Harvester Production Has a New Home

by | Sep 1, 2023 | 2023, Harvesting, Industry News, Logging & Sawmilling Journal, New Technology, September/October

Logging equipment manufacturer A. Landry Fabrication now has a new facility for turning out their state-of-the-art Landrich 2.0 harvesters.

It was a time for celebration a little more than a year ago at east coast logging equipment manufacturer, A. Landry Fabrication. On July 27, 2022, the first Landrich 2.0 emerged from their new 63,000 square foot production facility at Eel River Crossing, located just a few kilometres from ALPA and A. Landry Fabrication facilities at Balmoral, New Brunswick.

A. Landry Fabrication was founded by Armand Landry and as a sister company to ALPA Equipment Ltd., which was co-founded by Armand.

A. Landry Fabrication developed expertise in building excavator conversions for forest harvesting and other custom industrial equipment. Although excavator conversions offered a cost advantage over purpose-built forest harvesters, conversions lacked the reliability and productivity of purpose-built tracked harvesters.

The first Landrich 2.0 harvester emerged in 2022 from the new 63,000 square foot production facility at Eel River Crossing, located just a few kilometres from ALPA and A. Landry Fabrication facilities at Balmoral, New Brunswick.

ALPA Equipment carries multiple lines of forestry and construction equipment, and provides parts and service in five maritime locations.Through their experience servicing and repairing heavy equipment, the Landry’s developed a clear understanding of the engineering required to build a reliable and productive forest harvester. They decided that they could take that knowledge, and build a superior tracked harvester. Armand along with his son, Serge, arrived at the decision to build their own tracked harvester, and set about to recruit talent to turn their combined vision into reality.

Their recruitment efforts led to hiring Yves-Michel Thibeault, a young mechanical engineer with experience working for a Quebec company manufacturing airport service vehicles. Thibeault came on board in 2005, and began designing the harvester using Computer Assisted Design (CAD).

Thibeault went on to supervise cutting steel and fabricating the prototype Landrich, and then testing it with contractors in harvest operation in northern New Brunswick.

The fabrication was done initially in a small 6,000 square feet shop, which over the next few years expanded to 13,000 square feet.

“The shop floor was very challenging when the Landrich got into production,” explained Thibeault. “We were literally standing on each other’s feet. Sometimes, we would move a pallet of parts to allow a step in the assembly, and then move the pallet back so we could continue with another step in production.”

The Landrich harvester prototype was equipped with a Ponsse harvester head, and was thoroughly tested and proved reliable and productive. Contractors who participated in the prototype testing could see potential in the Landrich.

“Building the first Landrich, we used a skid steer loader to lift components onto the track body,” explained Thibeault. “Later we graduated to a forklift and later still to a wheel loader. It was all very difficult in the crowded shop. Eventually, we installed overhead cranes to facilitate more efficient assembly.”

Despite challenges, the small shop produced two harvesters in the first year of production, and up to five a year as the crew became more familiar with parts manufacturing and assembly. The team was able to closely monitor each machine produced due to the small-scale production; producing a track harvester that was perfectly adapted for the demands of the market and loggers needs.

New installations at the new A. Landry Fabrication facility include large powder coating and paint booths. New equipment includes an overhead trolley system which allows fabricated components to transfer safely and efficiently to the powder coat/paint booths, and then back into the production facility for assembly.

The new factory came about through a meeting between Armand and Serge Landry and the owner of an engine rebuilding business in Eel River Crossing. The owner shared that he was planning for retirement, and was looking to sell the building housing his business. The 63,000 square foot building was only partially used for the engine rebuilding business, with about 90 per cent of the space used for RV and boat storage. The building was initially designed to house a shampoo bottling plant.

Following the purchase of the building during the winter of 2021, initial steps to convert the building for constructing the Landrich harvester got underway. First on the list was to clear out the building and carry out minor repairs and painting, and some structural work to install a series of overhead cranes.

In addition to new lighting, the building was outfitted with a new and comprehensive clean air and ventilation system.

“Ideally, a production facility would separate the steel cutting, bending and welding from the assembly part of the production plant,” said Thibeault. But the cutting, bending, welding is in same room as the clean assembly side. “So it was important to have an air quality system that would remove the welding and cutting fumes and dust, and maintain the cleanliness required for the assembly steps,” he added. “We invested a lot of time designing the system and made a major investment, and we now have a very effective system and healthy environment for all workers.”

While some of the production equipment was transferred from the fabrication shop in Balmoral, a good deal of new production equipment was acquired through 2021-2022.

