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         December 1996 January 1997

    

Cost conscious cut-to-length

Setting up a new CTL show in remote northern Manitoba, Art Riemer wanted dependable equipment - but not at a price that would turn his accountant surly.

By Tony Kryzanowski
Copyright 1996. Contact publisher for permission to use.

Manitoba logger Art Riemer was hesitant when Repap Manitoba kept insisting that he switch from a conventional tree-length harvesting system to a cut-to-length system. But finally last fall, he took the plunge after reaching agreement with the company on a contract rate. Now it was time to go shopping.

Riemer feels he made the right choice choosing an inexpensive Fabtek 18'' processing head mounted on a John Deere 653E, as well as the six-wheel-drive 546 Fabtek rear bogie forwarder. The forwarder is the first sold in Western Canada.

Riemer logs about 100 kilometres from The Pas, near Cranberry Portage in north central Manitoba. He supplies 50,000 m3 of fibre annually to the Repap Manitoba sawmill in The Pas.

"The company that we worked for wanted a change," says Riemer. "They were after better quality end product, more uniform size and a better sort." Repap's desire for a better quality end product has a lot to do with the quality of wood available in the area.

"We're working in really marginal wood," says Riemer. "They (Repap) are trying to salvage as many sawlogs as they can out of it."

OSB To put it in perspective, Riemer makes this observation about his cutblocks. "What we have here is either rock or water, and very little in between," he says. His company, suitably named Rocky Roads Logging, works year round harvesting black spruce, white spruce and jack pine as small as 5'' in diameter, but averaging 9'' to 10''.

His Fabtek 18'' four-roller processor, John Deere 653E and Fabtek forwarder Manitoba logger Art Riemer was hesitant when Repap Manitoba kept insisting that he switch from a conventional tree-length harvesting system to a cut-to-length system. But finally last fall, he took the plunge after reaching agreement with the company on a contract rate. Now it was time to go shopping.

Riemer feels he made the right choice choosing an inexpensive Fabtek 18'' processing head mounted on a John Deere 653E, as well as the six-wheel-drive 546 Fabtek rear bogie forwarder. The forwarder is the first sold in Western Canada.

Riemer logs about 100 kilometres from The Pas, near Cranberry Portage in north central Manitoba. He supplies 50,000 m3 of fibre annually to the Repap Manitoba sawmill in The Pas. "The company that we worked for wanted a change," says Riemer. "They were after better quality end product, more uniform size and a better sort."

Repap's desire for a better quality end product has a lot to do with the quality of wood available in the area.

"We're working in really marginal wood," says Riemer. "They (Repap) are trying to salvage as many sawlogs as they can out of it."

To put it in perspective, Riemer makes this observation about his cutblocks. "What we have here is either rock or water, and very little in between," he says. His company, suitably named Rocky Roads Logging, works year round harvesting black spruce, white spruce and jack pine as small as 5'' in diameter, but averaging 9'' to 10''.

A tour of the mill is like stepping through a time machine. The mill employs 200 workers, operating a large and small log line dating back to the 1940's. There were a few modifications installed over the past 20 years, but not many. EB Eddy purchased the mill from Lajambe Forest Products in early 1995.

His Fabtek 18'' four-roller processor, John Deere 653E and Fabtek forwarder were supplied by Brandt Tractor in Winnipeg. That's a 7-1/2-hour drive from Cranberry Portage. The distance factor had plenty to do with Riemer's decision to purchase a Fabtek processor and forwarder.

OSB "Because we live where we do, we wanted something that was going to be reliable," says Riemer. "Machines do break down. On the other hand, if it does break down, I wanted something I could fix. That's the reason I went with the Fabtek." He says both forwarder and processor are well built and easy to fix. They were built in Michigan, and 95 per cent of their parts are available through any quality hydraulic shop. Fabtek has designed the forwarder with popular John Deere components.

The Fabtek 546 forwarder is the company's largest unit, with a rated payload capacity of 30,000 lbs. Riemer says he selected the largest forwarder because of the long haul distances he sometimes requires. He has equipped the forwarder's rear bogie wheels with Olofsfors tracks for better traction. The results have been terrific.

"It will go places where it's questionable whether you can walk," he says. "Loaded or empty, it will still go." He adds that he also appreciates the forwarder's price tag. It cost him $270,000, which was considerably cheaper than comparable bogie system units. As far as the price-to-horsepower ratio, however, Riemer says nothing else came close.

The forwarder is equipped with a 6.8-litre, six-cylinder, 175-hp turbo-charged engine. It has a John Deere 1200-series front axle, and a NAF 15-ton, gear-driven rear bogie. The transmission is a four-speed power shift transmission with electronic shift, and it also offers hydraulic differential lock. To fully tilt the hydraulic tilting cab only takes one minute. The boom has an 18' reach, as well as a 51'' squirt boom extension. The grapple has continuous grapple rotation, and the hydraulic system is a closed centre system. For extra stability, the forwarder has automatic hydraulic frame lockout when loading.

Riemer says loggers will notice similarities between this forwarder and John Deere skidders.

OSB "The way this Fabtek forwarder is designed, it looks like a skidder," he says. "It's designed from a John Deere skidder. It's strong, functional, has lots of power, and is easy on fuel. And it's not hard to learn to use at all." Given their rocky terrain, he says he needs the horsepower provided by the Fabtek forwarder.

