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Leasing: A Shrewd Move

Canfor's Isle Pierre operation's move to lease three new machines for its yard operations is resulting in an overall improved operation, with no capital outlay for the equipment

By Jim Sterling
Copyright 1998. Contact publisher for permission to use.

Leasing three new machines for its Isle Pierre log yard operation is proving a shrewd move for BC's Canadian Forest Products Ltd. (Canfor). Material handling is smoother and safer, log breakage is down dramatically, and the improved yard operation is contributing to log processing efficiencies in the sawmill. And leasing rather than purchasing the equipment has avoided a big outlay of capital.

The new-look yard re-organization has reduced machinery requirements from five pieces to three. Canfor used a Cat 330B butt-n-top for unloading logging trucks and decking in the yard overlooking the Nechako River, about 50 km west of Prince George in central British Columbia. Cat 980 front-end loaders used to feed the two-line mill and a rented butt-n-top did the sample bucking.

The new fleet replacing them is a Wagner L4 130 Lumber Jack, used to unload incoming logging trucks, deck loads in the yard and deliver wood to the two bunks for infeeding to the mill. A Cat 325B log loader in butt-n-top configuration takes over from there, with its primary duty of supplying a steady feed to the small and large log lines. Rounding out the new trio is a Cat 966 loader used for bucking and clean-up.

Canfor worked out the lease deal with Caterpillar dealer Firming (Canada) and the arrangement was believed to be an industry first when the Wagner began working last November. The 325B started production in January 1998. The leasing option was explored in part because of the high capital outlay for purchasing the equipment during tough times, says Randy Kubbernus, plant manager at the Isle Pierre Division.

The new equipment is performing well and the yard is running around 2,000 cubic metres a day on two shifts, reports Kubbernus. Waste can't be tolerated, given the industry's high log costs. "One of the most important factors was breakage - it was quite high with the loaders. Our goal was to cut our total breakage rate by 80 per cent and we're tracking that," says Kubbernus.

The main reason for the quick turnaround is the Wagner and the 325B butt-n-top. "The machines bring us big savings in reduced breakage and have increased our lumber recovery factor significantly," he adds.

The SPF timber arrives at the Isle Pierre yard on highway and off-highway trucks. Loads are bundled at the scale with recyclable BakerLok cables, a process that takes about three to four minutes, he estimates. Trucks are directed to the appropriate part of the yard for unloading according to the wood and sawmill requirements. The Wagner has significantly accelerated truck cycles-it unloads them in a single 62,000-lb. capacity bite-making the truckers happier. The Wagner has been unloading about 110 trucks per day.

The mill's wood is unsorted in the bush. It comes in diameters up to 24". The mill handles a diet of 16" material and down. The 20" (and occasionally larger wood) is sorted and decked; these volumes are either converted to 16" size or traded to other mills.

Kubbernus says the Wagner has increased yard capacity. The Wagner's size, coupled with bundling the loads, translates into nearly doubling the wood inventory stored in decked rows. Where they used to get about 60 loads in a row now they're achieving 100 to 120 loads, states Kubbernus. Reclaiming is faster and easier, and again contributes to reductions in breakage.

Canfor's power-by-the-hour arrangement with Firming includes preventive maintenance as a term of the lease. That package is helping the mill with new maintenance programs, says Kubbernus. Machine versatility has also been improved with some extra attachments. For example, the butt-n-top has a quick-coupling device for attachments and the Wagner can be equipped with a blade or snow bucket.

The reduction in stem breakage keeps the yard cleaner. Logs hardly ever touch the ground, says Kubbernus. Bundles of logs are decked in rows off the ground. Logs awaiting butt-n-top loading into the mill are contained in decks. In the old system, front-end loaders had to scoop errant logs off the ground. Clean logs mean longer life for breakdown components and have improved maintenance practices throughout the mill.

The Cat 325B butt-n-top has been a trouble-free workhorse since its arrival. It's one of Cat's new 300B series of forestry-designed swing machines. Cat says the series are not converted construction machines. Rather, they incorporate components, from undercarriage to upper structure, that have been designed for the additional weight, reach, clearance and torsional loads required in forestry applications. The machine models are available in 'factory turn-key' mode, which means they're shipped from the factory ready to go.

Canfor's 325B is delivering the flexibility the yard operation demands. It has the ability to turn and orient to the mill's infeed decks that are forward- and reverse-loaded in the bunks. And the machine is quick enough to move between the two adjacent infeed decks to keep them both adequately supplied with the appropriate log diet. There are few additional machine movements needed when the 325B is positioned in front of each bunk.

Kubbernus says there was some up-front concern with the power generated by the 325B. The larger 330B used to feed the decks after it was replaced by the Wagner in the yard and before the 325B arrived. The 325B is powered by Cat's 3116TA diesel, rated at 177 hp. The 330B has a 3306TA diesel power plant generating 234 hp. The 325's operator, Rick Campbell, notices the power differential but has adapted by running the machine within its capabififies.

The 325B has a shorter reach than the 330B, which is apparent when reaching to the far end of the storage bunks. Each bunk, fed by the Wagner, can accommodate three loads. The 325B has a front or side load capacity of 11,300 lbs. at the maximum reach of 37'. Trim the reach to 16' and the load capacity increases to 39,600 lbs. By comparison, the 330B in similar butt-n-top configuration has a load capacity of 14,300 lbs. at a maximum extension of 40'.

But under Campbell's control, the 325B demonstrates a deft touch with the hydraulic flow necessary for smooth and speedy movement. The machine is efficient at separating the smaller diameters from the larger wood that results from the lack of bush sorting. The small wood is piled aside for movement to the proper infeed, with handling conducive to the breakage reduction objective.

Sometimes it's hard to idenffy the borderline diameters. The mill's Optimil line takes diameters 6" and down; the canter line processes 6" sizes to 16". The 325B has the ability to manage log sizes so the right material goes to the right line's set cut-off saws. That in turn leads to a regulated flow of material through the primary breakdown lines.

The 325B additionally helps the log flow by singulating the logs after the butt-n-top deposits them on the live infeed decks. The loaders tended to drop a bunch in a bunch, which required extra unscrambling. They also created a potential safety hazard and production delays when personnel had to go out of the deck to free a wood flow blockage. The 325B's tongs have eliminated that necessity.

The swing machine is surprisingly quick. "But when it's highway wood, it keeps you hopping to keep both decks full," says Campbell. Orienting and sorting out takes the time, he adds.

The leased Cat machine team at Isle Pierre's new yard operation have proven themselves in improving the bottom line just when Canfor needed it.

Wagner L4 L30 Lumber Jack

Wagner L4 L30 Lumber Jack

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