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Michigan C-T-L Logger Relies on Valmet

MVA Enterprises leans heavily on Valmet machines, harvesting-processing heads

By Alan Froome
Date Posted: 9/1/2003


FELCH, Michigan — Modern logging companies often are highly mechanized. There still is a place for hand-felling logging operations with chain saws. However, productivity and working condition issues in vast forests — especially in winter — led to the development of mechanized logging machines.

The early designs have evolved and been refined. With today’s sophisticated, high-tech machines, operators work in comfortable, climate-controlled cabs. Loggers have been willing to accept new ideas in equipment in their continual search to improve efficiency, and they changed their operations to use the new machines. MVA Enterprises readily adopted new cut-to-length logging equipment technology and today successfully operates two Valmet cut-to-length machines and a Timbco track machine equipped with a Valmet harvesting-processing head. All the equipment is supplied by Partek Forest.

MVA Enterprises, which operates on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is owned by Mark Anderson. After two years of college, Mark began working for a mining company but moved into logging when the local mine closed. "I started logging in a small way in 1981 with a John Deere 1010 fitted with a Gafner 30 loader," Mark recalled. "I was the only employee."

Today his company harvests a mix of hardwoods and softwoods — about 60% softwood and 40% hardwood — on the southern end of the peninsula, including aspen, pine, spruce, cedar, balsam, sugar and soft maple, plus some oak. Tree sizes range from 6 to 30 inches in diameter. Most mills want logs in lengths from 8 to 16 feet. Since most of the harvest is pulpwood, logs usually are bucked to 8 feet.

MVA Enterprises works on jobs up to 75 miles away, supplying logs to several steady customers. "There are four paper mills within 50 miles of us," said Mark, "so we cut as much as 85 percent pulpwood." In addition, MVA Enterprises supplies aspen pulp to a Louisiana-Pacific oriented strand board mill and aspen logs to Aspen Lumber Company, which makes furniture. Most of the company’s maple pulp goes to International Paper Company, and the bulk of its saw and veneer logs go to Kretz Lumber Company.

MVA Enterprises has six employees, including Mark. Two of his three sons work in the business. David Anderson is one of the company’s two cutters; working with chain saws, they follow the harvesters to perform clean-up cutting, and they also hand-fell trees that will produce high quality veneer logs. Steve Anderson runs the company’s Valmet 646 forwarder.

Thanks to the mechanized logging equipment, the relatively small number of employees produces between 600 and 700 cords of wood in a typical week. The men work year-round in heat and snow. "Temperatures around here can range from
30 degrees below freezing to more than 95 degrees," said Mark. "We only shut
down in April, when the ice thaws and it gets too muddy."

MVA Enterprises contracts with other loggers to augment its operations for
extra skidding. The company also contracts for trucking.

Partek Forest "has been good to deal with," said Mark. "Their local service is second to none, and they can always help with a visit or a phone call if we get stuck."

Making a transition to cut-to-length logging requires a considerable commitment, noted Mark. "It takes a while to learn the computer, maybe a year — learning how to get the best out of the system."

Mark was keen to mention the help he has received from the Michigan Association of Timbermen, which offers loggers a good workers’ compensation insurance program and other benefits. "They helped me get where I am today, and they promote professionalism and good safety practices in the industry," he said. At one time Mark served on the association’s board of
directors; he now serves in a similar capacity for the Michigan Professional Loggers Council.

MVA Enterprises Equipment

MVA Enterprises is equipped with three cut-to-length harvesters and a forwarder. The company’s machines include:

• A Valmet 901C rubber tired four-wheel harvester, purchased in 1999 and equipped with a Valmet 960 single-grip head, which has five delimbing knives.

• A Timbco 415D Hydro-Buncher track machine, purchased in 2002 and paired with a Valmet 380 single-grip head for logging what Mark called "rougher trees."

• A Valmet 911C rubber tired six-wheel harvester, purchased in 2003 and matched with a Valmet 965 single-grip head for felling and delimbing larger trees.

• A Valmet 646 six-wheel forwarder, capable of carrying 12 tons of logs and equipped with a Cranab 650 grapple for loading and unloading.

Since logs generally are bucked to 8 or 10 feet, they are loaded cross-way on the forwarder and similarly on the truck bed for delivery to mill customers.

Leif Magnusson, president of Partek Forest North America, said the biggest challenge of running a cut-to-length harvester is training the operator. He compared the operator’s role to "running a factory, especially when the cut-to-length system is set up to run in ‘value’ mode. (The computerized control system can be set to run in either ‘value’ or ‘recovery’ mode.) The operator can have a huge influence on the company’s bottom line."

Partek has training simulators available at several locations to teach loggers how to run the machine and the computerized control system. The simulators are similar to those used to train pilots. The trainee sits at a control console that mirrors the actual cab of the harvester. He sees simulated forests on a large projection screen and practices maneuvering the machine and felling and processing trees.

