Taking the Lead
Rosko Forestry Operations uses innovative approaches and equipment to become a forestry leader.
By Tony Kryzanowski
In 22 years, Rosko Forestry Operations has gone from owning one log skidder to becoming the largest forestry contractor in the Kirkland Lake, Ontario area with more than 45 pieces of equipment. That kind of success only comes from having an edge and the advantage in this case is having the proper tools to meet customer demand.
One of the most dramatic changes in forestry over the past decade is the transition to year round logging. Consequently, contractors interested in capturing the lion's share of the logging market have had to shape their equipment fleets so that they can log economically in summer as well as winter.
The main challenge in many parts of Canada is how to capture timber in soft ground. Rosko Forestry has addressed this hurdle using Caterpillar's 527 tracked skidder. During summer logging in the Canadian Shield north of North Bay, the company frequently encounters cutblocks with a mixture of hard and soft ground. "If we had all hard ground to work in, we'd stick to hard ground in summer and soft and sensitive sites in winter," says company president Joe Rosko. "But that's not a reality. So in order to operate in the summer months, you have to have the flexibility to be able to operate in some of the sensitive areas." The company's Cat 527 tracked skidder is outfitted with 35- inch pads, and operates like the lead runner on a relay team. It skids logs to hard ground where they are picked up by conventional skidders and transported to roadside.
Because the 527 is equipped with such wide pads, Rosko Forestry is careful to ensure that it stays in soft ground. "We do not travel across to hard ground because the maintenance is too high on the tracks at this point," says Rosko. "Plus the production isn't there. It's not a long distance machine. It's meant for short distances." While it has less grapple capacity than bigger wheeled skidders, the 527's swing boom has delivered outstanding results, particularly in careful logging situations, because of its ability to reach to the side and centre of the grapple load, thus redistributing the weight. Rosko says his ultimate tracked skidder would have a 527 swing boom, but with the large capacity grapple of a wheeled skidder.
His decision to adopt the tracked skidder method came after testing other log transportation methods. He says the company tried transporting logs over soft ground using a forwarder, but it caused too much site damage and had poor flotation. The company also experienced maintenance problems with the forwarder, and it required a more skilled operator. In addition to working year round, Rosko Forestry also harvests timber for a variety of forestry companies. It helps to be versatile. Over the past year, the company harvested 350,000 cubic metres, but it was in a highly diverse working environment.
"We deal with all the boreal species, and recently we've had experience with the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence species," says general manager Russell Williams. "When we're in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence area, there's multiple species and multiple products coming from each piece of wood." For example, a recent assignment had them harvesting eight to 10 species of two to three products per species, resulting in 20 to 25 different sorts. The boreal forest side of the business is a bit saner, where they merchandize wood to only eight, 14 and 16 foot lengths. The company's area of operation requires them to harvest and process both hardwoods and softwoods, so Rosko Forestry has depended a great deal upon their Target and newer 825 Hornet processor/delimbers.
The Hornet, manufactured by Votec Innovation Ltd in Calgary, is attached to a Tigercat 860 carrier and spends about 90 per cent of its time processing timber in the bush. When shopping for a processor/delimber, Rosko says he wanted operational ease, quick adjustments to produce various lengths, machine productivity and reliability. Since the Hornet has a similar design to their Target processor/delimber - a machine they have had positive experience with - the company opted to stick with a proven product. Rosko Forestry purchased the Hornet last year and it has 4,500 hours on it. The older Target has 8,500 hours. Both have performed well. The bottom line was cost per operating hour.
The company needed a processor/delimber that was long lasting while processing large volumes of hardwood, such as poplar, with the least amount of maintenance. The Hornet 825 weighs in at 8,725 lbs with an overall length of 194 inches. The rotator has a maximum lifting capacity of 100,000 lbs. The butt saw has a maximum cutting diameter of 30 inches and 18 inches on the topping saw. The saw motors are VOAC F11- 19 models, and the chain speed operates at 9,500 to 10,900 rpm. Its linear measuring system comes standard, but Votec offers an optional measuring system with 10 preset lengths.
The processor/ delimber feeding force at 3,675 psi is 12,000 lbs, and the feeding speed is 10 to 14 feet per second. "The only concern we had with the Hornet was that the measuring system was not as accurate as we'd like it to be," says Rosko, "but they quickly responded with a larger diameter cylinder to hold more pressure on the measuring wheel. This solved the problem." The maximum opening between the rollers is 32 inches and the minimum is 1.5 inches. It uses 25.75-inch steel feed rollers, each with 795 half-inch steel spikes. Rubber feed rollers measuring 26.5 inches in diameter are also available.
The cast delimbing arms have a maximum opening of 28.5 inches with the ability to completely surround a 22 inch tree. The arms have a minimum opening of 2.5 inches, and can delimb down to that size. Rosko says his strategy behind operating his processor/delimbers in tandem with conventional feller bunching is to remain competitive with the harvesting and processing capabilities of cut-to-length systems. "My idea was to process either behind the machine, whether it be at roadside or at the stump," says Rosko. "The Target and Hornet can do it in both positions. That's why we went with the Tigercat carrier because that machine is designed to work in the field."
He says by the time money is spent converting an excavator to a forestry application, the cost in purchasing a purpose-built Tigercat were similar. "I'd rather buy a purpose-built machine, and that's exactly what we did," he says. Rosko Forestry has shown that the key to keeping clients happy and to business growth is to keep your eyes and ears open to harvesting trends.
Secondly, investigate the equipment market so when it comes time to get a piece of the annual allowable cut, your company can earn a bigger slice of the pie. The contractor with the right mix of equipment soon finds himself in great demand.
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last modified on Tuesday, February 17, 2004