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July August 2006 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

 

HARVESTING EQUIPMENT

Made to measure

Waratah introduced its new TimberRite measuring system—which is expected to result in improved log production and quality—on its home turf, at a recent forestry show in New Zealand.

By Tony Kryzanowski

Forestry attachment manufacturer Waratah introduced its new TimberRite measuring system—a system that will soon be available in Canada—at the recent Forest Industries Expo in New Zealand. Already in production in New Zealand and Australian markets, the new system will be rolled out gradually worldwide and will be available in North America in 2007.

Waratah demonstrated the TimberRite system’s capabilities to attendees at the 2006 New Zealand Forest Industries Show earlier this year, after making the product commercially available in both Australia and New Zealand.

The expected advantage to Waratah attachment owners is that the system will improve production quality, particularly from average operators. “This system calculates the most valuable combination of cuts per stem,” says Matti Tarkka, Waratah automation team leader. “With our previous system, the decision of where to cut for optimum value was left to the operator. That’s the big difference.”

The measuring system makes the optimum cutting decisions based upon the measurement parameters initially programmed into the system to reflect the sawmill customer’s requirements.

The operator’s role, largely, is to ensure that the system is operating within those parameters. With fewer critical decisions required by the operator, company owners can reasonably expect higher quality production more quickly from new operators.

TimberRite will adjust the feed speed, pressure on the delimbing knives and the feed rollers on the basis of the diameter of the stem. The operator monitors the system’s performance from an on-board screen that not only displays information about the stem being cut, but also information on the two most recently processed logs for comparison purposes.

The measuring system is built around an open Windows 2000 operating system, which makes it a familiar working environment for both the machine owner and operator. It also gives the owner the ability to install other Windows-based programs on the system, something that Tarkka says he believes puts the Waratah system on the leading edge and far ahead of other measuring systems in the marketplace.

Waratah demonstrated the system’s capabilities to attendees at the 2006 New Zealand Forest Industries Show earlier this year, after making the product commercially available in both Australia and New Zealand. Because loggers working in this market are essentially only dealing with one softwood species, it made launching the product there less complicated than in areas like Canada and Scandinavia where loggers are often dealing with three or more different species.

“There is a requirement for a topping saw feature in Canada,” says Tarkka, “mostly due to the handling of the wood and the factor of skidding to roadside. So we have to incorporate some features and versions of our TimberRite system to take into account conventional logging practices such as roadside processing and shovel logging.”

Beyond that, he does not anticipate any problems introducing the product into Canada because it was modeled after the multiple species conifer environment that exists in Scandinavia.

In addition to making the operator’s job less complicated, Tarkka says the system stands out for how much information the machine owner can gather from it. It is possible, with the right equipment and access to telephone service, to communicate between the Windows operating system and a remote personal computer. The operator can receive and send production information, machine settings, and harvesting instructions.

The TimberRite system is expected to be available in Canada in 2007; features will be incorporated into the equipment to take into account the roadside processing and shovel logging that is practised in Canada.

As part of its TimberRite system, Waratah will provide the machine owner with the necessary software to download work and repair statistics from the harvester/processor attachment. “The owner can track the actual working hours of the machine,” says Tarkka. “For example, if the head is idle for 15 minutes or more, a pop-up window asks the operator to explain the reason for the break.” The owner can also track downtime information that will help him determine the attachment components that are causing the most trouble.

One of the most critical parts of the measuring system is a head module that is connected by a wire to the cab, where the rest of the system hardware is located. “In case of a failure, replacing the module is easy to do,” says Tarkka. “It shouldn’t be a problem.” In the event of a problem, there are diagnostic features to test the system, to track down where the problem is occurring and how to correct it.

As a company with Kiwi roots, Waratah selected a rather unique environment to showcase its new TimberRite technology. The company chose environmentally sensitive forestland on Matakana Island, off the Bay of Plenty on the north coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The site is owned jointly by Seattle-based Blakely Pacific Limited and a Maori-based forestry company.

The forestland is a typical example of the environmental care that some forestry owners need to take to balance the business of forest harvesting with ecological values in certain areas of this country.

Blakely Pacific purchased the holding in 1994, in what was considered a rare land transaction with the Maori people. What the joint venture has provided is an opportunity for regular income and employment to the local Maori population, which has had a wellestablished community on the island for centuries.

Blakely Pacific’s holdings consist of 1,981 hectares of planted Radiata pine and 269 hectares of planted eucalyptus. The pine plantation is thinned after 12 years to reduce the stocking rate from 1,200 stems per hectare to 400 stems.

Forestlands in New Zealand are essentially privately held, with forest product manufacturers negotiating timber supply agreements with companies like Blakely Pacific to supplement what they may own themselves. New Zealand-based forest companies also do considerable business exporting logs for processing offshore.

Nearly all timber harvesting in New Zealand is done on plantations, with the predominant wood species being the fast growing Radiata pine. Unlike Canadian
softwood species that typically take at least 60 years to reach a stage where they will produce a marketable lumber product, Radiata pine can be harvested after 30 years, producing much-valued clear lumber, though it has limited structural use.

Blakely Pacific owns forestland on both the North and South Island in New Zealand, and focuses on development, management, and harvesting of renewable, fast growing tree farms.

New Zealand allows only tightly controlled and limited harvesting of its native forests. However, forest plantations outside sensitive areas are treated by many landowners as an agricultural crop because of Radiata pine’s fast growing horizon. A landowner might achieve two harvests from a plantation in one lifetime, which can help to fund a retirement or legacy for future generations. Many contract the services of land management companies to organize the sale and harvest of their plantation.

Forestland owners include large institutional investors like the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund, which owns harvesting rights to between 40,000 and 50,000 hectares of wood fibre in New Zealand.

Waratah’s TimberRite measuring system will help contractors achieve more consistently accurate production from all of their operators.

Because of the ecological sensitivity of Matakana Island, Blakely Pacific must walk a fine line between harvesting a cash crop and sustaining the ecological balance of the island. In additional to several significant cultural and historical sites, such as burial grounds and sacred ground to the Maori people, the island also has various endangered plant species. It is home to an endangered shorebird called the New Zealand dotterel, which only breeds in New Zealand and is estimated to have a population of 1,300 birds. Consequently, visitors to the island must have a permit, and there are no cars, motorcycles, fires, smoking, dogs or horseback riding allowed.

So the highly diverse international crowd of spectators taking in the Waratah demonstration not only learned about the attachment manufacturer’s plans for
TimberRite, but also received a lesson on the intricacies of forest resource management in certain areas of New Zealand.

 

 


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This page last modified on Thursday, December 07, 2006