By Tom Filmer
There are a number of factors to consider when weighing an investment in a grapple carriage.
Let’s start with the harvest conditions. What kind of terrain do you work in? How can tracts of timber be accessed? Where are the landings likely to be built? What is the length and run of the drags, and where does other infrastructure need to be set up or constructed?
Harvest considerations that are specific to grapple carriages include:
- Lift and deflection: Which angles and slopes are most accessible to provide the desired deflection for a motorized grapple carriage to be operated?
- Length of setting: Motorized grapple carriages may be limited by the length of the line, dependent on the yarder.
Using a motorized grapple carriage to harvest timber must be feasible in order to make it commercially viable for logging contractors. First, it must be physically feasible – you have to have the right equipment in addition to trained or experienced personnel. It has to be economically feasible. The economic benefits of motorized grapple carriage harvesting can be summarized as:
- Less downtime and injuries
- More reliability
- More payload
- Faster cycle times
Logging with a motorized grapple carriage may be viewed as more socially acceptable as it reduces risk of harm by removing some workers – primarily choker setters – from dangerous conditions. Some people would argue that taking people off the hill is taking away jobs. Using a motorized grapple carriage provides an opportunity for crews and workers who perform manual labor to add skills and more value in other areas of a logging operation.
The weight of the grapple carriage impacts not only the lift but also the payload. A larger grapple carriage with a bigger grapple will have the strength and size to lift bigger loads.
However, the functioning weight of the unit should be considered when figuring the ideal set-up for your harvest settings. A heavier unit will require more deflection, especially when carrying larger payloads. The appropriate amount of lift and deflection comes down to how you plan your harvest and the use of rigging systems. Tail spars and intermediate spars are also a way of increasing deflection effectively and safely.
Of course, new equipment must comply with pertinent government regulations. Certainly, be aware of any applicable fire regulations that apply. Fire suppressant and other fire prevention systems within a motorized grapple carriage must comply with the regulations.
Durability of equipment is another factor to consider. Maintaining productive operations is important working in remote areas.
Some points to consider when choosing a motorised grapple carriage are:
- Who is the manufacturer? Are they reputable?
- What components are used?
- Are parts and servicing options readily available?
- What level of technical support is offered?
- How long have they been commercially offered?
In doing the research to ensure you are buying a grapple carriage that best suits your requirements, take a close look at the manufacturer. How long have they been in business? What is the size of the company? Is it well resourced, and can it supply on time? Ask for references, especially from other loggers who have used the equipment.
Convenient and efficient access to spare parts is essential to ensure down time is reduced and productivity remains high. It’s paramount that your dealer has the ability to deliver parts quickly. Some considerations to think about are:
- Are parts readily available?
- Does your distributor stock replacement parts?
- Is there a critical parts list?
Critical parts are those which should be in stock, available to deliver to contractors. The critical parts may vary depending on the supplier, but they are often the 20 percent of parts for a grapple carriage that are ordered frequently (80 percent of the time).
An example of critical parts may include:
- Antennas and communication parts
- Filters and other consumables
- Electronic components
- Bearings and other engineered parts
(Tom Filmer is the marketing manager for DC Equipment, a New Zealand company that manufactures the Falcon Forestry Equipment brand of mechanized equipment for steep slope logging operations. For more information about Falcon Forestry Equipment, visit www.falconforestryequipment.com.)