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Dec Jan 2004/2005  - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

CONTRACTOR PROFILE

Going private with new processor

Hutchinson Logging’s move to doing private woodlot work has been ably supported by its new Quadco L240 processor—developed by the Levesque Brothers—on a Daewoo 255 LCV carrier.

By George Fullerton

Gary Hutchinsons's son, Andrew on the Quadco L240 processor:  "This is a simple, straightforward hard-working machine."

Early in 2004, Gary Hutchinson decided it was time for some major changes to his contracting business. The first decision was to change from around the clock operations to day shifts only, to provide a better quality of life for himself and his workers. That decision required ending his lengthy—12 years—full-time contracting status with the Sussex, New Brunswick division of J D Irving, and moving most of his operations to private lands. The second major decision was to invest in a brand new processor and carrier that would allow him to handle both delimbing and cut-to-length at roadside.

Hutchinson has a lot of experience with his Tigercat 680 feller buncher and John Deere 684 grapple skidder, and is convinced that they will continue to provide a versatile, effective and economic harvesting team. But he wanted to add one machine to replace the duties of his stroke delimber and slasher. His search for a processor led him to the Quadco L240 on a Daewoo 255 LCV carrier. “The L240 is an excellent machine to complement the buncher and skidder,” says Hutchinson. “We can handle tree length, or we can use it to cut-to-length, doing a variety of sorts at roadside.”

Contractor Gary Hutchinson wanted one unit that would allow him to do tree length and cut-to-length, and a unit that would handle both hardwood and softwood.  "The L240 fit perfectly." he says.

In the spring of 2004, Hutchinson gave notice to Irving that he would not renew his contract, downsized his crews and made a commitment to his family that the work schedule for himself, his crew and his equipment would be in the 40 to 60 hour per week range. “I had some very good years with Irving, and I enjoyed what I was doing, but in recent years it just seemed like a big race to an early grave. I decided that I wanted to stay in forestry, but I was going to pick my own pace and give myself a chance to enjoy life more,” explains Hutchinson.

He says that running operations around the clock, demands for high production and decreasing compensation rates put a tremendous amount of pressure on himself, his operators and equipment. “With operators stressed and tired, there were increased breakdowns, largely because of the high production focus. And I was on call around the clock, waiting for the phone or radio call with a machine broke down. In 2003, for the first time, Hutchinson Logging lost money. I had a hard look at my business and my own quality of life and decided I had to change things.” In addition to the buncher, skidder, processor team, Hutchinson continues to operate a skidder and two chainsaw operators and a ProPac/Rotobec slasher unit (two nine-hour shifts) on Irving operations, and a Daewoo 170/Keto150 harvester subcontracted to an independent contractor. Since the Tigercat 860 buncher can harvest about double the production of the skidder and processor, it is sub-contracted to other contractors and to a few short jobs on Irving’s Sussex operations (day shift only).

The L240 is dangle mounted and also features a tilt cylinder, which allows the unit to be tiled 50 degrees from horizontal.  This permit the top delimbing arms to be articulated into positions to pick individual stems from a skidder bunch.

Through his contracting career, Hutchinson had picked up the occasional private woodlot harvesting contract, and realized that there was a tremendous opportunity to provide partial cut harvests and other forest management services to woodlot owners interested in sustainable woodlot management. Most woodlot owners in New Brunswick sell their wood through woodlot owner-directed marketing boards, which also provide management and silviculture services. Hutchinson explains that he has developed a good working relationship with the Southern New Brunswick Wood Co-operative’s silviculture staff, and has worked on shelterwood and selection harvests that were prescribed in woodlot management plans.

Feller bunchers and grapple skidders are a team not generally associated with partial cuts and silviculture in New Brunswick. However bunchers and grapple skidders, combined with roadside delimbing, are the heavy-duty tools of choice for handling large tolerant hardwoods on industrial operations in New Brunswick. Since New Brunswick has developed a no clearcut policy for tolerant hardwoods on industrial operations, the buncher-grapple-delimber system has been adapted to partial cut applications. Add a policy to return limbs and top residue to the harvest block with the skidder and you have a system that is economical and more or less ecologically sustainable. “When I decided to make the move to private land, I wanted to keep the feller buncher and grapple skidder because I knew they were economical producers, and what they were capable of doing in partial cuts. That decision required roadside processing, and I wanted one unit that would allow us to do tree length and cut-to-length, and one that would handle both hardwood and softwood.

