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Nov 2004 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

CUT-TO-LENGTH HARVESTING

Connecting the phases

A strong focus on cohesion and co-operation between the different phases—and equipment—is keeping a cut-to-length harvesting system humming efficiently for BC Interior contractor Marlo Logging.

By Jim Stirling

 Bob Sales, front and centre with Marlo Logging’s four-legged “road foreman,” Jasper (above) and one of the Valmet forwarders. Also pictured behind Bob and Jasper are (right to left) Bart Crossan, territory manager of equipment dealer Terratech (which handles Valmet), Valmet forwarder operator Jason Ferris, and Don Fraser of Terratech Equipment. 

Jasper is road foreman and he takes his duties seriously. If a logging machine stops at roadside or a pick-up truck slows, he’s right there with a demanding inquisitiveness. Jasper demonstrates that unwavering canine concentration until a bit of sandwich, an errant nut or a piece of plum finds its way in his direction. Jasper comes by his vigilance naturally. However when his owner, Bob Sales, exercises a similar quality, he’s not looking for food, he’s anticipating efficiency and performance from his logging machines. And his crews are delivering it consistently at his cut-to-length log harvesting shows in the Quesnel region of British Columbia’s Cariboo country. Bob and his brother Don Sales are partners in Marlo Logging.

The processing and sorting function is sub-contracted to contractor James Godsoe of Quesnel, BC. Godsoe uses a Cat 320 with a 622 Waratah processing head (above) and a Madill 2400 with a 24-inch Waratah to get the job done.

The Sales family and Marlo Logging have a 43 year history in the timber harvest contracting business in the Quesnel area. The ways of doing business have changed immeasurably since 1962, and Marlo has not been reticent to embrace new log harvesting methods, equipment and attitudes. Case in point: the contracting company was the first in the region to make the shift to a cut-to-length harvesting system. That was about six years ago. “It was something we could see that would benefit the mill,” recalls Sales. “We talked about it to them and they agreed.” The “them” is Weldwood of Canada, Marlo’s long-time licensee, and for which it is harvesting around 230,000 cubic metres a year. Weldwood is in the process of becoming part of West Fraser Timber. (See story on page 4 of this issue.) What effect that might have on Marlo in the future remains unclear. “In the meantime, we’ll just keep on logging,” says Sales. The cut-to-length system processes logs in the bush, transporting clean logs, accurately measured to preferred lengths for Weldwood’s mills.

Latterly, the system has been further refined to reflect the numbers of log sorts required. “There were too many sorts for us to do efficiently at roadside,” Sales explains. What happens now is trees are felled and positioned, processed and sorted at the stump and forwarded to roadside. Marlo’s main workhorses for the latter phase are a pair of skookum Valmet 890.1 forwarders. The robustly constructed machines can transport an average of 17 cubic metres of processed wood to roadside and deck it in the appropriate pile for loading onto logging trucks. Sales reports the Valmet forwarders have performed well during their first couple of years on the job. At the Marlo site that Logging & Sawmilling Journal visited, there were four sorts for peelers, destined for Weldwood’s plywood plant in Williams Lake, and six sorts in spruce and pine. These included sorts for log diameters, grade, peelers, green and dry.

 Equipment operator Jason Ferris tends to take the steady-as-she-goes approach with the Valmet forwarder, keeping the machine working consistently and within itself. And, at the end of the day, that’s what delivers the production required to roadside.

Contractors in the Quesnel region have been hit hard with lodgepole pine stands dead or dying from the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Interestingly, Sales sub-contracts out the processing and sorting function. Quesnel contractor James Godsoe uses a Cat 320 with a 622 Waratah processing head and a Madill 2400 with a 24-inch Waratah to get the job done. “Sub-contracting the processing has been a very good move,” says Sales. “It takes some of the worry away from us. James keeps his machines up very well, which you’ve got to do with cut-to-length.” There also needs to be cohesion and co-operation between phases to keep the cut-to-length harvesting process humming along efficiently, points out Sales. It begins with the feller buncher operator laying the wood down for the processors to access and sort it.

Marlo runs a Tigercat 870B buncher. The processors, in turn, position the measured stems so the forwarders can build their loads. For example, you don’t want machines working sideways on hillsides. Sales says the Valmet forwarders do very well in steep ground but the trick is to keep them moving straight up or down. “We like to come straight down with a good turn out at the bottom,” he says. Jason Ferris is the regular operator on one of the Valmets. And if he never has to go back to running a grapple skidder, that would be fine. He says it took a while to get used to operating a swing type machine for the first time. But now he’s thoroughly at home in the forwarder. The Valmet 634 six-cyclinder turbo diesel engine offers 207 hp at 2,000 rpm and the load sensing hydraulic system is plenty fast enough, reports Ferris.

It’s good traversing rocks, stumps and provides stability with manoeuvrability, he adds. Ferris tends to take the steady-as-she-goes approach with the forwarder, keeping the machine working consistently and within itself. And, at the end of the day, that’s what delivers the production required to roadside. Marlo was first off the mark in the region in hiring its own quality manager to ensure the logs produced meet Weldwood’s exacting standards. The quality manager allows Marlo to maintain a 97 per cent quality compliance standard.

Marlo Logging is also involved in developing access to new harvesting areas. Sales estimates the company will build around 18 kilometres in block and some mainline roads in 2004, an activity rate he describes as “slowish.” Key machines for those functions are a Komatsu 220 hoe and a Cat D7H. Marlo runs a couple of its own logging trucks and maintains a low bedding capability. At peak times, about 15 logging trucks are required to get the cut-to-length wood to Weldwood’s yards. All of which means plenty of vigilance and roadside activity and little time to rest for Jasper.

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