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June 2006 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

 

CONTRACTOR PROFILE

RIGHT COMBO

The right equipment combination for Nova Scotia’s Looke CanCut logging operation now includes the first John Deere 1470D harvester to hit North America.

By George Fullerton

Andy Looke is looking for the right equipment combination that will continue to make the Looke CanCut logging operation profitable. That search for the right combination is leading to adding some new machines, including the first John Deere 1470D harvester in North America, and operating them in rather unconventional configurations.

Speaking from the seat of his one year-old Tigercat 860 buncher on a job for Bowater, Andy confesses to a fondness for the operations end of the business. “I mostly work in the buncher and I really do like operating equipment. Sometimes I think I might be operating too much and not paying enough attention to the business side, but my wife Wendy has always been interested in the business side. She takes on an increasing amount of that responsibility.”

Daughter Megan, who is finishing her business degree at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, has been working part-time for the business, overseeing the parts and supply inventories and tracking machine service. “I have great help for the business side, and we all have our input before we make business decisions,” says Andy.

Wendy handles the books and explains that she is getting more involved in the daily operations, recently taking on the scheduling for 11 full-time and three part-time operators and also leading the monthly, on-site safety meetings.

The John Deere 1470D harvester is the first of its type to land in North America. The machine is engineered with more power and structural capacity, terms which also apply to the new H480 harvester head (inset).

In addition to their contracting business, the family, which includes second daughter Alana and son Daniel, also manage more than 25 acres of Christmas trees and a small maple bush operation. On a recent visit to the operation, Andy was cutting trees with the 860 Tigercat feller buncher, while two older 1270 Timberjack harvesters and the new 1470D John Deere harvester moved through the cut processing stems into five product sorts, ready for the two 1110 Timberjack forwarders.

“The way I see it, cutting wood with the buncher is the most efficient method. I have put it to the test over the past year, and it seems to be working out pretty good.”

Andy’s concept of cutting wood goes well beyond just windrowing cut trees as quickly as possible. “The buncher operator is in a position to place the felled trees so that it will make the processing a smooth and efficient operation. If the buncher operator is not thinking of the processing and forwarding steps, then he can make their jobs very tough and overall production will show it very quickly.”

Andy’s attention to felling and positioning large diameter white pines with the buncher on a rocky outcrop is clear evidence that he walks his talk. “I might have spent quite a long time handling and taking the big limbs off those pines, but I can guarantee that when the processors tackle them, they will be able to do their job and get them ready for the forwarders so no one is wasting time or stressing equipment.

“My idea is to figure out how I can get the wood to the road as quick as I can. If I make the extra effort with the buncher, and place the stems so the harvesters can easily handle them, it makes the whole operation more productive overall.” They only get paid for the wood they put to roadside, he notes. “It doesn’t matter how hard we work to get the wood there, so I’m always looking for ways to make sure we do it in the most efficient manner.”

The buncher is equipped with a Tigercat 5400 head with a capacity for 27-inch trees, and has 340 degrees rotation and tilt that Andy uses to its full advantage. Andy admires the 5400 head for its strength, reliability and flexibility. His only regret is that he didn’t get the head one size bigger, so that he would not have to make two cuts on the big pines.

Andy says that having three processors working behind the buncher might seem like overkill, but he points out that the available time on his 1270B and 1270C machines is reduced, considering they have 29,000 and 20,000 hours on them, respectively. “With the new 1470D, I want to see two processors working all the time, and when I see three working, well, that is a little bonus.”

The 1470D was delivered by Wallace Equipment in Halifax, just prior to this past Christmas. “We operate the 1470D right behind one of the 1270s, so the new machine handles all the larger and rougher trees, which allows the 1270 to focus on smaller diameter stems. I figure that this strategy will squeeze more life out of the 1270s.”

Quinn Mansfield has been one of the 1470D operators and praises the new machine for its power and strength, pointing out the four roller head and the four-piston boom swing pistons that give it the power to handle trees up to thirty inches in diameter. Quinn also gives the 1470 high marks for cab comfort, and adds that the cab swing and tilt functions provide the operator with an extra measure of safety and comfort.

Mansfield says that the hefty CH8 parallel boom is well engineered, with excellent functional control thanks to the four swing pistons, tilt functions and electronic assistance provided through the Timbermatic computer.

The 1470’s cab turns 50 degrees, and tilts 15 degrees front and 11 degrees to the rear. The 1470 has steer angle of 42 degrees which gives it good agility in the rocky terrain. Cab tilt and swivel can be controlled through the Timbermatic on-board computer system or manually.

