Effective & Electric
The new Timbco 445-E buncher with electronic controls is proving effective for Pope & Talbot in British Columbia.
By Jim Stirling
When people at Pope & Talbot's Midway Division in the BC Interior talk about their Timbco 445-E feller buncher, the recurring adjective is "smooth". Key to that is the "E" in the model name. The E-series switches concepts from a naturally aspirated engine to total electronic controls for travel and machine functions. The state-of-the-art electronic control system interfaces with a Cummins C-series electronic engine and a Parker/VOAC hydraulic system.
The resulting smoother machine performance is proving more productive and efficient and promises longer-term dividends in lower maintenance costs. The 445-E made its Western Canada debut with Pope & Talbot in June 2001 in the Boundary region of British Columbia's southern interior. The machine is part of a company-owned equipment fleet, rare in the BC interior. The IWA-certified company crew, with 47 people on the seniority list, operate and maintain two, full-phase stump-to-dump sides that produce around 160,000 cubic metres a year.
Company crews also build roads and perform forestry work. An additional 400,000 to 450,000 cubic metres is harvested by logging contractors and together they supply fibre to P & T's sawmills at Midway and Grand Forks, both near the Canada/US border. The company's harvesting areas are primarily in three north-south valleys separated by mountains, says Greg Mowatt, woods superintendent. They range from the dry Okanagan to classic wet belt forests of the west Kootenay.
The diversity is reflected in the species mix of Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, white pine, yellow pine, spruce, hemlock, cedar and balsam. Mowatt says piece counts range typically from 0.18 cubic metres to 0.75 cubic metres, with some large fir up to 1.2 cubic metres. About 10 per cent of the cut is harvested by grapple yarder. Some 20 per cent of company ground is logged with selective harvesting systems. The 445-E has the flexibility to handle the company's species, terrain and harvesting assignments. The two-cylinder, four way cab-levelling system helps keep the operator comfortable and productive on slopes up to at least 51 per cent.
The Timbco's boom geometry has the pivot located behind the centre of rotation, so the boom itself acts as a counterweight, improving stability. The lack of tail swing lends the Timbco to tight selective cut duties down to single stem applications. A heavy-duty Cat 330 track system, equipped with Lohmann 6FT series final drives and Rexroth AA8VE bent axis track motors, enhances the machine's manoeuvrability.
The 445-E is matched with a Quadco 22-inch hot saw and works a roadside logging system. "We'll do a mechanical cut and hand fall and buck the oversize," Mowatt says. Valuable wood can be damaged if a buncher has to make two or three cuts to take down a single large stem. "We think it also pays off with a reduction in damage to the bunchers and processors." The 445-E services two skidders, a Tigercat 630B and a Cat D5 with grapple. The company's processors are a Denharco DT 4400 on a Tigercat 860 on one side with a Denharco DH 560 dangle head on a Cat 320 and a Denharco DT 3500 on a Link-Belt 3400 on the other.
The processors are traded between sides as is a Timberjack 560 skidder. The company also owns two Kenworth logging trucks in six and seven axle configurations respectively. "We're happy with the 445-E," says Mowatt. "It's quite a bit more complex than the earlier machines to set up. We had some teething problems but no more than the start-up of any new application. It runs a lot smoother in terms of functioning, production is up and it has an increased cooling capacity." The large numbers of blocks spread across a wide geographic area make it difficult so far to quantify production increases precisely, adds Mowatt.
But he's confident in the general statement of an increase. The increased cooling capacity is important. Seasonal temperatures range from -25 degrees C in winter to a steady mid-30s in summer. The bigger, cooler, larger rad and fan blade pitch moves more air. He notes the Timbco's design continues evolving with improvements to pins and boom contributing to the machine's durability.
The company is experienced with Timbco equipment. The new E replaces a Timbco 445-D and the equipment purchasing decision in favour of the electronic control machine was very much a team approach. "It has to be," says Mowatt. "We work very closely with our maintenance group and our operators. There's much more energy functioning as a team."
New equipment has to meet the requirements of harvesting prescriptions, match operating conditions in the area and meet the fibre supply demands of the company's two mills, he adds. Ken Dumont and Paul Kimoff are the regular operators sharing double shifting of the 445-E. The operators contributed their input and visited the Timbco people at their plant.
They in turn helped in setting up the electronic control system in the field. "The 445-E's got the most pump in the industry," says Dumont. "It has a closed loop drive. You can feel the tracks. You don't just go in and push the pedals." And, of course, there's the "S" word. "I knew it would be smooth. It's smooth and quick and no jerking. There are lots of hydraulics to speed up or slow down what I want," continues Dumont.
The 445-E can be tailored to the techniques of an individual operator. "I don't sit and cut, I'm always moving," says Dumont. He estimates using less than 30 per cent of boom reach. The 300-hp engine and matched hydraulic system provides power on demand and the prospect for long term fuel efficiencies. Dumont recommends keeping saw teeth on the cutting head sharp.
Dull teeth pull the saw and the computerized system can slow down other functions to compensate. "You can hear a saw when it's dull, it whines," he notes. "I'm pretty sure that a 15 per cent improvement in production (with the 445-E) is modest," says Dumont.
The machine can put down up to two loads an hour unless it's working in really rough country. And there's another advantage. "I'm not so tired at the end of the day. I don't have to concentrate on so much myself," says Dumont. "I'm really happy with it and with what Timbco's done." A monitor in the operator's cab indicates the location of any machine problem encountered.
The information is transferred from the bush to the shop in Midway to help troubleshooting by maintenance staff. "The 445-E has a much smoother running engine, offers a more efficient system and meets environmental standards," says Frank Sanders, maintenance superintendent. Large capacity pumps handle the multi-function hydraulics and contribute to smoothness, he adds.
For Sanders, the 445-E is a case of so far so good but, from his point of view, it's too early in the game to establish maintenance cost reductions. It's a matter of waiting to see how the computerized system handles the rigours of timber harvesting over time. "Up to this point, it's been a good machine and in the last few months, a really good one."
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