CONTRACTOR PROFILE 3
A Timberjack 1270D harvester is working well in the Nova Scotia woods for contractor Ronal Graham Pulp, which is doing its fair share of clean-up work following the damage from Hurricane Juan.
By Stephen Bornais
Nova Scotia loggers have a new weapon to employ in their rush to salvage as much wood as possible from the province’s hurricane-damaged woodlands. The new weapon is the Timberjack 1270D harvester, a six-wheeled machine that is widely used in Europe and is now making its presence felt in North America. Wajax Industries Ltd of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia sold its first 1270D in May 2003. Since then, three more have been sold, including a machine to Ronal Graham Pulp Ltd, a stump-to-dump contractor working out of nearby Upper Stewiake. Dana Graham says the company decided to go with the new 1270D because of their past success with Timberjack machines. “The first machine I ran was a 1985 Timberjack forwarder and that worked really well,” he says. “I figured if they were all like that, we might as well have another one.”
Graham was also drawn by the promise of dramatically lower fuel costs—fuel consumption on the newer equipment can be half that of older machines. The 1270D comes equipped with a Timberjack 758 HD dangle head, the next model up from the TJ 762C. The six-wheeled 1270D is powered by a liquid-cooled, 8.1 litre (215 hp) John Deere diesel. The boom can reach to a maximum of 30 feet while the flexible four-roller head can take down a tree more than 25 inches in diameter and gives good delimbing capability.. The machines sold by Wajax are factory finished and can include options such as CD players or special work lights, although a fire control system is installed separately.
Carl Holman, sales representative with Wajax, says the electric over hydraulics system on the machine means the controls in the cab can be small and light to the touch. It also allows the operator to personally adjust all hydraulic functions, either speeding them up or slowing them down as desired. While Timberjack itself describes the 1270D as a machine for specific uses such as regeneration work, Holman says the company is selling it as an all-purpose machine, capable of going anywhere in any season. “It’s being used by most operators that way anyway,” Holman says. The 1270D comes equipped with a pre-heater that can be set to come on one hour before the operator reaches the work site. This means the machine, and especially the vital computer system, is ready to work right away, says Paul. don’t have to wait for somebody else,” he says.
Unlike many other contractors, the family doesn’t count the hours on their machines. “We just run them. We don’t worry about that,” Graham says, although he added they are sticklers for fleet maintenance. The first week of operating the 1270D was “little rough” Graham comments, blaming it on a wonky fuel solenoid that was quickly sorted out. Since then, the machine has worked well. “It’s not that hard to run. It looks complicated, but once you work it, it comes together pretty quick,” he says. Mobility has been great so far, Graham adds. On a recent visit, the previous day’s heavy rain had turned the ground to thick, clingy mud, but the 1270D didn’t miss a step. Graham has been running it with a set of chains on the rear wheels and tracks mounted on the front. “She’ll go pretty much anywhere you point her,” he says.
The dangle head is performing well, but it is not as strong as the fixed heads Graham has used, something of a limitation when trying to pry apart a mass of trees toppled on to each other. “I wanted a dangle head just because I thought it would perform a little better,” Graham remarks. Still, the creature comforts in the cab go a long way toward improving operator productivity, Graham says. “You could be running the same machine for years, but when you get something that’s as quiet and comfortable, it’s nice,” he comments. The 1270D was recently working in a 20-acre woodlot owned by Ronal Graham’s twin-brother. The lot had been extensively damaged by Hurricane Juan, making the site, while small, a challenge for the new machine.
It is one that the 1270D is meeting head on, as operator Craig Herring works his way back and forth across the face of a twisted mass of trees. Herring is cutting for several different clients at once. In one pile, he’s stacking 10-foot stud logs for the nearby J D Irving sawmill. Another pile contains large saw logs while two more contain different grades of pulp wood destined for the Stora Enso paper mill in Port Hawskesbury, 200 kilometres to the north, and an Irving chipping mill. Hardwood, when there is any, is sent to two chipping mills at opposite ends of the province. That morning, work was halted briefly while repairs were made to a hydraulic fitting seal on the new head.