The L240 fit perfectly.” The L in L240 gives recognition to the Levesque Brothers of Pennfield, New Brunswick who designed and developed the processor. They have a reputation for building among the strongest and best performing processors in North America. Their Target processor design became the premiere tool for processing notoriously difficult to handle eastern hardwoods. Hutchinson is no stranger to Levesque-built equipment, having purchased the second Target processor built, and running it from 1993 to 1999. “We had great performance from the Target and when I saw the L240 prototype, I was confident that it would work well in any kind of wood.

The machine is a dream to work on. There are no hidden parts or fittings. Everything is out where you can work on it.” Hutchinson went ahead and ordered a L240 on a Daewoo carrier through Quadco’s Moncton branch, and—as in the case of the Target—ended up with the second unit that was produced. Gilles Levesque explains that they began building processors out of necessity. Their contracting business required a heavy-duty processor which would handle hardwoods. Since they could not find a processor that met their standards, they set to work and built the prototype Target processor.

With the L240, they joined forces with Quadco to manufacture, market and service the product. The L240 is designed to handle trees up to a 24-inch diameter, and will take them right down to 2.5 inches. With a heavy-duty frame, it weighs in at nearly 7,000 pounds. There are four moveable delimbing arms and two fixed knives. The measuring wheel is hydraulically operated to keep it in contact with the stem. Measuring is activated through a photocell which provides on-the-go length measurement reset. The butt saw can be moved in the frame, allowing a variety of final bolt cut off lengths from eight feet four inches to 10 feet four inches. Gary’s son Andrew is the L240 operator and credits the unit for its mechanical simplicity and power. “This is a simple, straightforward hard-working machine,” he says. “I am pretty sure that we will be able to fix anything that goes wrong. There are only six wires to the head and it is simple to troubleshoot. Hydraulic supply is fed from an accumulator directly off the pump, and it makes the whole thing smooth operating and very strong.”

Andrew explains that the Allen-Bradley computer system provides accurate and consistent diameter and length measurements. Through several months’ operation, it has required only one recalibration. Feed rollers have traction teeth set in a spiral design, so that as the rollers spin, the teeth feed the stem toward the top stationary knives. Feed rollers are powered by Valmet 1,600 cc motors, which provide nearly 1,000 pounds of feed force and speed of 15 feet per second. The L240 is dangle mounted and also features a tilt cylinder which allows the unit to be tilted 50 degrees from horizontal which permits the top delimbing arms to be articulated into positions to pick up individual stems from a skidded bunch, or to straighten a single bolt of wood on the pile.

Simply having the right equipment does not guarantee an efficient and effective operation. Hutchinson explains that each operator, Keith Middleton (buncher), John Morris (grapple skidder) and Andrew Hutchinson (processor) has his individual work responsibilities, but functions as part of a team, with a focus on overall job quality. “I tell each of them that they are a general manager in charge of their own department in this company. As a team they are responsible to get the job done safely, with the least damage to residual trees and the environment.” Hutchinson says that his crew is adjusting well to the single shift schedule and the enhanced quality of life. “I know that the schedule change is also paying off in better maintenance and longer service life for the equipment. When operators are tired and stressed, they make more mistakes with machines that cost downtime or they miss little things that turn into major problems or failures. With one shift they are rested and alert, and better able to act on small things before they develop.”

He sees good opportunity to build the business in the private woodlot sector, and is planning some more equipment upgrades to enhance service. “Next year we plan to trade our Tigercat 860 buncher in for a Tigercat 822 zero tail swing buncher. We have worked the 860 in some very serious conditions and pushed it extremely hard, and I am more than happy with the service we had with it. I would not hesitate staying with our 860, but we are seeing more partial cuts and silviculture work, and in moving to the compact 822, it’s lighter weight and longer reach will serve us better.”

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