Nov Dec, 2002





Equipment Maintenance & Minimizing Downtime

A computerized maintenance system at a Pope & Talbot operation helps the company keep downtime to a minimum

By Paul McDonald

Pope & Talbotís equipment line-up includes a Tigercat 860 with a Denharco 4400 delimber. Well-equipped maintenance trucks support logging and processing equipment out in the bush.

Pope & Talbot, based in Portland, Ore., is a long-time player in logging, having been involved in managing forests and producing lumber since the company's inception in the mid 1800ís. It currently operates four sawmill facilities in western North America.

The companyís operations in Midway, British Columbia in particular have been known to see some extreme weather, with the coast to the west, and the Selkirks and Rocky Mountains to the east. "The weather is one of the big obstacles we have to deal with here in the Boundary," explains Frank Sanders, fleet maintenance manager for the Pope & Talbot operation. "We have very hot temperatures in the summers and the winters can be very cold."

In the summer, temperatures of close to 100 degrees are not uncommon, and they can creep up to 105 degrees and above. To counter the hot summer weather, the crews focus on blowing out the cooling systems, the rads and oil coolers, and washing machines, where possible, to keep dust down. Extreme heat usually brings problems with hoses, so they are monitored more closely.

Key to keeping production costs down at Pope & Talbot is minimizing downtime. To achieve that, the company uses the Maincam computerized maintenance system, which provides complete maintenance and cost records for every single piece of logging equipment.

Then thereís winter. "The last few winters have not been bad, but in the past weíve gone down to minus 20 for weeks at a time," says Sanders. All of this takes its toll on logging equipment. Pope & Talbot is one of the few forest companies in the area that still has its own company-operated logging operations. In addition to doing its own logging, Pope & Talbot also uses four logging contractors.

With this fairly large company operation, Sanders oversees the maintenance of more than 300 pieces of equipment, everything from pick-up trucks to feller bunchers. "Thatís pretty much everything with wheels on it," says Sanders, adding that they also have tracked machines out in the bush. They have two of their own logging trucks, which provides the company with a real "window" on benchmarking hauling costs.

Having its own logging operations out in the bush also helps to benchmark log production costs, whether it involves a feller buncher or a butt Ďn top loader. And key to keeping their production costs down is minimizing downtime. To achieve that, Pope & Talbot uses the Maincam computerized maintenance system, which provides complete maintenance and cost records for every single piece of logging equipment.

When a piece of equipment comes in to the shop, heavy duty mechanics have already accessed computer records to see what has been done to the machine and what needs to be done now. All that information comes in handy on a day-to-day basis, and at trade-in time. "It helps me negotiate trade values," says Sanders. "The people buying the equipment have a very good idea of what has been done and how it has been serviced." But the driving force behind the maintenance system is to keep the logging equipment up and operating.

A Cat 325 butt Ďn top loader helps to move the 700,000 cubic meters a year required by Pope & Talbotís two sawmills in the BC interior.

Between company and contractor logging operations, the Pope & Talbot sawmills at Midway and nearby Grand Forks require some 700,000 cubic meters of timber a year. On a good day, 70 truck loads ó a combination of five and seven axle units ó will pass over the scales at Midway alone. Each truck carries an average of 38 cubic meters. But there are also busier times.

Going into break-up, the mill will carry up to 3.5 months supply of timber in the yard. Equipment is moved around much more than in the past, and the company tries to fit the maintenance schedule around those moves, whenever possible. "If weíve got equipment moving, weíll try to tie maintenance in if it is going past the yard," says Sanders. In the past, major maintenance work was done once a year, at break-up.

Over the last five years, they have moved to doing semi-annual maintenance ó at break-up and in the fall ó which distributes the work and the cost. "What we were finding is that we did not have a wide enough window of time at break-up to do all the repairs required on the equipment," explains Sanders. "When youíre putting 2,500 or 3,000 hours on a processor and not bringing it back into the shop through the logging season, you donít have a chance to do all the preventative maintenance and it can end up costing you downtime. Your costs can really skyrocket."

The work is also scheduled in consultation with the woods foremen so the loss of productive time out in the woods is minimized. For example, they may get a buncher to work ahead in some easier ground, which would then free it up for a week or so for the necessary maintenance in the shop. Having a maintenance program in place is great, but having the discipline to follow it religiously is key, says Sanders. "The production people sometimes have difficulty giving up the equipment which is understandable because they have a job to do out in the woods.

But they also know it is important that we look long term. If you donít do it now, itís going to cost you later." Supporting this whole maintenance program are four service trucks in the woods, one each for two of the logging sides, and one for each of the two areas where they are building logging roads. "With our maintenance program, we can keep a close eye on costs per hour for equipment," says Sanders. "For example, I find with skidders that itís time to replace them before we get to the point where we have to do major components like engines or transmissions. I start looking at a skidder pretty hard around 8,500 or 9,000 hours."

Feller bunchers are a bit different story because of the higher cost of the machine. "With the higher initial investment in a buncher, you can probably afford to rebuild an engine." The higher horsepower on the more current bunchers pretty much results in a shorter engine life, anyway. At the 13,000 to 14,000 hour level, they start to look at a replacement ó at that point a buncher is usually getting to the end of the life of its second engine and undercarriage.

In selecting their equipment line up Sanders says they look for a smooth flow of wood. "We are looking for a good balance between what our bunchers can put down, how many skidders we need to move that kind of volume and what kind of processing power we need. In other words, we donít want any bottlenecks." Despite the challenges of weather, terrain, mechanical difficulties, and new equipment selection, Pope &Talbot is constantly proving there are ways to not only meet those challenges but to do it effectively and profitably.



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