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Lifting logs: The latest in handling equipment

Wood fibre lifting operations move toward data collection, ease of use and lower carbon footprints


November 15, 2021
By Andrew Snook


Topics
Photo: Tanguay

In the world of forestry, whether it’s a sawmilling operation or a logging operation, having the right equipment for sorting and stacking logs is vital.

To learn more about what fleet managers and their equipment operators are looking for in their log lifting equipment, Crane & Hoist Canada reached out to equipment manufacturers and dealers to hear their thoughts on current and future trends.

Log loaders

Not unlike other types of heavy equipment, telematics management systems are starting to play a more pivotal role in the world of log loaders.

“If you look in the past, telematics came on board and customers were just looking for the ability to be able to see their machine and get an idea of when they needed to do their next service, because the machine wasn’t in the yard and they didn’t know how many hours were on it,” says Jarvis de Groot, global product marketing manager for John Deere’s Construction & Forestry Division.

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“That’s progressed over time to today. They’re always looking for an enhancement on that telematics and what it can report. They want to be able to have remote diagnostic capabilities, even remote software updates. Machine health monitoring is probably the term for it – make sure their machine is not overheating, doesn’t have any fault codes, and if there are fault codes, they remote-in and do a preliminary diagnostic on it.”

He says that moving forward in the future, telematics systems will continue to expand in terms of data collection for what a machine is doing, so fleet and operations managers can continue to better view the productivity levels of their machines and operators, while keeping a closer eye on job sites.

“They want to know what the machine is doing and what the status of the job site is,” de Groot says. “So, machine communication becomes very important. What has the feller butcher done today? What’s the log loader done today? What’s the species of the wood lot today? How much wood has been processed versus loaded out? All of that data, they want to report that. If they can get access to that information and then have live data down the road, it becomes really important.”

To assist customers with this type of reporting, John Deere has rolled out and continues to improve its Timbermatic maps program.

“We’ve already got some customers working on that, it’s a big part of that solution. It’s productivity reporting, the status of the different machines and what they’ve done today, wood inventory, species and diameters of trees, volumes of wood. All of this kind of data is what’s now being asked for to be reported out through that telematics system,” de Groot says.

Aaron Kleingartner, dealer and product marketing manager for Doosan Infracore North America, LLC, says that forestry professionals and logging companies are increasingly adopting this technology to improve their machine utilization, and access to these systems has greatly improved.

“Some of those automated processes can make the operator a better operator quicker,” de Groot says. “[Getting] that operator to a place where she/he’s competent, that becomes a useful technology.”

“Owners have access to the telematics system using a website or an app on a smartphone,” he says. “For example, an owner can use the app to see where a company’s log loaders are located on a map. The owner can click on a particular machine and review information about that machine, such as how much fuel it has left.”

Telematics systems are also extremely useful for the equipment dealers that sell and service the log loaders.

“Dealers receive updates when a log loader has an issue, such as when the machine displays a fault code,” Kleingartner says. “Dealers are better prepared to respond to service needs because they receive the fault code information and can address issues before dispatching a field service technician, if necessary. Some issues can be resolved by phone, resulting in log loaders getting back to work sooner.”

Automating certain processes for log loaders to assist inexperienced operators is another area where OEMs are looking to improve productivity for their customers, particularly in regions where qualified operators are hard to find.

“Some of those automated processes can make the operator a better operator quicker,” de Groot says. “[Getting] that operator to a place where she/he’s competent, that becomes a useful technology.”

Telematics systems will continue to expand in terms of data collection for what a machine is doing, so fleet and operations managers can continue to better view the productivity levels of their machines and operators, while keeping a closer eye on job sites.

Safety is another area where log loader technologies have been continuously progressing.

“Log loader manufacturers have added features like rearview cameras to help enhance operator visibility. The camera view is displayed on the LCD monitor inside the cab. This can be particularly useful when the log loader operator is working in a tight space or when they’re loading logs onto trucks,” Kleingartner says.

“Some log loader manufacturers are developing all-around view monitors, similar to what some automotive companies are now offering in vehicles. This technology will further enhance the operator’s ability to see objects, such as other machines, workers, or trucks, near the log loader. The all-around view may require log loader owners to install a separate monitor from the standard LCD monitor.”

de Groot says the ability for strong data collection and machine-to-machine communication in forestry equipment will be a very big factor in setting the various OEMs apart in the future.

Yarders

As less fibre becomes readily accessible, logging contractors have had to move to steeper slopes. This particularly true in B.C. One of the ways contractors tackle this challenge is through the use of yarders.

Del Penner of B.C.-based Integral Equipment, which supplies the Alpine Shovel Yarder and Alpine Grapple Carriage to North America, says that changes have been made to ensure yarders accommodate the needs of contractors.

“The industry has really gone to steep slopes,” he says. “Changes in yarders include them being smaller, more operator friendly and quicker to move. That’s the market we’re after.”

The latest model of yarder that Integral Equipment offers is a two-drum interlock mounted on an excavator. This swinging yarder system can yard 450 metres with a 3/4-inch superswage haulback and mainline without the need of guy lines.

Penner says yarder equipment needs to be more operator friendly than ever, since many of the veteran contractors are retiring and are being replaced with less experienced steep slope operators.

Pedestal loaders

At sawmill yards, pedestal loaders offer a low-emissions solution in a world where carbon footprints continuously become a bigger factor for forest products manufacturers to consider.

“Tanguay has always been manufacturing pedestal loaders for the mill yard, and the pedestal loaders have always been electric, on the grid with hydro,” says Daniel Chastenais, general manager for Machinerie Tanguay, headquartered in Roberval, Que. “With carbon critics, it’s important there’s some saving for emissions.”

The mobile Tanguay rail trolleys are designed to handle logs, chips and a variety of other materials. They can be used in standard sawmills, as well as other specialty wood product plants like OSB mills (oriented strand board) where shorter logs need to be picked up and placed in vats to treat them in hot water, then picked up again and fed into a debarker or strander.

“We have an OSB mill that has been using it to build a huge inventory at the mill entrance,” Chastenais says. “They give mills the versatility of mobile equipment. Clean and safe, these loaders can be used for several mill entrances.”

Tanguay rail trolleys can also be used to unload logging trucks from the top to feed into the mill.

“It’s very innovative,” Chastenais says.


This article appears in the November/December 2021 issue of Crane & Hoist Canada. Read the digital edition.