Matching Machine to Application
Hopkes Logging Corporation maximizes production by ensuring the job is matched with the ideal equipment
By Jeff Mullins
In the late 1950’s, Hopkes fielded big towers and made cuts across rugged canyons, along as much as 4,000 feet of skyline. By the turn of the century, thinning was a large part of their operation, and today their equipment is sized to handle the available wood, whether thinning or clear cutting. Depending on the terrain and harvest specifications, two tower sides, or one tower and a ground side, produce up to 16 MMBF a year and it’s transported by their five 2006 Kenworth trucks, as well as the occasional hired truck.
For steeper terrain, a Boman Mark V sky car is matched with a 55-foot Thunderbird TSY 255 swing yarder to handle hefty turns on a 1 1/8th skyline. And the 50-foot Madill 6150 is paired with the Boman 9100, the latest innovation in motorized carriage technology. Hopkes Logging was not only the first to use the new 60 horsepower, 2,200-pound carriage with 18,000 pounds of line pull, but Marvin was actually the impetus behind its design and production.
Innovation in Carriages
Marvin Hopkes’ wish became a reality with the Boman’s introduction of the 9100 at the Oregon Logging Conference in February 2006. The substantial benefits were exactly what Marvin envisioned.
“Bigger yarders waste time on both ends when handling smaller wood. Attempting to load them to capacity requires the time consuming process of connecting multiple logs over a large area. Turns with more than three or four logs easily become tangled, sometimes requiring multiple hoistings on landings to disconnect,” he says. “But a small tower quickly turning around four, or fewer, logs saves time on both ends of the turn. Until recently, the best option for small wood was a small tower with a slack pulling carriage, but carriage travel and slacking are sequential, eating up precious time. On the other hand, a motorized carriage’s ability to slack the line while the carriage is moving saves time and increases production.”
Josh Hopkes, who often runs the 6150 yarder, agrees: “I estimate we save 90 seconds each turn by using the lightweight motorized car, rather than a slack pulling carriage. Now, when the carriage stops, the chokers are in the setter’s hand and ready to hook, rather than having to clamp the skyline first and then slack. And the higher the skyline the more time is saved on each turn.”
Creating the Right Combinations Marvin insists that successful operations match equipment to the application and the size of the wood. “With the 6150/9100 combination, we pull many small turns of smallish logs very quickly and now, very ef- ficiently. And of course, smaller towers save more time by quickly changing loads. You never have exactly what you need for all jobs, but versatility and flexibility get you close.” He offers the analogy, “It’s not efficient to use a 2-inch Halibut hook to catch an 8-inch trout.” Consistent with this philosophy, whenever possible, fulllength stems are yarded on both ground and tower sides, and two Madill 1236’s with Pierce stroke delimbers process logs. Marvin prefers the positive control of stroke boom processors over dangle heads. On the day TimberWest visited, Shad Hopkes was processing and swinging logs 180 degrees to the shovel, by threading them between the yarder and a standing tree with less than 2 feet of clearance on either endsomething a dangle head could do only with great difficulty.
A comparison of Hopkes equipment today, to only 6 years ago, reveals that everything has been “swapped out” except for the swing yarder. Although the type of equipment is essentially the same, the grandfather-grandson team considers downtime unacceptable, and having newer equipment as essential to minimizing breakdowns and repairs.
Meeting Future Obstacles As a fourth generation logging company, grandfather and grandsons alike express desire to continue logging into the distant future, but see uncertain obstacles ahead. For example, full family medical and dental coverage helps the company attract and retain good employees, but the skyrocketing cost, as well as increases in fuel prices, are causing concern. And they see continued pressure from environmentalists being channeled to loggers in the form of more rules and less available timber to harvest.
However, the hope of a bright future shines for three grandsons being mentored by a proven veteran, who has demonstrated that adapting to changes is a recipe for success. And a day may come when many other loggers will join Marvin’s grandsons in gratitude for his tenacious badgering that was instrumental in making a powerful, lightweight, motorized carriage a reality.