Technologies to improve wood harvesting and transport

Thursday 17 Apr 2014

Over 400 forest managers, owners and harvesting contractors from New Zealand, Australia (a group of around 30 forest contractors visited as part of an industry tour organised by AFCA), the US, Canada and South America converged on Rotorua at the end of last year. The occasion was the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) organised Steep Slope Wood Harvesting conference and a Forestry Safety Summit. It was certainly this region’s largest gathering of forest managers and contactors seen for many years.

The success of the November event along with innovations drawn from a transport and logistics programme run for US forestry companies in the Pacific North West in October last year have been incorporated into this year’s Wood Flow Logistics 2014 event. The mid-June series is being run for local companies in both Australia and New Zealand. “New technologies, new practices and new operating systems being developed and adopted by some of the more innovative forestry, harvesting and wood transport companies” will be the focus for Wood Flow Logistics 2014”, says Brent Apthorp, FIEA Director.

At last year’s Steep Slope Wood Harvesting event, technologies that improved both worker safety and productivity on steeper terrain were highlighted. What was interesting is that a number of these new innovations were being developed by those working in the forest. There was an immediate need to change how wood was being harvested with their current equipment. The initiative was coming from contractors working together with local engineering companies.

Dale Ewers is a harvesting contractor based in Nelson with crews working around New Zealand. Late in 2011 the company decided after experimenting with a number of grapple carriages on their cable hauling and yarder operations to design and build their own – the Falcon Forestry Claw. The grapple carriages are now employed in all of Dale’s crews and have been picked up by other contractors. Fifteen have been produced. A smaller and lighter carriage has also just been built (800kg lighter with a maximum payload of approximately 4 tonnes) and at the time of writing, was being trialled by two of Dale’s crews.

The forestry claw incorporates a camera into the grapple carriage providing the operator a real time bird’s eye view of the operation. It includes an infrared camera and carriage lighting for operating in the dark, GPS location (with data on cycle time, elevation, distance, speed and slope being supplied), details on carriage distance to hauler and a host of other benefits. Dale’s Nelson crews are up to 95% utilisation with the grapple carriages.

Other innovations include an addition of an extra arm on the grapple that will hold trees already within the claw to multi-bunch (potentially leading to a 30% increase in the number of trees brought up to the landing). Other innovations being worked on by Dale and his team include a remote winch assist dozer, remote winch assist digger, crew voice recorders, automated hauler controls and a log carriage being fitted with a felling head. The objective from the start was to mechanise their harvesting operations with the aim of eliminating or reducing incidents on the landings, then with breaking out operations and finally, incidents through manual felling on steeper slopes.

Dale will be outlining these innovations and one of Australia’s largest stand-alone harvest and haul operations, Sunchip will be presenting as part of the harvesting component of the Australian leg of the Wood Flow Logistics event his year. In addition, the very latest developments from Waratah Forestry Attachments, Tigercat, Brightwater Engineering, an overview of innovations being used by leading South American harvesting operations and a new on-line mapping product to assist in harvest planning will be discussed at both the Australian and New Zealand legs of the Wood Flow Logistics 2014 event.

Wood Flow Logistics 2014 will run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 11-12 June and again in Melbourne, Australia, in the following week on 17-18 June. Further details on each programme can be found on the event website,

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