More from Less
Ontario operator Upsala Forest Products is finding that a portable chipper and crew teamwork increase its yield and cut its production costs
By Dave Lammers
A small chipping operation in northwestern Ontario has taken its show on the road as a way of cutting costs and getting more out of smaller logs. Upsala Forest Products Ltd., located about 100 kilometres west of Thunder Bay, purchased a Peterson Pacific DDC 5000 G model portable chipper in May 1998 to complement its stationary chip plant. Company president Jim Vibert says he has already seen a 15 per cent reduction in production costs. There's also been a 15 per cent increase in yield using the portable delimber, debarker and chipper unit which handles up to five stems at a time, compared to the stationary ring debarker unit which takes only one stem. The portable chipper also maximizes fibre use. "There's no residual material, it all gets put through with the trees," says Vibert, adding the mobile chipper can also handle smaller logs. "As time goes on, we all seem to be cutting wood that is smaller and smaller. It will probably debark and chip everything down to about two inch trees. It can work in some of these stands with smaller balsam and jack pine and you get chips out of the top of the tree that you would normally cut off. The whole top goes through. You use trees that a traditional logging operation just wouldn't pick up.
If you were going into it for saw logs, you just couldn't go there." Vibert says the reduction in costs is a result of less handling. For example, the chipper sprays directly into trucks instead of them being loaded separately. It also does all the delimbing and debarking and there's no scaling or slashing involved. Upsala Forest Products runs the portable chipper on three eight hour shifts in conjunction with two skidders, two feller bunchers and five or six trucks hauling chips to Bowater's pulp mill in Thunder Bay. Upsala Forest Products has been cut ting on Bowater's licence in the Upsala and Nakina areas and in the Dog River Matawan unit. Maximizing productivity with the one operator mobile chipper is all about team play, says Vibert. "The whole gang has to work as a team. You can move ahead with the bunchers but there's no area for the skidders to stock pile the wood. You can only put two or three cords by either back corner of the machine, so if the skidder is in trouble, or if the truck isn't there, you just don't go. Without one element the whole chain is hung up. If you have a snow storm and the truck stops coming back, you've got a fair-sized crew out there waiting." Vibert notes that a lot of effort goes into coordinating moves with the chipper, which covers a radius of 700 to 800 feet. "You almost move to a new landing daily. " He adds that another big challenge is maintenance of the portable chipper, with the chipper and crews often working several hundred kilometres out in the bush.
Chipping frozen, hard wood in 40 Celsius temperatures during northern Ontario winters, with flail speeds turned up to handle the load, takes its toll on the machine. The company spends more than $10,000 a month on replacing chains alone, at a rate of more than 60 5/8 inch chains a day. The knives also have to be sharpened after every load. Maintenance becomes even more crucial in the winter when the chipper has to be kept running almost constantly in frigid temperatures. "There's hydraulic tubing and hosing that go from one end of the machine to the other. If you let it cool right off, you'll be two or three hours getting all the flail motors turning properly and warming all the hydraulics up." Vibert says he chose a Peterson Pacific chipper because of the company's experience building portable chippers and the improvements made in the units over the years. "Every time the Peterson Pacific people updated their machine they sat down with potential buyers and updated them a long ways through what they were learning in their field experience. And they have more of the units out there," he says.
In the Thunder Bay region alone at least a dozen contractors are using Peterson Pacific chippers. Another Thunder Bay area company, Technologic Timber, owns and operates 10 of the chippers. Wajax Industries Ltd. in Thunder Bay is a Peterson Pacific dealer and provides full service for about 25 of the portable chippers in the region. The portable chipper appears to be built tough and is relatively easy to maintain and repair. The unit itself is 52 feet long by 11 feet wide, 13 feet high and weighs about 41,000 kgs. It is powered by a single V12 Cat diesel engine with 800 hp and a 1,049litre fuel tank, as opposed to other chippers that have one engine to drive the chipper and another to drive the chain debarker flails. Some contractors have cited a preference for the one engine system, saying there is less maintenance.
Eugene, Oregon based Peterson Pacific has produced 134 of the current GModel chippers and has production rated at up to 100 tons an hour. It features a Peterson Pacific 66inch heavy duty three pocket chipper disc with a standard three knife configuration, top or side loading chip chutes with a hydraulic fold cylinder, a hydraulic swivel telescoping discharge spout and a dirt separator. The log loader is a Prentice 180 D unit with a hydraulic two section eight metre knuckle boom and a 42inch continuous rotation grapple with heel rack with a lift capacity of 11,600 pounds at 15 feet. It also has an enclosed pressurized and weatherized cab with a heater and air conditioner. The delimber/debarker has dual horizontal debarker flail drums with six chain rods. The two upper flails are floating and the bottom is fixed to keep the flail chain the optimal distance from the log, with the debarking done with the tips of the chain. Flail speed can be adjusted from the cab. Both the debarker and chipper have top floating, powered and dual feed rollers and six powered lower feed rollers. The unit is completely hydraulics driven with nine pressure compensated, fixed hydraulic GPM pumps.
The chipper also features an overhead chip spout for loading, as opposed to rear loaders, and a 10-foot side discharge bark mover to disperse debris out the bottom of the machine. The trailer is a double, 4 by 12foot box section frame with Tridem axles, dual steel belted tires, 10hole Budd style wheels, a Tridem spring walking beam suspension and four hydraulic outriggers. Vibert says the machine is fairly easy to operate, with two joysticks and two foot pedals. Upsala Forest Products has five trained operators, including one woman. "You need an operator that can handle a mental workload," he says. "You have to feed the trees into the back of the machine and you have to keep an eye how the spout is spraying them onto the truck. There's no real time to be lax about it." It takes about 1 1/2 hours to do a 50 cubic metre load and the crew does up to 12 loads a day.
Upsala Forest Products estimates it will produce 140,000 cubic metres in 1999. Upsala Forest Products is privately owned and has been operating in northwestern Ontario for about seven years. It has 25 employees in its mobile chipping, stationary chip and round wood logging operations. Vibert says the stationary chip plant complements the portable chipper, as it is designed to handle larger trees chipped for Bowater and Weyerhaeuser in Dryden. The stationary plant can set bundles or large trees aside for saw logs and also has the option of slashing out some veneer bolts and chipping the rest. "The advantage, especially for hardwood, is that if there's a log that has a lot of rot in it, you can slash some, find out that it's for chips and just let it go on down the line and be chipped up," says Vibert. Also, the operation is stationed close to the Trans Canada Highway and can be kept running in a winter storm when the snow piles high and portable chipper crews have to wait five or six hours for roads to be cleared.
This page last modified on Monday, November 03, 2003