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Waratah Demonstrates TimberRite Measuring System On Blakely Pacific Forestlands

By Tony Kryzanowski

Waratah’s TimberRite measuring system is already commercially available in New Zealand where the country largely harvests only one conifer species, Radiata pine.

In 2006, forestry attachment manufacturer, Waratah, began testing its new TimberRite measuring system in the United States, with the intention of having it commercially available in North America by 2007.

The expectation is that the new system will improve production quality, particularly from average operators.


Important Features

“This system calculates the most valuable combination of cuts per stem,” says Waratah Automation Team Leader, Matti Tarkka. “With our previous system, the decision of where to cut for optimum value was left to the operator. That’s the big difference with this system.”

The measuring system makes the optimum cutting decisions based on the measurement parameters initially programmed into the system, reflecting the sawmill customer’s requirements. The operator’s role is largely to ensure that the system operates within those parameters. With fewer critical decisions now required by the operator, company owners can also expect higher quality production more quickly from new operators.


Testing in New Zealand

Waratah chose a rather unique environment to showcase its new technology — environmentally sensitive forestland on Matakana Island, off the Bay of Plenty on the north coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The site is owned jointly by Seattle-based Blakely Pacific Limited and a Maori-based forestry company. The forestland provided a typical example of the environmental care required by some forestry owners to balance the business of forest harvesting with ecological values, in certain areas of this country.

Blakely Pacific purchased the holding in 1994, in what was considered a rare land transaction with the Maori people. Blakely Pacific’s holdings consist of 1981 hectares of planted Radiata pine and 269 hectares of planted eucalyptus. The pine plantation is thinned after 12 years to reduce the stocking rate from 1200 stems per hectare to 400 stems.


Plantations & Ecological Concerns

Nearly all timber harvesting in New Zealand comes from plantations, with the predominant wood species being the fast growing Radiata pine, which produces clear lumber valued for its appearance and limited structural applications. Radiata pine can be harvested after only 30 years. Blakely Pacific owns forestland in New Zealand on both the North and South Island, focusing on development, management, and harvesting of renewable, fast-growing tree farms.

New Zealand allows only tightly controlled and limited harvesting of its native forests. However, forest plantations outside sensitive areas are treated by many landowners as an agricultural crop because of Radiata pine’s fast growing horizon. A landowner might achieve two harvests from the plantation in one lifetime, which can help to fund a retirement or legacy for future generations.

Because of the ecological sensitivity of Matakana Island, Blakely Pacific must walk a fine line between harvesting a cash crop and sustaining the ecological balance of the island. In additional to several significant cultural and historical sites, such as burial grounds and ground sacred to the Maori people, the island consists of endangered plant species and an endangered shorebird called the New Zealand Dotterel, which only breeds in New Zealand and is estimated to have a population of 1300 birds. Consequently, visitors to the island must have a permit, and there are no cars, motorcycles, fires, smoking, dogs, or horseback riding allowed.


The Demonstration

The highly diverse international crowd of spectators, who took in the Waratah demonstration, not only learned about the attachment manufacturer’s plans for TimberRite, but also received a lesson on the intricacies of forest resource management in certain areas of New Zealand.

TimberRite will adjust the feed speed, pressure on the delimbing knives, and the feed rollers on the basis of the stem diameter. The operator monitors the system’s performance from an onboard screen that not only displays information about the stem being cut, but also the two most recently processed logs for comparison purposes.

The measuring system is built around an open Windows 2000 operating system, which makes it a familiar working environment for both the machine owner and operator. It also gives the owner the ability to install other Windows-based programs on the system, something that Tarkka believes puts the Waratah system on the leading edge and far ahead of other measuring systems in the marketplace.

Blakely Pacific, with its headquarters in Seattle, Washington, harvests timber and manages forestland on New Zealand’s environmentally sensitive Matakana Island.


Significant Characteristics

Tarkka says the system stands out for how much information the machine owner can gather from it. Firstly, it is possible, with the right equipment and access to telephone service, to communicate between the Windows operating system and a remote personal computer. The operator can receive and send production information, machine settings, and harvesting instructions.

As part of its TimberRite system, Waratah will provide the machine owner with the necessary software to download work and repair statistics from the harvester/processor attachment.

“The owner can track the actual working hours of the machine,” says Tarkka. “For example, if the head is idle for 15 minutes or more, a pop-up window asks the operator to explain the reason for the break.”

The owner can also track downtime information that will help him identify attachment components that are giving him the most trouble. And the measuring system is a head module that is connected by a wire to the cab, where the rest of the system hardware is located.

“In case of a failure, replacing the module is easy to do,” says Tarkka. “It shouldn’t be a problem.” Diagnostic features test the system to isolate where a failure is occurring and determine how to correct it. Since the new system becomes commercially available in 2007, it shouldn’t be long before you can see it in action for yourself.



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This page was last updated on Tuesday, April 17, 2007