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Armand Landry’s dream of producing a purpose-built tracked harvester has come true with the development and production of the Landrich harvester—and four of these very efficient and productive harvesters are now at work in New Brunswick and Quebec.
By George Fullerton
Armand Landry has 60 years’ experience in the forest industry and marked a number of successes along that road. One of his major achievements was to realize his dream of constructing a purpose-built tracked harvester, and to see it set a new production standard for cut-to-length harvesting.
Armand was a logging and trucking contractor delivering pulpwood to the mill in Bathurst, New Brunswick in the 1960s when problems with his Prentice loader took him to Montreal for service. The meeting with the Montreal dealer led to him to stocking some loader and truck parts in his home. The parts business soon expanded to a separate shop, and later, to entering a partnership to form ALPA Equipment, handling forestry and construction equipment lines.
Armand eventually bought out the partnership and expanded ALPA to four full service centres in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
In the early years, ALPA focused on skidders, loaders and feller bunchers, and eventually took on the Ponsse cut-to-length harvester and forwarder lines in 1994. While the Ponsse line met the performance and quality demands of contractors who liked running on wheels, Armand realized that contractors with a propensity for tracks were not well served by the harvester market.
In the mid-1990s, ALPA Equipment began converting feller bunchers and Hyundai excavators into harvesters, putting a significant number of cut-to-length contractors on tracks.
Armand’s son Serge grew up in the family contracting, trucking, sawmilling and ALPA enterprises. He says that the harvester conversions were always compromises.
“Feller bunchers or excavators are machines that were designed for distinct and specific work,” explained Serge, “and when they are converted to work as cut-to-length harvesters, there are compromises that make the conversion less productive than a purpose-built wheeled harvester that is designed from the ground up, for the sole purpose of felling and cutting to length at the stump.”
Still, there are plenty of contractors that need tracked harvesters because of the terrain they operate in, or simply because they have a personal preference for working on tracks, he says.
“We have also installed a lot of harvester heads on purpose-built tracked forestry machines, and we have watched different manufacturers convert feller bunchers to harvesters, and in every case we see compromises that impede performance,” added Serge.
The excavator and feller buncher conversion business grew to the point that ALPA created AL Fabrication to handle conversion work and other fabrication projects.
The Landrys’ dream for a purpose-built tracked harvester was achieved in 2009 when they began testing the first prototype ‘Landrich’ harvester.
The Landrys’ were convinced there was a demand for tracked harvesters. But before they started cutting steel for their dream machine, they went out to talk with the people buying and using the equipment—getting the contractors’ and operators’ wish lists and insights.
In addition to hosting two focus group sessions with contractors, AL Fabrication also contracted a firm to survey contractors in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in order to determine what they wanted to have in a tracked harvester.
“Through that survey, contractors identified five key elements they wanted in a tracked harvester: fuel economy, cab room, visibility, reliability and speed,” said Serge.
The design team used contractor feedback to guide the engineering of the tracked harvester and drawings were underway in 2005. Shopping for the various components soon followed.
The Landrich is based on D-6 specification tracks, supplied by Intertractor America. AL Fabrication built their own track frames and had special sprockets forged, specifically for the application. Track motors are Rexroth and the machine footprint is sixteen feet by 10.5 feet.
AL Fabrication also constructed their own cab, and went on to build a climate controlled ROPS and FOPS testing facility to certify the cab’s safety. The harvester’s power plant is a 275 horsepower Mercedes.
“We discovered that you just don’t go to Mercedes and buy an engine off their shelf to install in a new concept machine,” said Serge. “They are very conscious of their proprietary rights and their reputation. They interviewed us extensively and then they took an engine and re-engineered it to fit our particular application.”
The Landrich has three main hydraulic circuits, each with its own pump, each independent from the other circuits. The main pump is dedicated entirely to head operations, and primary demand is accorded to this function, which makes the Landrich a true, purpose-built harvester. There are no compromises for head productivity. The second circuit and pump supplies boom and turntable functions, the third supplies travel demand.
