By Tony Kryzanowski
It’s frustrating for loggers to have to bypass prime timber located in blocks with slopes deemed unsafe or too expensive for conventional logging equipment. But a new mobile cable yarding tool called Harvestline is now opening up many of these high-value blocks to logging.
B.C. logger Ray Hascarl, who has put the first Harvestline yarder to work in North America, says that this mobile cable yarder is working out better than expected after a couple thousand hours on the job.
“I could see that the format of wood in front of me always required tower logging, mixed with some grapple yarding from time to time,” says Hascarl. “I had to try to find a machine where I could harvest tower wood efficiently and take advantage of the grapple wood when available with fewer workers—and it also had to be easy to operate. Since I have owned the Harvestline, I have continued to log tower blocks with it.”
Hascarl says that in terms of productivity and in comparison to conventional tower yarding systems, first, unlike a common tower yarder, there is very little set-up time required with the Harvestline system. Second, in good working conditions, he is able to deliver twice as many loads per day using the Harvestline, with less labour, compared with a tower yarder with more workers. This represents a double dividend, as productivity has increased as much as 50 per cent—and he has lower labor costs.
Even in less than ideal logging conditions, Hascarl says that “the Harvestline will retrieve the same number of loads per day as a tower yarding system on its best day.” He can also assign less specialized employees to operate the Harvestline compared to a tower logging set-up, where a specialized operator commanding high wages is required. Such operators are becoming harder and harder to find.
So, economically speaking, including a Harvestline in his equipment tool box was a no-brainer, and he has been able to retrieve logs as far out as 1,000 feet using the Harvestline system.
The Harvestline system is an alternative yarding system to a conventional grapple yarding system that Hascarl says allows him to access areas not accessible to conventional grapple yarders, or at least, not economically. It requires no choking crews because it is a two-line, mechanical yarding system that uses a motorized log grapple that travels on overhead lines. He says that this is a major safety improvement.
“My system uses the same clothesline technique as a conventional grapple yarder, but my grapple is motorized and remote controlled with a camera, so it can open, close, and rotate while watching on the camera, making it easier to grab the payload,” Hascarl says. “Because it hydraulically opens and closes and it doesn’t need a third overhead line, this makes it much easier to operate.”
The system allows loggers to re-purpose existing excavators to perform a new function, so many loggers need only purchase the Harvestline system and pay for the cost of retrofitting existing equipment. That is exactly what Hascarl has done.
“I took a 12,000 hour Cat road builder 330D excavator and had it built into the Harvestline yarder,” says Hascarl.
Developed by a company in Rotorua, New Zealand called Electrical Machinery Services (EMS), at least three Harvestline systems have already been sold in British Columbia.
What EMS developed with Harvestline didn’t go unnoticed by Hascarl, who owns Galena Contractors Ltd, headquartered in Nakusp, about 200 kilometres east of Vernon. He harvests about 280,000 cubic metres of a wide variety of coniferous species, primarily for Interfor to supply their sawmill in Castlegar. About 70,000 cubic metres are harvested on extreme slopes, up until now using conventional tower cable logging equipment.
While many of his forestry clients were eager for him to invest in a Harvestline system because they could see the benefits, Hascarl credits Interfor for helping him to finance the purchase of a Harvestline in exchange for a four-year contract, to help prove its value working in his logging environment. He describes it as having a lot of extreme slope.
Hascarl adds that there is no doubt that what’s driving interest in specialized tools like the Harvestline is the desire by loggers and forest companies to harvest higher value timber in more challenging environments in a safer manner. In his own situation, he is simply handed a harvest area by the forest company and told that it’s his job to find ways to economically, safely and efficiently deliver that timber to the sawmill. Given his working environment, systems like Harvestline have been on his radar for at least the last three years.
He has considerable experience logging in this environment, including the use of three conventional tower yarding systems. His company is both a roadbuilder and logging contractor. In addition to an extensive fleet of roadbuilding and specialized logging equipment—like four Tigercat 870 tilter feller bunchers and 18 primarily Caterpillar high and wide excavators deployed for both hoe chucking and road building—he also owns a Madill 071 yarder and a Skylead tower yarding system. This system is based on a skidder frame, giving it a bit more mobility. He also employs four full time, hand fallers among his 75 employees.
Hascarl describes himself as a “numbers guy”—and the numbers trying to log in some of his steep slope locations using conventional logging equipment and the yarders that were available just weren’t adding up. While he believes that conventional tower yarding still has its place, he has encountered many situations where it isn’t cost-effective or even possible for a conventional yarder to be deployed.
“The Skylead system takes four to five guys to run and the Madill 071 takes upwards of six to seven guys to run efficiently,” says Hascarl. “We started to have injuries, nothing major, just tripping and falling while trying to hook chokers on steep slope.”
What was also happening is that equipment operating above the workers was at a standstill for safety reasons about 70 per cent of the time when the choker crews were working, which was highly inefficient. So, Hascarl began looking for a mechanical cable yarding system, which is how he struck on Harvestline.
