Stacking The Decks
Nova Scotia Contractor Ron Langille has adopted a double-tiered harvesting method from Quebec that reduces environmental damage and cuts forwarder travel time by 40 per cent.
Logging contractors working in Quebec have developed a harvesting method with the potential to help many other Canadian contractors leap forward in terms of greater productivity, while reducing the potential for environmental damage.
Nova Scotia's largest log contractor, Ron Langille, recently demonstrated the method he says he learned from contractors working in Quebec. Langille operates E and R Contracting Ltd. in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, and harvests timber for Kimberley Clark. The double-tiered harvesting method adopted by E and R Contracting has had a positive impact on all aspects of the operation.
"It has increased the production of the rest of the equipment coming behind the feller bunchers and the processors," says Langille, who works primarily in eastern Nova Scotia, harvesting wood in a 100km radius from the Kimberley Clark mill, located in New Glasgow. E and R Langille Contracting operates 12 pieces of equipment, harvesting about 30 per cent cut-to-length and 70 per cent treelength. The equipment fleet includes a TransGesco-80 working as a clambunk skidder, a John Deere 648G grapple skidder, three John Deere feller bunchers with Quadco, Gilbert-Tech, and Harricana heads, a TransGesco 206 forwarder, two Timberjack 230 forwarders, and a John Deere 790 with a Target processing head.
E and R Contracting operations supervisor Phil Redden explains how the method works. He notes that it is important to practice this method using harvesting heads with lateral tilt; Langille's Quadco and Gilbert Tech heads are both laterally tilting heads. According to Redden, as the operator directs his feller buncher down the first cutblock strip, and as he collects trees in the harvester head, instead of turning 90' to lay the trees down perpendicular to the strip, he turns 180', or a half turn.
"With a lateral head, he is able to tilt the wood and lay it into the edge of the standing wood behind the machine, and on to the next strip over," he says. "When you get to the start of the next strip to come back up, you cut the trees in that strip, and lay that wood on top of the strip that you just cut." The result is two strips of wood stacked in one pile. Once the cut block is complete, there are strips of double-tiered logs followed by a 20-metre-wide open strip, followed by another double-tiered pile.
The double-tiered stacking method results in two strips of wood stacked in one pile.
With conventional clear-cut harvesting, trees are placed tip to butt, with the tips of the trees that have been cut down placed so they touch the butts of the next strip. Often there is even overlap, which results in a complete layer of wood with little room to manoeuvre.
Now that more and more contractors log year-round, and as environmental regulations frown on skidding long distances over soft ground, the alternative is to have feller bunchers or processors work in tandem with forwarders. But it is often difficult to match the cutting rate of the feller buncher with the transport rate of the forwarder. Many contractors have complained that they need to operate their forwarders much longer hours to keep up with the feller buncher's production, or they face having to purchase an additional forwarder.
This double-tiered method has helped Langille reduce his forwarder travel time on the cutblock by 40 per cent because the harvested wood is stacked higher in fewer locations. Plus, ground disturbance has been reduced considerably because of less travel.
"You get more wood in each row so therefore you increase your production," he says. "You are only travelling over half the ground to get the same wood." Also, because they are not faced with a complete layer of wood, and with plenty of room between rows, the operation can maintain high production regardless of what aspect of harvesting they engage in. For example, Langille harvests long wood, short wood, and operates a Peterson Pacific chipper.
"When you have a complete layer of wood, you have to process all the wood you come to, to get to the next layer," he says. "But here, for example, say the chipper is working today, and we wanted to get chipper wood all day. You could just travel up and down those rows and take all the chipper wood out. You don't have to touch a log. You can skip over them, and you have lots of room to travel."
This method does slow teller buncher production down "a little bit," says Langille. But it also narrows the gap considerably between harvester production and forwarder transportation cycles, considering that the forwarder has reduced its travel time around the cut block. It becomes a lot easier to estimate delivery time of wood to roadside.
Of course, if your forwarder is having an easy time keeping up with your harvester, it is then possible to bring another harvester into production if the forwarder is moving more wood to roadside more quickly.
There are numerous other advantages to this method, particularly for year-round contractors. Because there is more space between piles, it is easier to lay down a branch mat for equipment travel within the cutblock, and there is more brush to lay down. The slasher also moves less and can process more wood in one location. Then there are the major advantages of reduced fuel consumption and less wear and tear on the equipment.
Right now, E and R Langille Contracting is conducting a time and motion study on the advantages to the double-tiered method versus conventional felling, to give them an accurate picture of all the advantages they have realized since switching to the method last fall.
The obvious advantages they have witnessed so far include the potential for higher production, less environmental damage, less fuel consumption, less equipment wear and tear, and better fibre management.
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