By Tony Kryzanowski
Many loggers say that most of the ‘easy wood’ located on flat ground in Canada’s forests has been harvested. So they are now being asked to harvest wood on much steeper ground where conventional logging is a lot less efficient, harder to plan, and more dangerous.
Alberta logger and steep slope specialist Kelly McGlynn says that a tethered skidder assist system that he is using might solve many challenges and open up new opportunities for some loggers faced with steep slope logging and wet ground conditions.
McGlynn owns Wembley, Alberta-based, McGlynn Contracting with his two sons, Scott and Kyle. Kelly says by using his tethered skidder assist system on steep and muddy ground, he can drag as much wood on 35 per cent slope in one day as he can on flat ground.
The challenge with cutblocks on steeper ground is where to put the road. Typically, McGlynn would locate a cutblock road at the bottom of the hill and place his drags and roadside processors in that location. However, with steep slopes, there are often deep gullies and creeks at the bottom of the hill and no space to locate a road, so he must place the block road on a bench further up the hill. This means that logs need to be skidded uphill for at least part of the cutblock. What his winch skidder assist unit allows him to do is place the winch on the road and assist his skidders below the road to climb the hill with a fully loaded grapple.
“Sometimes, we are looking at dragging up 60 per cent slope for 80 metres, and sometimes it is as long as 180 metres,” says McGlynn. “Nobody likes to drag up the hill, but sometimes you have no choice.”
In addition to producing more volume per shift using his tethered skidder assist system, his skidders also burn less fuel, do less environmental damage because they aren’t digging into the ground trying to find traction, and they experience less wear and tear than if he tried to skid without the winch system.
It has also extended his logging season, and provided him with the ability to work in wet ground conditions during periods of extended rain, when other contractors are parked.
“We’ve been able to cut in some unbelievably soft ground,” says McGlynn, adding that the terrain where they log can transition from completely flat ground to hills up to 70 per cent slope.
McGlynn is a forest industry veteran, with 35 years of logging experience in both B.C. and Alberta, and is able to operate every piece of equipment in a conventional logging fleet, as well as having experience in yarding and hoe chucking in a steep slope environment.
His tethered skidder assist system is called a T-Winch. It is manufactured by an Austrian company called Ecoforst. The product line is carried in Canada by B.C.-based, Woodland Equipment Inc. The T-Winch was designed by loggers faced with similar steep slope logging challenges, as Austria is a very hilly and mountainous country.
As to fuel savings, McGlynn says their Tigercat skidder would easily burn a tank of fuel working on its own on 35 per cent slopes in one day. When it is hooked up to their T-Winch, “we can go almost two full days on one tank of fuel. I can run that T-Winch for two-and-a-half days on 200 litres of fuel.”
The winch system is controlled entirely by remote control in the skidder cab by the skidder operator. Hooking up the winch to the skidder takes about five minutes.
Most importantly, this system has brought McGlynn Contracting more business. Right now, they harvest 250,000 cubic metres for Weyerhaeuser. But because of the company’s tethered skidder winch system, they have secured an additional 50,000 cubic metre logging contract with Canfor. They have demonstrated that they have a tool that allows them to tackle skidding in steep, wet ground conditions, thus giving forestry companies like Canfor access to better timber.
The T-Winch has a Fiat diesel engine with a maximum output of 107 kWs. It holds 500 metres of high tensile cable measuring 18.5 mm in diameter, and is capable of winching eight tonnes. The unit requires no rear counterweight and pulls to a maximum speed of four kilometres per hour. The skidder engine works in tandem with the winch assist system, but at a comfortable rpm. What McGlynn likes about the T-Winch is that it pulls at the same traveling speed as the skidder.
McGlynn was able to operate the T-Winch system last year at the DEMO 2016 logging show in Maple Ridge, B.C.
“I took the machine up and down the hill once, and I said ‘sold’,” he says. He added that from a mechanical standpoint, even though it is European technology, there is nothing unfamiliar about the unit in the event he needs service support.
After using the T-Winch system for a season, he says it works great. However, he has made a system modification that has resulted in significant efficiency gains. He uses a backhoe equipped with a custom designed pulley in tandem with the T-Winch unit and skidder. The T-Winch cable is strung through the backhoe pulley and down to the skidder. The backhoe moves as the skidder moves across the block to minimize how often the stationary T-Winch has to move. This is a major improvement on the system’s efficiency.
“It’s not like we are skidding 300 to 400 metres,” says McGlynn. “The way we work, we’d have to detach the cable, move the T-Winch and attach the winch cable every 25 minutes.”