The Timbermatic computer system also handles wood processing measurements as well as providing live GPS capacity that tracks the machine’s travel in the cut block. Andy explains that Bowater wanted him to try the system to test its reliability for recognizing water course buffers, wildlife reserves and other mapped parameters. “If Bowater likes how the system works and it is cost efficient, then we would look at putting a system in the buncher. Besides alerting operators on where the buffers are, it also gives operators a comfort level for where they are in a cut block, especially at night when you can’t see landmarks or flagging.”

Andy’s 1470D is the first of its type to land on the North American shore, even though the units have had a year or more service in Scandinavia. Wallace Equipment’s Mike Shea says that the 1470D is engineered with more power and structural capacity, which also applies to the new H480 harvester head. He adds that as well as meeting the demands of specific operations in Eastern Canada, it will certainly gain a lot of attention in the west for its capacity for larger timber.

Acknowledging the 1470D’s ability to process stems to a top diameter of less than two inches, Andy points out: “We are trying something new for Bowater on this job. We are producing low grade and small diameter wood for the Brooklyn biomass plant.”

The Brooklyn plant was built to provide steam for Bowater’s Liverpool paper mill, and residual steam is used to generate electricity that is sold to the Nova Scotia power grid. Andy says that the plant originally used fresh sawmill residue in addition to mining old sawdust piles on the south shore. Once old mill sites were mined out, the plant broadened its procurement opportunities and began purchasing fresh cut biomass.

Andy Looke (right, top photo) says that Bowater wanted him to try the Timbermatic computer (left photo, below) on the 1470D harvester. The Timbermatic system handles wood processing measurements, as well as providing live GPS capacity that tracks the machine’s travel in the cut block.

“We had produced biomass wood while we were working for Barrett Lumber near Halifax. I knew what we could do, so when Bowater wanted to try it I said that we could, but that we would do it only if we eliminated one other sort. FERIC studies show that production efficiency is reduced five per cent for every additional product sort. The only way we could produce biomass effectively was to eliminate a sort. We agreed to eliminate pulpwood for the test, and it looks like it will work out okay for us.”

Harvester operators were instructed to strive to recover studwood down to a 3.5-inch top diameter. The rest of the top is delimbed and sorted as biomass product. Similarly, rotten stems are butted up to five feet, and if rot persists, the stem is sorted to biomass.

“Biomass will be an important product of the future for energy, but the buyers have to realize they have to pay for it to be produced,” says Andy. “It doesn’t get to the road by itself; we have to work hard to produce it.”

Is the system that Looke CanCut employs, with the buncher followed by harvesters, an effective harvesting system? Andy thinks they are on the right track. To illustrate his conviction, he recalls a test he carried out when he had to pull the buncher out of a block before the roads closed, leaving the 1470D to finish the felling.

“We were cutting between 120 to 140 trees per hour with the buncher and it dropped down to 100 trees per hour with the harvester working alone. That translates into a major reduction in our overall production.” Looke admits that the buncher is a major investment, but he sees it as the most efficient way to fell trees.

The Looke CanCut operation uses a highway freight trailer for an in-woods service centre, and it is remarkable, both on the outside and inside. The exterior features a hand-painted mural of the Looke harvesters, buncher and forwarders. Inside is a 6,500-litre diesel tank, a serious generator/welder, a series of well-organized and labeled parts bins, assembled and labeled hoses as well as hose assembly supplies. At the back doors, there is a well organized work area with bench, vise, and tools.

Although Andy debates the merits of operating equipment, as opposed to devoting attention to the business side, it soon becomes evident that he keeps a very keen eye on every aspect of the operation. He can intuitively provide detailed data on individual machines and operator performance.

Pointing to the forwarders pulling wood from the far end of the cut block, he comments that they were forwarding too far that day. “They are taking 65 to 70 minutes per load. We can’t make money on long hauls like that. The only way we can make money is with a short forwarder haul.”

Citing rising fuel costs, Andy calculates the forwarding bonus would be eaten up quickly by the fuel inputs. “In this business, how much you make is not the most important thing; the critical thing is how much is left and how much we can hang on to.”

 

Looke CanCut selected as Contractor of the Year

The Looke family and their employees were recently formally recognized for their commitment to the forest industry and their professionalism, winning the Canadian Woodlands Forum’s Contractor of the Year Award for 2005.

The award to Looke CanCut was made at the Canadian Woodlands Forum’s spring meeting held in Moncton, New Brunswick. The contractor was nominated by Bowater and had been selected as the Nova Scotia Contractor of the Year.

The goal of the CWF’s Contractor of the Year Award is to raise the profile and recognition of the logging profession in managing the forest resource in a sustainable manner.

 


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