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New Engine, Axle In Updated 911C

Sisu Valmet revamps its single-grip harvester to address North American loggers' needs - including local parts supply.

By Tony Kryzanowski
Copyright 1997. Contact publisher for permission to use.

When Canadian loggers switch to selective, cut-to-length harvesting, they often must consider Scandinavian equipment. But adapting Scandinavian technology to North American conditions has often been like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Many Scandinavian companies recognize the problem and have changed their equipment designs to address the concerns of North American loggers, without sacrificing the advanced technology and environmental friendliness of their original product.

The North American-built Sisu Valmet 911C single-grip harvester, with a 960 Valmet head is one example of a Scandinavian company making the transition to a product suited for North American conditions.

The Valmet 911C harvester is built in Michigan, now with a Cummins engine and a Rockwell axle. The Cummins engine is a 6BTA 5.9L after-cooled turbo diesel engine, that delivers 169 hp at 2,100 rpm, and 476 pounds of torque at 1,500 rpm.

"A lot of the components used to scare people away," says Sisu Valmet representative for eastern Canada Daniel Lahaie, "because there were only European sources for parts. That is always a concern for loggers." The 911C's predecessor, the 911, had an excellent Valmet engine, says Lahaie. "The only problem is that you could only get parts through us."

But with a Cummins engine and Rockwell axle components, contractors now have an entire North American network for acquiring parts.

"We used mostly the Scandinavian design in the powertrain," says Lahaie. "The 911 was introduced in the early 1990s in Scandinavia, taking into consideration the long experience with the 901 six-wheel version. So, the tandem bogie in front is really heavy-duty. As for the Rockwell axle, it's top of the line."

Since 1984, Valmet has had tremendous success with its 90l four-wheel harvester. In fact, Lahaie says Valmet has sold more 901 units worldwide than any other company with a competing product. A few years ago, Valmet developed a six-wheeled 901 upgrade. They then built a larger, more powerful six-wheel harvester, the 911. These were still manufactured in Scandinavia with a Valmet engine, but with many North American components. It was a taste of what was to come with the 911C.

New Brunswick forestry giant Irving was among the first Canadian companies to evaluate the 911's usefulness in Canadian conditions. Belle Isle Creek contractor Tim McMillan began operating an imported 911 harvester in August, 1994 on a lease/purchase basis, primarily in the Fundy Model For- est. It spans the south shore of the province, from St. John to Moncton, extending about 50 km inland.

"They (Irving) knew there was a lot of selective harvesting that was going to have to be done," says McMillan, "and they wanted a machine that they thought would be the best." Their criteria were: fast processing capability, good operator visibility, ease of operation, and ability to leave a small footprint. Irving wanted a harvester that would minimize the number of working trails required. "It (911 harvester) is relatively light, but stable for something with that kind of reach," says McMillan. The telescopic boom can reach about 30'.

Prior to hopping on the Valmet 911, McMillan operated an old Kookums carrier with a Lako head. Since the change, he says his production has doubled, although his costs to finance the Valmet are a lot higher. Despite the additional cost, he says the overall operator comfort has improved dramatically.

"The extension boom is very easy to get used to," he says. "The fact that the cab is sitting right beside the boom - it's got very good visibility. Very seldom is anything in your vision. And with the hydrostatic drive, it is just touch and go with unlimited settings."

Valmet's Lahaie says the hydrostatic drive is a key feature in the 911 harvester.

"The hydrostatic drive is computer controlled and assures you of maximum torque at all times," he says. "So if you are going to hit a stump, going to climb, going to go through boulders, as soon as you need that torque, the computer has monitored your pump and your engine to rev up or down, and to pump more or less according to the effort being encountered at the wheel."

This prevents operator abuse, he says, because the machine operates at the rate it was designed for. "It's kind of surprising to see it in rough conditions," he adds.

McMillan is a cut-to-length contractor, harvesting about 30,000 m3 per year of primarily softwood. The size can range from 2'' to 22''. The Valmet 960 head has a 22'' bar on it. His company, Harmer Tree Enterprise, employs two full-time and one part-time operator.

The 960 head now has 11,000 hours on it. During that time, McMillan says he has installed a reinforcement kit.

"It's a North American addition just because of the difference in the trees in Sweden," he says. It's an important addition, he says, "especially if we are doing the shore country, where we get into some very limby spruce. It takes quite a beating."

In two and a half years, he says he has installed one new frame on the head, and reinforced the second one before he even started. He says the 960 head on his unit is really not designed for hardwood. The hardwood creates more wear and tear on the head, although the head will process it.

Doaktown, New Brunswick contractor Gary Long recently purchased a Valmet 911C with the 960 head. Before making his decision, he called McMillan for his advice. "I told him that, ya, if I was to go buy another harvester, I'd probably buy another Valmet," says McMillan.

Long has been logging for 16 years, and harvests about 80 per cent softwood in the Doaktown area, situated near the centre of the province. He supplies a number of area Irving mills.

Long has plenty of experience with the Valmet product, having previously operated two North American-built 546 harvesters with 955 heads. He says he will spend 80 per cent of his time in selective-cut situations. After shopping around, he purchased a new Valmet 911C with a 960 head about four months ago. "Some of them (harvesters) are a lot more complicated than others, like a lot more electrical especially," says Long. "The Valmet, even the 911, is still not as complicated as some of the others. I find them a little easier to work on."

The total price for his harvester was $520,000, and Long says that was comparable to the competition.

He sees many improvements on the 911C compared to his 546 units. "It's a lot more comfortable for the operator," he says. The 911C has a hydrostatic drive transmission, whereas the 546 has an ordinary automatic transmission. "With the 911, you never have to take your hands off the control sticks. Everything is there - your forward, reverse, and your steering is at your fingertips all the time. It's a lot easier to operate. The operator should be able to operate it a bit longer without getting so tired."

He says the 911 is a much larger machine. His production has improved between 25 to 30 per cent. It has more horsepower and it processes faster. And, Long, says, "it's quite a rugged machine."

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