The fact that a machine barely three months old needed a repair doesn't faze Graham, who considers it a normal part of working in a new machine. “Anyone who says different isn’t telling the whole truth,” he says. Holman, Timberjack’s application specialist for Atlantic Canada and Maine, who was in Nova Scotia conducting training sessions with new owners of the 1270D. “We try to keep the cab a comfortable place for the operator and the computer,” says Paul Holman. The machine’s heart is the new Timbermatic 300 computerized cutting system that allows a contractor to set specifications on a home PC, then insert them into the on-board computer with a standard compact flash card. (The system can be adjusted remotely through e-mail carried over a cell phone, a method used extensively in Europe where cellular coverage is much wider.)
The optimization software, which has been used since the early 1990s, takes a stem profile of the tree once the head grabs on. The operator tells the computer which species the tree is. Together with the diameter reading the head has already taken, the measuring system is able to remember the characteristics of the last five trees of that type and size. The system then estimates the height of the tree and gives the operator several options on how to proceed. “When I harvest a tree using this head and this computer system, I should get more value at roadside,” says Paul Holman. “If your specs are listed properly, you can get the most available saw log out of that log, which brings the contractor more money, and that’s what it’s all about.”
A first glance, the new computer system can seem a bit intimidating. But Paul Holman says training helps to dispel any lingering concerns for operators. “We want them to know how easy it is to use. It’s only software and if it crashes, we can reset it and get back on—no problem. You can’t damage it.” Holman says refresher courses help to ensure owners are making use of all the machine’s capabilities. “I don’t want someone to be disappointed with the machine simply because they’re not taking advantage of some of the productivity enhancing functions it has,” he says. Carl Holman says this Windows-based computer system is new to the industry in Nova Scotia. “It’s a bit intimidating, but the more the operators use it, the simpler they realize it is,” he adds. Contractor Dana Graham admits the machine represents a technological leap. “It’s a whole new ball game for us, but I’m not really that scared of that computer stuff anymore,” he says.
Paul Holman says the machine can do many things, but it still needs the operator to perform the crucial task of quality control. “The measuring system can tell him that tree is 50 centimetres in diameter but it can’t tell if the inside is rotten, it can’t tell if there’s a crook in that tree,” Holman says. “You could grab a steel pipe and it would think it’s a tree.” And once the trees are cut, the operator must continue that quality control, ensuring the earlier effort isn’t wasted with some careless stockpiling. “It’s no good to cut all these high-value logs if we put them all in one pile because they all might end up at the pulp mill,” Holman says.
Graham says the company still trusts its operators to do most of the decision making on cutting. “We don’t change our log specs that often,” he says. “You still have to use your head; the machine doesn’t do it all.” The 1270D is part of a growing fleet at the Graham company, which was started by father Ronal Graham in 1974. He remains president and runs the trucking side while sons Jason and Dana are responsible for the harvesting end of the business.
They expect to cut more than 25,000 cords this year, based on a 50-hour work week. The Grahams work mainly in central Nova Scotia, contracting the wood from private landowners. They also harvest from the 4,000 acres they own themselves in the same area of the province. In 30 years, they have become one of the largest private harvesting contractors in the province, with a fleet to match. “We’ve just kept buying and haven’t gotten rid of the older gear. It still works pretty good because we keep it up,” Dana Graham says.
The company runs five harvesters, two 1995 John Deere 690s with slingshot harvesting heads, a 1998 John Deere 200 with a Fabtek head and a 2000 John Deere 653G with the same head as the Timberjack 1270D. They also run a Timberjack 2001 608S feller buncher. The Grahams also have three Timberjack forwarders, the oldest of which was bought in 1995, and a 1998 John Deere 200 excavator in the fleet, a handy piece of machinery, Graham says, since it allows the firm to build their own roads and loading sites when needed. They also have five trucks which gives the entire operation flexibility. “You can get things done when you want. You
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