Riemer knows a lot about skidders because that was his main line of work prior to evolving into a cut-to-length system. He has been logging since 1975, starting with hand felling and then advancing to a semi-mechanical system. He operated a skidder with a roto limb attachment on the blade. This system still required the skidder operator to dismount and chain saw remaining limbs and tops before skidding to roadside.

While this cut-to-length system has yet to prove itself economically, Riemer believes that it will eventually, once they feel comfortable with their equipment and begin operating at higher production levels. So far, it has been a learning experience.

"I think for our area, it's a better way of logging," he says, "because with the old feller buncher, you were always up against room. Basically, there was no room to work in the gullies and in the rock ridges." And considering how the feller buncher laid out the wood for delimbing, it was difficult for the skidder to back-blade the limbs.

"Whereas this system, once you cut the tree and drop it, you are finished with it and the forwarder comes in," says Riemer. "With the cut-to-length system, you drive over all the debris, so it's a bonus. It's easier on tires. It's not like a skidder where you are right in the nitty-gritty all the time and spinning around. Basically, with the forwarder, you never spin a wheel."

While it has never come up as an issue, Riemer says he would not be surprised if Repap had a concern about environmental damage, considering the mess left behind using their old system. "It was terrible," Riemer says. "When you were finished an area, it was all rutted up and it wasn't very nice to look at. We have people driving by now on the road after we have cut an area, and they are impressed with the amount of re-gen wood that is left standing."

It just stands to reason, he says, with less equipment more re-gen will be left standing. The John Deere processing unit and the Fabtek forwarder have replaced a feller buncher, a delimber, a grapple skidder forwarder and a slasher.

"If there is no need to drive through it, you don't with the cut-to-length system," says Riemer. "If you are working next to an old cut, like a 15- to 20-year-old cut, you don't have to drive in at all. You don't fall wood into the re-gen. Everything is contained in the area that you are working in."

However, because of the marginal stands in Riemer's cutblocks, he must push past a considerable amount of 2'' and 3'' stems to reach better quality wood. Therefore, the sturdy forwarder bumper has come in handy.

"Lots of equipment out there have blades, but they are more or less just a bumper," he says. "I don't really see any function for them." Conversely, he finds the Fabtek forwarder blade very functional for clearing a path.

Rocky Road Logging has put about 400 hours on their Fabtek forwarder. Both their forwarder and processor unit arrived in the fall. While Riemer described Fabtek's offer of training as "minimal" he says it was not required. Operators can easily learn from the operational and parts manual, because the equipment is easy to operate. Only plenty of "time in the seat" helped Rocky Road Logging operators make the transition to a new style of logging.

"Being a strong and durable unit, we never had trouble with breaking things that shouldn't have been breaking," he says.

The only minor improvement that he could recommend is improvement to the forwarder's boom float system. Fabtek has acknowledged his feedback and are working to correct the problem.

The boom system, he says, is mounted on the front half of the machine, so when the operator turns the forwarder, the boom has to have a float system so it can pivot.

"What happens if you are not careful and have jammed in the load good, when you are driving with your load, at times it (the boom) could tip off the load and knock some of the trees off," says Riemer. However, he is confident Fabtek will solve this minor concern. Riemer has overnight bus service on parts. He says Brandt Tractor and Fabtek have responded well to any minor problems he has come across. And if a problem does crop up, he is confident he can fix it himself.

December 1996 / January 1997 Table of Contents

Evans cited as first code victim
Soaring stumpage fees and Forest Code-inflated logging costs forced Evans Forest Products to its knees. Other mills could be facing the same fate.

Timber Sales Fund Innovative Harvesting Training Program
Eighteen people are learning new harvesting techniques.

Riding the OSB boom
Hedging against a downturn, Weyerhaeuser invests $16 million to improve recovery at its OSB plant at Slave Lake, Alberta.

Cost conscious cut-to-length
Setting up a new CTL show in remote northern Manitoba, Art Riemer wanted dependable equipment - but not at a price that would turn his accountant surly.

Sticking in a Tough Market
At Fort Nelson, the world's largest chopstick plant produces eight million units a day for demanding Japanese buyers.

CCMC Furthering Aspen as a Commercial Species in BC
CCMC is a pioneering company making exclusive use of high-quality aspen.

Tech Update: Cable Yarding Systems
A review of the different cable yarding systems that are available on the marketplace

Helicopter Logging Capability Guide
Heli-logging remains a practical harvesting alternative in many of British Columbia's mountainous regions.

The Eagle Flies
At the site of an abandoned chip mill in Miramichi, Eagle Forest Products turns the key on a new $100 million OSB plant.

New Centre Targets Value-Aded Training
With an estimated 30,000 skilled workers needed in the value-added sector in BC by 2001, the industry has moved to address a potentially serious training shortfall.

Haliburton: A Multi-Use Model
Ontario's Haliburton Forest, a popular recreation site, also hosts extensive forestry research and education programs - and a unique 'one stem at a time' selective logging program.

Northern Mills Address Need for Added Kiln Proficiency
The added market value of kiln-dried lumber is driving a push for new technology and added training for operators.

Supplier Newsline
Trade magazine ads pay off.


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Last modified 12/18/96

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