New installations included large powder coating and paint booths. New equipment includes an overhead trolley system which allows fabricated components to transfer safely and efficiently to the powder coat/paint booths, and then back into the production facility for assembly.

Receiving loads of steel and component parts is completed inside the building.

The production plant is an open concept facility with four production centres. In the metal transition zone, delivered metal is cut. In the component fabrication zone, the cut metal is assembled into the various components. In the assembly zone of the plant, those components are brought together and assembled into the Landrich 2.0 harvester. The fourth production centre includes receiving large and small parts, procurement group offices and engineering offices.

The open concept may be, arguably, not the most efficient production system, but Thibeault explained that it does in fact go a long way to developing a team approach to production, with everyone in the plant seeing a harvester emerge form a pile of steel and supplied parts.

The metal transition zone operates with two five-tonne overhead cranes. The fabrication zone is also served with two, five-tonne overhead cranes, and the assembly zone has one, five-tonne overhead crane.

The facility also includes tidy racks for storage of purchased components and supplies, staff offices, employee lunch room and lockers.

A. Landry Fabrication currently plans to produce 25 harvesters annually, but the new facility has the capacity to produce 100 machines annually.

Thibeault is the chief engineer for Landrich and operations manager at the new facility. Two of Armand’s grandsons have joined the Landrich production team. Sebastien Firth comes with a degree in mechanical engineering, and was formerly in charge of fabrication, and has also taken charge of harvester assembly.

Jeremy Firth brings his qualifications of a Business degree to the Landrich production and marketing.

Long time employee Daniel Landry, who worked several years as a machinist, has moved into a supervisory position overseeing welding and machining production.

Armand himself has taken up residence in a front office of the new facility and has a tour of the production area on a daily basis. Serge Landry is the General Manager of A. Landry Fabrication, and makes a daily visit when he is in the area, and is also President and CEO of ALPA Equipment.

Serge Landry explained the timing of the development of the Landrich 2.0 was driven by the requirement to redesign the harvester to fit the current requirement for Tier 4 pollution control on the engine, and the future requirement for Tier 5 technology.

“The only parts of the old Landrich that are the same as in the new Landrich are the boom and the undercarriage,” he explained. “The entire upper body was redesigned. Some of the components were upgraded by a new series or just relocated in the machine.”

New optimization technology came by way of Ponsse. Serge explained: “The machine optimization is a product of computer and software designed by Ponsse. Ponsse are world leaders in wheeled harvesters, forwarders and harvester heads, using software control systems they produce themselves. Landrich worked with Ponsse to customize software for the Landrich 2.0.

“Since we had to redesign some of the machine for the new engine, we decided that it was a good time to make over the base machine addressing 10 years of customer feedback,” he added.

The new Tier engine is spec’ed to produce the same horsepower as the old Landrich, but with significantly more torque.

The Landrich 2.0 is powered by a Mercedes engine. “We engineered the 2.0 to fit in the Mercedes Tier 4 engine, but after production of the new harvester was underway, Mercedes informed us that they would no longer supply the Tier 4 design, but would substitute it with their Tier 5 model, which would meet and exceed North America Tier 4 requirements,” explained Thibeault.

In the new facility, 95 per cent of component manufacturing will be done in-house, whereas previously some of the component production was contracted to third party shops. A. Landry Fabrication currently plans to produce 25 harvesters annually, but the new facility has the capacity to produce 100 machines annually.

“It was a bit of a challenge to fit the Tier 5 after-treatment into the engine area. We take thermo-management in the Landrich very seriously, and we had help from Ponsse to get the technology correct so we ‘keep things cool under the hood’,” he said.

“The Tier 5 engine is a common rail design and has quick response to power demand, and still remains very fuel efficient—and the torque curve suits the harvester application very well.”

Serge stated that the 2.0 has about the same fuel consumption per hour as the original Landrich, but achieves greater production, “less litres per cubic metre.”

“The cab redesign was based on customer feedback,” he said. “We now have the largest cab in the tracked harvester field, with an unmatched operator view, which helps them be more efficient.”

Included in the cab redesign, (which was ROPS and FOPS certified) is an improved air conditioning system. The fuel tank was increased from 550 litres to 750 litres and a toolbox was integrated in the track frame, and an in-cab toolbox is an option.

A. Landry Fabrication are happy to be in the new factory, and have a new and more efficient manufacturing system. Since Landrich production has increased, new staff has been hired.

“We have been very successful in attracting new talent with highly advanced skills to be part of our production team,” said Thibeault. “Our staff see a good future with our company, and are proud of the very productive machine that they build.”

George Fullerton

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