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The new Rapid Cycle System (RCS) boom on John Deere bunchers is delivering a productivity boost, generally simplifying and speeding up the feller bunching process.
By Jim Stirling
For a feller buncher operator, fewer and easier to use controls can deliver a productivity boost, fuel savings and a more efficiently functioning machine, resulting in increased profitability. Not to mention a more satisfied operator.
Those are among the advantages attributed to using John Deere feller bunchers fitted with a Rapid Cycle System (RCS) boom. The RCS improves machine productivity and operating speeds by automating both boom and cutting head motions, as well as by providing automated harvesting arm cycling to simplify the process for the machine operator.
Donny Glover is one logging contractor using the combination who has no arguments with that assessment. “It’s got tons of saw power, the track power is awesome and the litres per cubic metre are way less,” he assesses after putting about 700 hours on his machine.
Glover is a logging sub-contractor based in Prince George, British Columbia. “I wonder why some days,” he muses.
The owner operator/small logging contractor has become something of an endangered species in the forests of north central B.C. The operating rules have shifted—again—to a trend of fewer and larger log contracting companies to harvest and deliver custom logs to regional sawmills.
Glover’s company, D-Lin Investments Ltd., was working on a stand in the Anzac area northeast of Prince George. The prime contractor was Clusko Logging and the site was a B.C. Timber Sale where the beetle killed wood was designated 100 per cent pulp quality.
With Glover at the controls, the John Deere 953K buncher and RCS boom supplied by Deere dealer Brandt Tractor was making short work of the wood, accumulating and positioning multiple stems at a time. “This RCS is a whole other thing,” he concedes. “It takes about two weeks to fully catch on and make her cut wood.” And Glover’s no neophyte: he’s been working in the bush for about 25 years.
When you get the hang of it, RCS is designed to simplify and quicken the feller bunching process. Essentially, RCS is a straight line system incorporating one joystick with buttons for accumulating and dumping wood. The boom reaches the wood faster with RCS. How much fuel the system saves is dependent on several factors including operator, wood types and operating conditions. Up to three litres an hour is an estimate.
The RCS felling head auto-arm sequence is initiated when the operator presses a single button on the right-hand joystick in the feller buncher’s cab. A single motion of the joystick engages movement of the boom/stick/head, and the RCS automatically maintains the head’s cutting position throughout each boom reach. With the press of another joystick button, the head’s arms quickly release the bunch of trees. The automatic cutting head leveling, arm sequencing, and quick arm release are all exclusive to Deere and the RCS. The system improves the speed and productivity of the boom while it gives the operator fewer buttons and movements to think about, which helps reduce operator fatigue.
RCS is available on John Deere 9 00K-Series tracked feller buncher models—903K, 909K, 953K and 959K. The 900K-series machines perform well and deliver power and productivity to jobs on any terrain and climate from Brazil to Canada to Siberia, and on flat, soft plantations to steep slopes and rocky terrain.
In the case of Donny Glover’s buncher, further performance improvements were achieved when he requested modifications including shortening the accumulator arms on the FR24B rotary cutting head. They were small changes, but they gained significant production benefits as a result, notes Glover.
He was running a second buncher on the show, a Tigercat 870. “I run a couple of machines at a time and like to be on site,” he says.
Glover has had four John Deere processors before so was familiar in general terms with what the machines can provide. “One way I judge a machine is does it keep me busy,” adds Glover. The Deere buncher/boom combination keeps Glover hopping and the wood piling up. Something else helps. Looking after what you’ve got maintenance-wise is key to getting the most production and performance from logging equipment. “I do 100 per cent of the wrenching and I do repairs when they’re needed,” says Glover
The 953K was fitted with LED lighting for round the clock operation. “I like the visibility in the John Deere. You get a better view of what’s going on out the side,” he notes.
Glover’s machine was purring along seemingly in low gear, given the operator and the small wood. But he casts a wide net when seeking work for his machines. “I’m trying to work the whole province with one machine,” he says. And that translates into a machine combo from Deere and Brandt Tractor that’s equally at home and efficient in southern B.C.—where occasional three foot diameter spruce or two foot fir may be encountered—to the valleys of small bug killed wood further north. And to date, the John Deere 953K with its RCS boom is meeting the challenge.
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