December 2003 January 2004
BC COASTAL LOGGING
Successful hoe chucker
BC’s Cattermole Timber did a lot of homework before opting for Cat’s new 330C machine for doing hoe chucking, and is now finding that homework is paying off with performance.
By Paul MacDonald
When Cattermole Timber equipment superintendent Shayne Brown wants to explain the reasons for the company’s choice of Caterpillar’s new 330C Forest Machine to do hoe chucking, it’s easy. He simply reaches behind the desk in his shop office, opens a filing cabinet and pulls out a file that contains a very extensive graph. Over the period of a couple of months, in addition to his regular work, Brown filled in the blanks on the graph to the point where he had complete information on six different forest machines in eight different categories. Everything from monthly lease rates to fuel consumption.
And as the scenario changed on what Cattermole was looking for, there were successive graphs. “It probably drove all the dealers nuts,” says Brown, “with us going back to them several times to get information on how many operating hours a year we would be allowed and what the lease rate would be and other information. But it was a learning process, and in the end, it was close.”
At the end of the process Cattermole got as close as it could get to what it wanted in the Cat 330C and the package from BC Cat dealer, Finning Equipment. “I’ve always looked into equipment purchases fairly deeply, but never as deep as with this,” says Brown, noting he received full encouragement from Cattermole management to be as thorough as possible. Cattermole Timber is a mid-sized operator on the BC coast, just up the Fraser Valley, in Chilliwack. Much of their logging is in the steep, and demanding, Fraser Canyon area.
Like a lot of logging operations, the company is constantly evaluating its harvesting approach, and the equipment it works with. They do a good amount of the traditional high lead logging, and, in recent years, some heli-logging. This past year, they had two Madill towers out in the bush. Rather than have additional high lead equipment, they decided to go with a hoe chucking operation, hence the decision to lease a Cat 330C. So far, Brown reports, the machine has worked out well. “With it being a new machine, we haven’t had to do much on it. It’s got lots of time to prove itself.”
True to form, Cattermole did some homework before making the move to hoe chucking. Last year, they tried it out using a Hitachi 300, just to see how hoe chucking worked in their operations, and if it would generate the right production numbers. “It did the job, and the Hitachi 300 is a good machine, but it was just a little small for what we needed to do,” says Brown. And production is what it is all about. As Brown notes, it all comes down to cost per cubic metre—those were the key numbers on that graph of his. “The decision wasn’t entirely based on the numbers, but they sure had a lot to do with it.”
Also a big consideration was the warranty that Finning and Cat offered. Working in Cat’s favour was the fact that Cattermole has a good number of Cat pieces already, both in the yard and in the bush. So the company is familiar with—and comfortable with—Cat equipment. While this is all well and nice, Cat and Finning still had to earn the business. “We have to be competitive and our equipment has to be competitive,” says Brown. They are looking for the machine to hoe chuck, and load, upwards of 200 cubic metres per day. And while meeting those numbers was unrealistic in the smaller wood it was initially working in early in 2003, the machine has since moved into prime coastal timber—Douglas fir and western red cedar—where it is delivering the goods. Brown said there were some shortcomings about the travel swing at the beginning.
But Finning sent some tech people in to bump the pressures up, which seems to have done the trick. “The machine is very operator friendly,” adds operator Mark Hall. “It has really good travel power and swing power. It works best grabbing the log at the centre, but it will lift anything you grab hold of.” Later in the season, Hall was grabbing hold of some good-sized wood, three-to four-foot diameter Douglas fir. Hall said the machine was generally working out well so far. There were a few small problems, he noted, but Cat and Finning tech people were on them right away.
What drives the Cattermole operation even further in terms of production is the relatively short time window they have to work with. In the Fraser Canyon operation, they start up around Easter, and are rarely working past the third week of November. “We are running against the calendar, big time,” says Brown. “We want to get our equipment out there and get it going as hard as it can.” There’s been even more pressure on the operation this past year because they were shut down for close to seven weeks due to the threat of fire in tinder-dry BC. And heap on top of that delays in receiving logging permits due to environmental claims that, logging harms spotted owl in the region. “With that kind of situation, every day, every operating hour counts to us.”
Beyond the straight production numbers, the company was looking for reliability, ease of maintenance and product support. The 330C presents a nice package from a tech point of view. The new model delivers 12 per cent more horsepower than the B-series machine it replaces in the Cat line-up. Hydraulic flow has been increased by 17 per cent, and swing torque is five per cent higher. These enhancements are all designed to boost performance, reduce cycle time and improve productivity. Improvements to the undercarriage and other new features should extend reliability and durability in severe applications. The 330C is powered by a Cat C9 engine, which is rated at 247 net horsepower.
The engine features a Hydraulic Electronic Unit Injection (HEUI) fuel system for reduced fuel consumption and emissions. Operating weight for the standard machine is 85,517 lbs. The machine is equipped with a high-efficiency hydraulic system designed for forestry applications. Each of the main pumps delivers up to 74 gallons per minute of flow for responsive operation under heavy loads. Swing torque is 79,657 lb ft, allowing faster swings, reduced cycle time and higher productivity.
The 330C is the first machine that Cattermole has leased. More and more companies are going the leasing route, and Brown says the company wants to give it a try to see if it works for them. “A lot of people are trying it out. With leasing, you don’t have to put that big chunk of money out front.” A change, too, is that they opted to go for a butt ’n top rather than a dangle head and it has proved to be a good decision. One of the main reasons they went with a butt ’n top was to help out with the loading. While the 330C is a new model, and some may have reservations being the first to try out new iron, that doesn’t seem to be the case at Cattermole. They know the predecessor of the 330C well—there’s a 330B loader doing work in the yard near Chilliwack, just off the Trans-Canada highway—so there’s reassurance on that side.
Like all new equipment, the 330C comes with its share of computerized systems. Illustrating how extensive those systems are now, Brown notes that they have to change a computer setting if they change the oil to a different viscosity. “Most of our equipment is older, so we’re not into that too much, but it’s the way of the future,” he says.
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