So that is why he developed his backhoe pulley system, so that it moves as the skidder moves, and the T-Winch stays in place. With 500 metres of cable, that’s plenty for what they need.
Typically, how the entire system is operated is that the winch cable is kept tight as the skidder backs down the hill. Once the skidder operator grabs a drag, he engages the winch along with the skidder. He is able to control the T-Winch’s draw power based on the size and weight of the loaded grapple, or the operator can simply set the in-cab controller dial for a heavy load all day to simplify matters. When a move by the T-Winch is required, it takes about 20 minutes, and it takes about two minutes each time the backhoe has to move another 30 metres to position itself above where the skidder is working.
“If you do it right, you only have to set up the T-Winch once a day,” says McGlynn. “The skidder operator is still controlling everything, like how much cable is being let out from the T-Winch, and how quickly it’s pulled back.”
In terms of the potential for entanglement, McGlynn says the skidder operator still comes up the hill and makes a typical turn to drop the grapple load, moves ahead slightly, and then backs down the hill. They have had no issues with cable entanglement. They use either a Tigercat 635E skidder or a John Deere 748H skidder.
Along with the Ecoforst T-Winch unit and the skidders, McGlynn Contracting’s logging fleet consists of two Tigercat 870 leveling feller bunchers, with their newer, 2012 model carrying about 85 per cent of the workload.
Their logs are processed 100 per cent cut-to-length (CTL). This is accomplished using a Hyundai 330 carrier equipped with a Southstar 630 processing head. This carrier is configured with a cab riser so that the operator has a good view of his working environment.
“We’re in a lot of steep ground, so deck visibility is tough sometimes,” says McGlynn. Their second processor is a Hyundai 2036 carrier with a Southstar 600 processing head, while their third processing unit is a Barko 260W carrier with a Southstar 500 processing head.
For log loading, they use a Caterpillar 568 log loader with a heel boom attachment and a Hyundai 2036 unit with a power clam attachment.
Rounding out their fleet are a John Deere 350 backhoe, Komatsu 350 backhoe, and a Caterpillar D60 crawler dozer. McGlynn says because his backhoes sit idle much of the time, they are available to work as the pulley link on the tethered skidder assist system.
“Normally, we don’t cut anything that we can’t skid or hoe chuck,” says McGlynn. “With the tethered skidder assist system, instead of having to hoe chuck it, we are able to use our skidder now, so we are moving wood faster and being more productive. There’s nothing wrong with hoe chucking if you have to do it, but it is costly.” The broken terrain around Grande Prairie with many hills and valleys does not present an environment where yarding works well, he adds.
The T-Winch cost McGlynn Contracting about $270,000, and while it adds another piece of equipment to their fleet, Kelly says it delivers many benefits.
“We are going to harvest our entire cut this winter in about four-and-a-half months,” says McGlynn. “Without this machine, we’d easily come up 30,000 to 40,000 cubic metres short because of how we would have had to struggle to get through the hills.”
On the Cover:
The Seneca Sawmill Company has been part of the Eugene, Oregon landscape for more than 60 years. It’s now nearing the completion of a second $65 million upgrade which included upgrading the dimensional mill with new equipment and technology, installing additional dry kilns and upgrading its dimension mill planer (Photo by Diane Mettler).
More computers in the cutblock
For the forest industry, the cutblock is expected to be the focus of advanced systems and technology for equipment over the short term—but don’t expect to see any logging equipment without operators quite yet.
Tracked performance—without the tracks
Moore’s Logging of Alberta says its new TimberPro 840C combo machine—an eight-wheeled forestry machine which can function as a harvester, processor, forwarder or clam bunk skidder—is able to deliver track machine power, without the track machine issues.
Solving steep slope challenges—to a T
The T-Winch, a new to Canada, European-developed tethered skidder assist system, is solving multiple steep slope issues for Alberta logger Kelly McGlynn.
Seneca sees second mill upgrade
The Seneca Sawmill Company in Oregon is nearing the completion of a second $65 million upgrade which—on the heels of a similar size upgrade during the recession—means a total investment of $130 million, clearly reflecting the confidence the company’s owners have in the industry.
Bonus Christmas gift
The residents of Hornepayne, Ontario received a bonus Christmas gift late last year, with the shuttered sawmill/biomass power plant in the town coming back to life, thanks to industry veteran, Frank Dottori.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates, Alberta Agriculture, the Forest Products Association of Canada and FPInnovations.
The Last Word
It’s time for Canada to get our economic mojo back—with a new softwood lumber deal, says Tony Kryzanowski.