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Mixed Bag

Contractor Carol Fortin finds the versatility of the Valmet 901C helpful in a region of mixed bag harvesting prescriptions.

By Tony Kryzanowski

When it comes to logging, New Brunswick is among the most diverse forest environments in Canada. A rich mix of natural stands and plantations occurs on terrain that can be mountainous, rolling or flat. Even the weather can vary significantly from north to south. The province has also been one of the pioneer regions for the introduction of cut to length equipment into the Canadian market. That comes as no surprise considering the diverse logging challenges that local contractors face within a relatively small land base. With J D Irving's highly developed land base management practices on both natural stands and plantations, the forests of New Brunswick have become the trial ground for many brands of cut to length (CTL) equipment. Among these competing brands, Valmet has established itself as a leading contender because its advanced European technology fits well with the demands of contractors working within Canada's harsh forestry environment. 

Carol Fortin, owner of Entreprise CRF Inc in St Quentin, New Brunswick was among the first contractors to engage in commercial thinning for Irving, both in the company's plantations in the summer and natural stands in winter. The wood here averages 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Over the past 11 years, Fortin has owned and tested a vast array of purpose built forestry equipment. He has selected Valmet as his equipment of choice, operating a 701 carrier with a LogMax 828 head, and the larger 901C with Valmet's own 945 head. His most recent acquisition was the 901C, which had about 800 hours on it earlier this year. It was the 701's reliability that gave Valmet a definite advantage with Fortin when he decided that he needed a midsize carrier. His 701 has operated for 28,500 hours without any major downtime. He was in the process of changing out the engine this past spring, but it still has its original hydraulic pump. 

Having had success with previous Valmet equipment, Entreprise CRF's most recent acquisition was a Valmet 901C with a Valmet 945 head. The 901C works particularly well in the deep snow the operation runs into in northern New Brunswick. 

Compare this to a competing harvester/ processor package that he owned previously that required an engine change after only 10,000 hours. But the exceptional reliability on his 701 is no accident. Fortin is a strong advocate of preventative maintenance. He says Valmet equipment requires a significant amount of maintenance, but the reward is minimal downtown. After operating his 701 for six years, he came to realize that he needed a bigger purpose built machine for use in northern New Brunswick winters. Enter the 901C. "The 901C works better in deep snow," says Fortin. 

The snow was simply too deep in northern New Brunswick for him to achieve acceptable production with his 701. "We can get five to six feet of snow and I had to find work in northern New Brunswick. That's why I purchased the 901C. Now my operators can work with it seven days a week here in the north." Fortin logs 10 months a year. In an environment such as Irving's Blackbrook Forest area where he is selective cutting in mixed stands, he averages between 1,000 to 1,400 cubic metres of production per week with the 901C. The purpose of this selective harvest is to remove shorter-lived fir stems to allow the remaining longer-lived spruce to achieve better incremental growth. Now that he has operated the 901C for a while, he has discovered that it makes for a good combination with his 701 when selective harvesting in deep snow. He only uses the 701 until the snow gets deep. From there on in, he will only run the 901C. "I make the master trail with the 901C, and then I make my ghost trails with the 701." Because forestry companies now use highly diverse harvesting plans in an attempt to achieve maximum fibre growth and recovery, contractors who have the ability to adapt to the varying circumstances that result will be in demand. 

Carol Fortin, owner of Entreprise CRF, says the Valmet 945 head has performed well. "I was very surprised by the head, not so much by its strength, but by its speed. It is very fast and good for plantations."  

Fortin feels the versatility of his 901C gives him an edge. "It is possible for me to work in plantations for the first cut, the second thinning, and it's also possible to work in selective cut and in clearcut with this machine," he says. "There are a lot of uses for it." Its narrow profile and high, 26inch ground clearance make it particularly suited for thinning. The 901C is about eight feet wide and 20 feet long and has a wheelbase of 10 feet 8 inches. Fortin's unit is rather unique in that he uses the Cranab parallel boom crane with the 1.45 metre telescopic extension, as opposed to the more popular telescopic boom, as he feels this set up is less likely to damage regen. 

He emphasizes that the parallel boom crane is not intended for large trees. It has a rated lifting torque of 73,756 lb ft, and a maximum reach of 26.5 feet. The 945 head's cutting capacity is up to 45 centimetres, or about 18 inches. "I was very surprised by the head, not so much by its strength, but its speed. It is very fast," says Fortin. "It is very good for plantations. I get really good production out of it." The 901C comes equipped with a tilt cab that, unlike the 701, tilts 17 degrees side to side as well as 22 degrees forward and 20 degrees back. The 701 only tilts side to side. 

The harvester cab is mounted on a slew bearing platform capable of a 315degree rotation. Fortin says this keeps the operator level and comfortable, particularly when navigating the many small hills and valleys they must traverse in that area of New Brunswick. "The tilt is a big feature on this unit," says Fortin. "It's like a Cadillac machine. It always works on the level." The operator also has excellent visibility. He is not so much concerned with the engine's power, but that the head, crane, and carrier all work well together. "The engine, hydraulics and everything else is balanced," he says. "You also don't need a 300hp engine for this type of work ." The 901C has a 148hp, Cummins 6BT 5.9 turbo diesel engine, which on average burns about 320 litres of fuel in 24 hours. Fortin feels that he is achieving good fuel economy. The carrier has a 400-litre tank. Fortin also appreciates having a North American Cummins engine in the 901C because of the greater likelihood of parts availability. However, he says, the Valmet engine in his 701 has also performed well. 

The onboard computer for his measuring and control system is the older VMM 1000 model and Fortin is satisfied with the accuracy it yields. Although he had the option of installing Valmet's newer Maxi system, he chose to stick with the VMM 1000 because it is a similar system to the one he uses in his 701. One important feature on the VMM 1000 system is that it controls all of the head's functions without the use of relays. The computer is programmed to cut from four to 16foot lengths, depending on the tree diameter. It will turn out 12, 14 or 16foot lengths with logs up to six inches in diameter. From 2.5 to six inches, it will make an eight, nine or 10foot log. Four foot logs are produced when there is rot in the wood. "It's automatic," says Fortin. "The computer tries to make the best wood possible. If it only has five inches at 16 feet, it knows to go to 14 feet to make the longest, biggest wood ." There is a manual override in the system, controlled by a trigger in the cab. It is capable of cutting 121 different lengths and 26 diameters. The Maxi system, which is also available with the 901C, has better troubleshooting capabilities. 

It also uses drop down windows, which are a common feature among many over-the-counter computer programs. Some operators may find it more user-friendly. Fortin says it takes an investment in time to learn how to operate Valmet equipment properly. After about two months operating the 901C, he is now satisfied with the production he is achieving. "At the start, I had to learn how to use it," he says. "I think 1000 cubic metres per week in selective wood is very good." One area where Fortin feels there is room for improvement is the need for thicker steel on the metal covers. He rates his parts and service support as very good, with some parts arriving on the same day. However, he hasn't had any major breakdowns to really test the system. He keeps a parts kit handy, which includes wear items on the head, as well as alternators and starters for the carrier. While most other contractors had packed it in for break up in his area of New Brunswick, Fortin was still busy working this past spring. That alone speaks volumes of what he expects from his equipment's performance and he feels Valmet was the right choice for his circumstances. 

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This page last modified on Tuesday, February 17, 2004