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Log Max processor delivers performance
Owner/operator Scott Pilkington is a specialist contractor, focusing just on log processing, and is keeping busy these days with a new set-up, a Log Max 7000XT mounted on a Hitachi Zaxis 210 Forester tracked carrier that is delivering versatility and performance.
By Jim Stirling
Good log processing operators are a breed apart. That is probably why several log contracting companies these days opt to use specialist contractors with the appropriate equipment and skillsets to fill the processing function on their log harvesting sites. It’s a niche Scott Pilkington and his latest Log Max processing head is well equipped to fulfill.
At the young age of 36, Pilkington is something of an old style throwback in that he’s the product of a logging family and the philosophy that goes with it. He can’t conceive now of doing anything else for a living, tough as it can be at times.
Born and bred in the Cariboo region of British Columbia, a young Pilkington started his logging apprenticeship on the end of a chain saw bucking logs under the watchful tutelage of his dad, Dan. Later, he graduated into operating a Timberjack 415 line skidder in the bush around his home town of Williams Lake.
“Dad taught all us kids to be hard workers and he did a real good job of it,” recalled the younger Pilkington. Dan Pilkington made an important decision after that. “He wanted to move our operation forward and he had confidence that I could become a processor operator,” said Scott.
And so began the learning curve. They acquired a Steyr processor and went to work with Scott at the controls. His dad’s confidence proved well founded. The processing skills were honed in the Haines Junction area, west of Whitehorse in the Yukon, where Scott and the Steyr spent a couple of years working in a variety of challenging terrains including forest fire-scorched timber and windthrows. The Yukon proved a good experience, said Pilkington. And it delivered another invaluable benefit when he met Blanche, now his wife and staunch supporter, he added.
Back home in Williams Lake, Pilkington acquired a Tigercat 853 feller buncher and converted it to a processor with a Log Max 750 head to replace the Steyr sold in the Yukon. “That original 750 still looks new and it’s got more than 30,000 hours on it,” reported Pilkington. “It still goes to work and processes accurately.” With that kind of first-hand experience and performance behind him, when Pilkington decided to take the financial plunge and invest in a new processing combination, there was little doubt what would be on the business end. “It was always going to be a Log Max.”
Pilkington chose the versatility offered by the new Log Max 7000XT and its performance has exceeded even his high expectations. “It’s more user friendly,” he explained. “It’s a much sleeker, more compact head constructed of Swedish steel. It’s guarded better and it’s been improved all around and it’s fast.” The speed is there to make short shrift of smaller diameter stems. “But it’s got lots of torque for the larger wood.”
A single head for most timber types, the 7000XT is equipped with Log Max’s 500 control system which provides additional benefits to the operator. “The new computer is a big time benefit,” confirmed Pilkington. Troubleshooting potential problems is one of them. “There are a lot of computer programs to get used to, but they make the head work really well.”
The decision to go Log Max was easy an easy one for Pilkington. But it was supported by another important consideration: “Log Max offers incredible service.” They’re right there in the field when you need them for as long as you need them, he added. Log Max’s service centre in Kamloops is closest for Pilkington. He advises loggers considering processing “to think outside the box.” There’s more than one proven head to consider out there, he added.
Pilkington chose a new Hitachi Zaxis 210 Forester tracked carrier to complement his 7000XT. It’s the right size class of machine with hydraulic capacity for the head, and Pilkington is hopeful it will deliver the anticipated fuel savings as the operating hours increase.
So far, the head and carrier have generally performed well together, he reported.
It was a frustratingly slow start to the summer log harvesting season in the Williams Lake area. Consistently wet ground precluded work, straining cash flows, especially for loggers like Pilkington who had payments on new equipment investments to honour. When he did finally get out it was as a sub-contractor on some small bug killed pine patches north of Riske Creek on the Chilcotin Plateau west of Williams Lake. He was double shifting the Log Max and Hitachi with his uncle, Rob Pilkington. The average piece size there was 0.2 cubic metres, not bad for Chilcotin pine.
Watching Pilkington at work was an exercise in synchronized harmony between processing head, carrier and operator. Establishing a steady rhythm quickly resulted in growing, sorted piles of clean measured stems ready for loading onto logging trucks.
Pilkington was also negotiating with West Fraser Timber on a processing assignment deeper into the Chilcotin. If it panned out satisfactorily for both parties, it could mean about three years of steady work for Pilkington and his processor.
He enjoys being an owner operator specializing in log processing and the degree of autonomy that comes with it. And his services are in demand despite a general trend by licencees to sign on large contractors to longer term contracts. Pilkington has a hunch why, “Owner operators play an important role. They tend to do more,” Pilkington pointed out.
“They have a vested interest in their equipment and in doing a good job with it.”
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