It all starts with the roadbuilding where he says that using the word “challenging” working in this environment is an understatement. Often, the only safe pathway for roads results in rock faces on the high side.
“There’s hardly a road built in this area that doesn’t need blasting, so it’s steep and ugly,” says Hascarl.
This makes it either impossible or expensive to anchor a conventional yarder down. So this is one situation—and this is becoming more frequent—where Hascarl saw a lot of potential for a system like Harvestline, which uses an excavator bucket as the anchor.
They have also encountered situations where there is a regen block on one side of the access road, which again means no availability of tieback stumps. So, the historic method has been to build what is called a deadman or tie-back trail where logs are buried within the regen plantation or machines are parked to provide mooring.
“In most cases, this meant wiping out the first 50 metres of standing regen forest that was 30 to 40 years old,” says Hascarl. “The Harvestline allows you to harvest that same ground, but because you don’t have to tie-back the unit, you don’t need to disturb all that ground.”
It’s obvious that using this historic method of tie-backs is also expensive, as it requires building the trail, reclamation and replanting. There is also the fact that in another 60 years when that regen block is ready for re-harvest, that the first 50 meters will still be too immature to harvest.
“I felt that with the Harvestine and not having those tie-back issues, I could log in a lot more areas that historically have been left because a normal yarder couldn’t go into there. I also believe there are limited dollars available for logging rates with the mills, so if I can cut costs like reforestation and silviculture, I would have better success when negotiating logging rates,” says Hascarl.
He began searching the Internet for the right tool and discovered the Harvestline system about two years ago. He then reached out to EMS in New Zealand, who at the time didn’t have the capability or service support to deliver a system to North America. It took about 18 months and some convincing by Hascarl that there was a market for the Harvestline system in North America.
“I finally threatened to just go down there (New Zealand) and buy one off of a logger, dismantle it, ship it up here and put it back together,” says Hascarl. “That’s how serious I was. “That's when Technical Forest Solutions (TFS) got involved, as they were already brokering the Tractionline tethering system produced by EMS.”
He worked with TFS, headquartered in Kelso, Washington, which now offers Harvestline as part of its product line, to help them understand why it was the right tool for his logging environment, and together they put the first system to work in B.C.
But productivity and access were only part of the Harvestline attraction. The worker safety aspect—since the Harvestline requires fewer workers and no choker crews at ground level—was a major incentive for Galena Contractors. Even finding people willing to work on choker crews is becoming harder.
“There aren’t a lot of guys wanting to crawl around on steep slopes putting up with the elements like snow, bugs and heat to set chokers on logs and it is also a safety factor,” says Hascarl.
Since putting the Harvestline to work, he has adjusted his workforce from three yarder crews to two, and has assigned two employees to the Harvestline operation.
Hascarl says that they are learning more and more about all the advantages of deploying the Harvestline yarding system the more they use it. One situation that they recently encountered was the ability to continue working in foggy conditions. With a tower logging system and with fog disrupting visibility of workers on the ground, that operation would have shutdown. However, they were able to continue logging with the Harvestline system because there are no workers at ground level.
On the Cover:
Winch-assist systems are becoming an essential tool for some Canadian loggers as they pursue options to help with harvesting harder to access—but valuable—timber on both steep slopes and in adverse ground conditions. B.C.’s Essential Evergreen Contracting have mounted a quick-attach T10 Timbermax traction winch to a Hitachi ZAXIS 290 Forester to do steep slope skidding (cover photo by Anthony Robinson).
Beetle attack growing in B.C.
The numbers are revealing: the spruce bark beetle outbreak in the B.C. Interior has been growing at an alarming rate—and it’s gaining momentum.
Kiwi equipment cuts steep slope logging costs
The New Zealand-produced—and new to B.C.—Harvestline mobile cable yarder is proving to be a good solution to accessing extreme steep slope timber in the province’s tough geography.
Getting an edge on steep slope skidding
B.C. logger Creole Dufor is gaining an edge on skidding on steep slopes with help from the Timbermax quick-attach winch-assist unit.
Forest pays dividends—to the town
The B.C. town of Powell River has seen big-time benefits from its community forest, with a hot log market meaning significant investments in community projects—and work being created for local contractors.
Grinding it out is a team effort
The Canadian Woodlands Forum’s Outstanding Logging Contractor of the Year—New Brunswick’s Jack McMillan—started out in trucking, but now runs a major chipping and grinding operation, with a strong focus on employees working as a team.
Opening the door to further growth
An investment in a new cut line, featuring high performance scanning technology, is helping Quebec’s Milette Doors meet increasing demand for its products throughout North America.
Achieving contractor sustainability is just going to be plain tough
B.C. logging contractors are continuing to push for a viable business sustainability model, but there is some tough work ahead to achieve that goal.
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 and FPInnovations.
The Last Word
New logging technologies are good for both loggers—and the environment, says Tony Kryzanowski.