a second. The 125 centimetre maximum opening of the grapples and the head’s limitless rotating system provides the machine with added versatility for manipulating and loading short logs.
If the Woody continues to prove out as well as some of Anything For A Buck’s other equipment, it’s going to be a fixture for a long, long time. A Keto 500 harvester dating back to 1994 remains a valuable work horse. A Case 1187B, circa 1987, is the Keto’s usual carrier. Wium appreciates the reliability of the Case 1187 B and C models. He’s got five of them. Two are mainly for parts to keep the other three performing. “They’re easy on fuel. Just grease them up properly and they run,” he says.
Other equipment he can call on includes a Timberking 923 feller buncher, a Tigercat 620C skidder, a Cat D4H and a Link-Belt hoe.
Wium estimates Anything For A Buck Contracting harvests about 50,000 cubic metres annually, a reflection of the times. He accesses private wood, woodlots and fibre offered by the BC Timber sales program. “Whoever needs the wood or wants it,” he summarizes.
He no longer has the relative comfort of a contractual annual cut from a licensee. And that’s because many forest companies in the Interior have trimmed down the number of contractors they use to one or two large operations. They perceive that as a way to grapple with the dollar/market/costs conundrums. Through the process, most mills have cut shifts or operating days, taken more downtime and some have closed plants indefinitely. More are rumoured to follow.
Wium, too, has had to downsize quite a bit. And perhaps that will prove not to be altogether bad. The company consolidation and “mega is magnificent” business model has proven less than invincible against the squeezes impacting the industry. Small may yet prove to be both fashionable and profitable.
“We’ve retained a crew of about seven, three truckers and four in the bush,” says Wium. “We’re still really busy but it’s so much simpler with a smaller crew,” he concedes. “But we still have got to provide the support, especially with our older equipment.”
Resiliency is one way to stay active under tough conditions. Creativity is another. Wium has demonstrated both attributes. He launched an imaginative campaign to remind out-of-town landowners about the effects of the mountain pine beetle on their properties and the need for remedial action. And Wium is receiving positive feedback from his efforts to develop new markets that can be serviced from fibre available to Anything For A Buck’s log harvesting crews and equipment.
It’s an example of what small- and medium-sized logging contractors need to do to weather the stormand be in position to benefit when the pendulum swings back positively.