"Some our machinery dealers now have their own simulators," said Leif.
Simulators also are being used in training programs at some community or technical colleges.

Valmet Harvesters

Valmet harvesters use the MAXI computer software developed at the Partek plant in Umeo, Sweden specifically for North American loggers. Software upgrades are offered as they become available.

When talking about payback of cut-to-length machines, Leif said, "Recovery can improve tremendously, depending on the individual logging operation. Another important factor when talking about cost is machine life expectancy. The lifetime of a conventional logging skidder or similar machine is 10,000 to 12,000 hours of operation. In contrast, we expect 20,000 hours from our machines. This is largely due to the easy riding design of the machines. There is no bouncing about as you travel over the terrain."

Henrick Karlsson is a cut-to-length specialist at Roland Machinery in Escanaba, Mich., the local Partek Forest dealer that supplied the Valmet and Timbco machines to MVA Enterprises. A registered forester from Sweden, he is also a qualified machine operator and trainer, so he is well qualified to teach and advise logging contractors in the use of cut-to-length technology. He is usually out of the office, visiting customers and providing product support and training operators. Henrick also makes minor adjustments to the machines as needed.

The Valmet computerized controls and MAXI program provide a great deal of flexibility to the machine operators, he noted. "The basic system is easy to use, and we can set it up for a customer so that he hardly needs to change anything. However, there are a lot of features available to do more sophisticated work."

Many machine functions can be programmed to suit an individual operator, Henrick explained. "The speed of the crane movement, the harvesting function, even how the machine drives can be set up to suit an individual operator’s skill level. Each operator logs his name into the system when he starts up to activate his personal program."

The operator has a screen in the cab like that of a laptop computer. He can choose from five preset operating options to suit the particular job, which can include pulpwood, random length, minimum diameter, quality, or others. Loggers in some regions use other features, such as log taper, when optimizing the lengths to be bucked. The computer system has a trouble-shooting mode with eight windows to identify problems, such as a failed sensor, and it has the potential to use a CD-ROM and map software.

Henrick compared track machines and rubber tire machines. "In my opinion the rubber tire machines are cheaper to run and nicer for the operator to work with," he said.

Roland Machinery

Roland Machinery’s dealership in Escanaba, located on the bank of Lake Michigan and about 100 miles north of Green Bay, Wis., is managed by Matt Hanson.

Roland Machinery, headquartered in Springfield, Ill., has 15 dealership locations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri and Indiana. The Escanaba branch serves loggers throughout Michigan, with most of them working in the Upper Peninsula.

Matt began selling logging machinery in 1982. The following year he sold a machine to MVA Enterprises. He has a high regard of Mark and his company. "He has a very good, honest operation," said Matt. The three harvesters at MVA’s disposal give the company a great deal of flexibility when it comes to timber and terrain, Matt noted.

Roland Machinery sales and service representative Perry Hughes keeps in close touch with MVA Enterprises and other customers in the region.

Roland Machinery also represents the Komatsu line equipment, Serco log loaders and Risley harvesting-processing heads. The dealership has 23 employees, including 10 mechanics and four service representatives.

When a cut-to-length machine is delivered to a contractor, Henrick will be on-site the first week to help make the transition and will continue to provide follow-up technical support.

"Full training is vital when a customer switches over from" conventional tree-length logging, said Matt.

Partek Forest

Partek Forest is part of the Partek international group of companies with forest division headquarters in Umeo, Sweden. It is a publicly-traded, Finnish-owned company, employing about 12,000 people and with origins to 1898. The forest division employs 1,100 people. Besides Valmet, the Partek Group also markets and supplies Timbco forestry machines and Cranab grapples and cranes.

Valmet built its first logging machines in the early 1960s, beginning with a slasher-bundler and a forwarder based on a truck platform. In 1988 Valmet purchased Gafner Machinery in Gladstone, Mich., which had been in business since 1946 and had pioneered the development of the short wood forwarder, known as the ‘Iron Mule.’ Valmet joined the Sisu Corporation of Finland in 1994, and Sisu-Valmet merged with Partek in 1997. The Partek Group added track logging machinery to its line in 2000 with the acquisition of Timbco Hydraulics.

Cut-To-Length

Partek now manufactures logging machines and attachments in Shawano, Wis., Umeo, Sweden and Brazil. Its network of dealers provides sales and service in all the principal forestry regions of the world. Partek North America is based in Shawano, just west of Green Bay.

"We are proud of our environmentally friendly and efficient machines," said Leif. "Following our company reorganization during the last two years, we feel we now have the best distribution network for service and support."

Cut-to-length logging is becoming more accepted and widespread, according to Leif. The technology was more readily accepted in Eastern North America and is spreading west. He estimated that 70% of all log bucking in the Canadian Maritime region is done by cut-to-length logging machines and about 40% in Quebec. In the U. S., cut-to-length is growing in the Northwest and Southeast. Close to 1,000 Valmet forestry machines are now in operation and more than 2,200 Timbco machines.




 






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