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Solid experience—and equipment

Young contractor Kevin McKimmon has the help and experience of his father, and a solid equipment combination—a New Holland EC215 carrier with a LogMax 750 harvester/processor head—in taking on a large variety of wood sizes in Alberta.

By Tony Kryzanowski

At a time when the forest industry is finding it difficult to attract young people to the harvesting side of the business, young contractors like Alberta’s Kevin McKimmon truly represent the future of Canada’s logging industry. Fortunately, he has strong family support, giving him a good chance of success. So far, he has made two important choices—decisions that loggers with children who are interested in taking up the profession may want to consider, and perhaps follow.

The first decision was to ask his father, an experienced logger, to be a partner in his business called KMM Processing. The second was to move from 100 Mile House, BC, where economic opportunities were dwindling, to Hinton, Alberta where there were better business prospects. Both of these decisions have paid off.

Kevin McKimmon (left) and his father Howard McKimmon, with KMM Processing’s New Holland EC215/LogMax 750 combination. “It went together quite nicely,” says Howard McKimmon.

One area where his father Howard McKimmon’s logging experience has been of particular assistance is in the selection of a harvester/processor. Howard ran a large logging operation for Weldwood in the 100 Mile House area for 15 years, before selling out in 1997. At present, he and his wife help Kevin operate KMM Processing and have a logging truck of their own. In July 2001, KMM Processing took delivery of a New Holland EC215 excavator equipped with a LogMax 750 harvester/processor head.

The company is subcontracting to Hinton-area logger Les Cochrane, who in turn has a harvesting contract with Weldwood’s Alberta operation. Howard says before he and his son made any rash decisions concerning whether or not to move to Alberta and what equipment to purchase, they visited the Hinton area, spoke with friends about business prospects and checked out the prevailing approach to logging.

However, they had more or less decided to purchase a LogMax head based on what they had heard—and seen—among the 100 Mile House area contractors who were using the product. “LogMax processing heads haven’t been available that long, but in the time that they have been around, they have proven themselves,” says Howard. “I haven’t gotten totally out of logging. I keep my eyes and ears open to see what’s working well.” The second part of the equipment combination was the carrier.

The New Holland dealer, Douglas Lake Equipment of Kamloops, BC, put together the best deal, equipping an EC215 excavator with a 750 LogMax head for about $450,000. “We had a bit of a concern about whether the head would match up with the carrier,” says Howard. “LogMax did the research on the hydraulic oil supply and it turns out that the carrier had much more oil flow than the head actually needs.

Douglas Lake Equipment didn’t have to do any fancy modifications to any of the valving or anying. It went together quite nicely Howard says there were a number of features on the LogMax head that attracted KMM Processing to the product. Among the most important was its ability to maintain high production in a large variety of wood sizes.

The logging company is harvesting and processing tree-length pine and spruce at the stump in the Hinton area. Trees can vary in diameter from eight to 20 inches. “A lot of processing heads are fairly limited when they get into bigger piece counts, whereas this head isn’t,” says Howard. “It can also delimb 20-inch diameter wood all day and that doesn’t seem to bother it.”

Further proof of its success: there have been instances over the past year when other machines have been moved out of stands with big wood and replaced by the KMM Processing harvester/processor. The saw unit on the 750 LogMax has a standard maximum cutting diameter of 28 inches. The optional extended sawbar increases the maximum cutting diameter to 30 inches.

The maximum chain speed is 8,000 feet per minute and the unit comes with an optional 16 inch top saw. The feed unit has a maximum opening of 28 inches and a minimum opening of 1/2 inch. With a feeding speed of around 16-17 feet per second, its maximum feeding force is 8,100 lbs. Howard says easy serviceability was an important consideration when he and his son thought about purchasing a head.

The LogMax comes equipped with an easy access latched hood, which provides convenient access to critical hydraulic and electrical components during regular maintenance. The valves for all hydraulic functions, except the rotator, are built into the harvester head. This simplifies mounting and maintenance. LogMax owns a couple of patents on the unit’s technology.

The first is for its log positioning system. With the log’s position controlled by an upper knife sensor, this minimizes friction losses and maximizes pulling force. The second is itsEquipment didn’t have to do any fancy modifications to any of the valving or anying. It went together quite nicely patented cushioned bottom plate. The bottom plate assembly absorbs shock from ground impact and reduces stress contraction in the frame.

One unique feature on the New Holland carrier really simplifies life for the operator, says Howard McKimmon. That is the EC215’s three-pump hydraulic system. Because the third pump operates on its own closed-loop circuit and is dedicated to powering the swing motor, swing power is not sacrificed by travel, boom, stick, or attachment functions. “That’s a real asset, especially in the falling procedure,” says Howard. “The operator is able to swing the machine as he uses other functions. It’s just a lot easier when you’ve got the weight of the tree at the end of your boom.

There is more control.” He adds that the aftermarket forestry cab is a comfortable environment for the operator. “Kevin likes it,” says Howard. “He says he feels good about going to work in the morning because working on this harvester/processor all day doesn’t wear him out. It has a good noise abatement package and good air conditioning and heat. The joystick system is also operator-friendly.” He adds that the superior electronics on the head contribute to the package’s overall ease of operation.

The electronic fingertip control offers the operator five power and work modes, so that he can tailor the machine’s performance to its job requirements. For example, the heavy power mode from the custom keypad provides full pump flow and 100 per cent engine speed when full power and speed is required. When programmed in economy mode, there is 90 per cent pump flow at 100 per cent pressure relief, but at a slightly reduced engine speed. So far, KMM Processing has not run into any serious downtime with the carrier or the head. Howard says both LogMax and Douglas Lake Equipment have offered excellent product support.

The machine generally works 10 to 15 hours anywhere from five to seven days a week. “If anything goes sideways at all with the machine or the head, Douglas Lake Equipment has just been tripping over themselves to get to the site and get us going,” says Howard. “They have contracted a mechanic in Hinton to look after the minor repairs. If there is anything major, they’ll drive all night from Kamloops to get to the machine. I’m quite impressed actually.” The relationship between Howard and Kevin McKimmon goes to show that father/son teamwork can go a long way to help the next generation start off on the right foot.

It works for them and it works for the industry, since the success of such young loggers is essential to the forest industry at a time when many experienced loggers are looking to retire.

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