“The swash plate angle in the hydraulic pumps is electronically controlled so that each pump supplies the maximum oil flow possible, while maintaining a steady engine rpm,” explained Yves Michel
The Landrich prototype was tested with a Ponsse telescopic boom, but production models have been sold with an AL Fabrication designed and constructed boom and curved stick combination.
Yves Michel Thibeault explained that the two piece rigid boom configuration was developed for speed, in-close processing and long reach (33 feet). Additionally, the design provides unique energy absorption and stress distribution features, while achieving both power and durability goals.
“The Landrich has been an extremely rewarding project,” said Yves Michel. “I grew up in this area helping in my father’s wood trucking business and working in a sawmill. To lead the research and development of this challenging project is very exciting, especially because it taps into my roots—and it will also lead to regional prosperity and economic self sufficiency.”
Yves Michel supervised 1500 hours of field testing of the Landrich prototype with more than 25 operators working for some 10 different contractors. In addition to tracking down and fixing technical problems when they arose, he also interviewed the operators for their detailed evaluation of the harvester.
In testing, contractors remarked that fuel efficiency of the Landrich was easily in the range of 20 to 30 per cent better, compared to their current harvesters.
This remarkable fuel consumption reduction was accomplished by designing every sub-system with efficiency in mind. For example, in addition to being controlled electronically, the main pumps were oversized in order to reduce the engine rpm to its “sweet spot”, where minimum fuel consumption and high torque were realized.
Another fuel efficiency goal was attained with the use of two separate radiator units, engine and hydraulic oil cooling units, positioned remotely from the engine and being hydraulically driven. Fan speeds are controlled electronically to match the specific cooling demands.
The clam shell hood is hydraulically operated, providing access to both sides of the engine and other components. Induction air travels from both extreme ends of the clam shell hood so that if one intake becomes restricted, air can enter from other side.
When it came time to select the harvester head and electronics, Serge explained they used the most advanced and reliable equipment that could be found. The head is a H7 Ponsse which is operated with the venerable Opti 5 computer system with the Opti 4G software. The Landrich also sports a Ponnse operator seat and controls.
The Landrich cab is very roomy and is able to house the operator, a regular sized engineer, and an extra large photographer, and still have room for the operator’s lunch and cold weather clothes.
The Landrich is a positive chapter in the business relationship between the Landrys and Ponsse, Serge explained. “Every Landrich sale is a sale point for Ponsse products. The OPTI 5 computer system is the most advanced in the industry.”
In August 2010, the first production Landrich was sold to the Litalian brothers Herve, Eric and Stephane, who operate it along with a Ponsse Buffalo forwarder in JD Irving operations in Kedgewick district, in New Brunswick.
“We had demo’ed the prototype with the Litaliens and shortly after, their Prentice harvester burned. They came to us to see about installing a Ponsse H7 head on a new machine they were dealing on.
“We sat down with them and discussed the opportunity to buy the first Landrich and offered them the prototype to use until the production machine was finished. We also agreed to have a used Ponsse machine on their operation in case the prototype had a failure. They agreed and started running the prototype full time, and it worked so well, the Ponsse never left our yard.” The Litaliens put 5000 hours on the prototype waiting for the new machine to be completed.
“We really like this machine,” says Eric Litalien. “It has great power and fuel efficiency. The cab is big and comfortable, and it has great visibility. We’re very happy with the way it is working out for us. We are able to produce a lot of wood with this machine.”
The Litaliens are making an impression with the Landrich, becoming the most productive cut-to-length crew in all of Irving’s New Brunswick and Maine operations.
Of the four Landrich machines produced in 2010, two are now working in New Brunswick, there is one in Gaspesie and another other in the Lac St. Jean region of Quebec. AL Fabrication plans to produce nine machines in 2011 and is projecting producing 20 machines
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