By Lindsay R. Mohlere
Throughout the year, we’ve highlighted several manufacturers who have implemented new, emerging technologies to design and create products, systems, and services that directly impact the timber business.
One such company is Summit Attachments and Machinery. Located in Kelso, Washington, Summit is the creation of Eric Krume and Bruce Skurdahl.
Eric and Bruce started Summit in 2006 when they got together to build the first new-style tong thrower. Since then, Summit’s product line has evolved to attachments that fit on existing machines rather than building new machines for specific purposes — say, tong throwers. “We’re converting an existing machine for a second or third duty. Almost everything we do is winch related,” says Eric.
Summit’s product line includes winch assist, grapple carriages, a smart yoder, and tong throwers, along with a variety of other equipment.
Eric and Bruce have embraced a number of new technological advances to build their own systems to operate the machines. “We use a lot of remote control. We do a lot of very technical, video, non-line-of-sight, long distances. That’s been pretty challenging, but I basically have the best control system and the best video system available,” says Bruce.
To meet the challenge of remote control, Summit has incorporated technology from other companies and created a system that fits their needs.
“We buy the technology from other companies and use it for our purpose,” says Bruce. “We don’t have the numbers to access the satellite. We don’t have the numbers to access cellular, so I don’t think it would work as well anyway because the latency that we’re working with is like 10 milliseconds of latency and video and control — and you can’t get that through those systems.”
Innovation Tried and True
Summit’s innovation and reliance on new technology has brought about a number of new methods of timber harvesting utilizing mechanization and control. The solutions the company has brought forward, like many new products and services on the market, are designed to increase safety and productivity.
To ensure Summit’s components can stand the test of real work, prototypes are built and used at Stuart Logging Company, an outfit Eric has owned for more than 30 years. “If the attachments don’t work for me, we certainly can’t sell them to other people,” Eric says.
Summit recently finished testing one of their big yarders. During a year and a half of testing, they logged more than 350 acres of big tower cable ground. “We have set zero chokers. We’ve had many hours of nighttime or dark production and had surprising results with tons per hour, loads per hour,” says Eric. “My tower site consists of four people. One guy cutting trees in a machine; one guy processing; one guy loading; and one guy operating the yarder. Four crew. That’s all.”
Eric indicated they have just brought the yarder back into the shop to redo a few things they discovered during the prototype testing. “We’ve learned an awful lot about that machine, and we’ll be building the next phase.”
Steps to the Future
“It’s pretty challenging to be forward-thinking and remain ultra-safe,” adds Bruce. “Those things sometimes don’t add up, but we’ve had a good deal of success. We have a lot of machines out there. We have a lot of accumulated hours.”
Summit machines are now being used in Oregon, Washington, California, and Canada, with international expansion on the horizon. “We got machines operating in Brazil. We’ve got some activity going in South Africa. We’ve sold some grapple carriages there, and we’re working on some pretty major orders in Chile right now,” says Bruce.
Both Eric and Bruce emphasize that everything they do is pointing toward automating the cable logging side of the industry. Summit is offering new equipment, retrofits of existing machines, and repurposing quality equipment.
“We’re heading toward no boots on the ground,” says Bruce. “We’re headed toward a higher production, lower extraction cost. We’re headed toward a zero-fatality year in logging.”
2019 Technology Advancement
One of the most significant advances in the application of new technology in the forestry industry came as a law rather than a piece of equipment or software.
In March 2019, the Wildfire Technology Advancement Act was signed into law by President Trump. The act includes several new mandates for crews fighting wildfires and will provide new technology and training tools to empower the Forest Service on the ground and in the air. Real-time fire mapping, more drone technology to give us real-time information about the fires, use of NASA satellite information to help plan post-fires, and giving us more smoke forecasting information to better help our communities and deal with those who are impacted by heavy smoke.
The new legislation is termed the “Holy Grail” of wildland firefighting. It will make it possible for fire managers to know where the fire is in real time and where firefighters are in real time.
It will be a requirement to provide wildfire crews with GPS locators and drones equipped with infrared sensors to scout and map wildfires in real time. In addition to requiring the Forest Service to update wildfire support software that fire managers use to inform and document their decisions while managing a wildfire, the bill also calls for the development of an injury database to track on-the-job injuries and deaths of wildland firefighters.
Most of the provisions are set to be implemented in 2020, provided fire managers get off the dime and pay attention to the new rules rather than staying with their old tried and true methods that sorely need an update.
In any event, the “Holy Grail” will give our firefighters another resource for safety and success.
Talk back at twfirecolumn @gmail.com.
Stay safe out there.
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