No people equals no harm – contractor
IF YOU DON’T HAVE PEOPLE WORKING IN dangerous jobs you won’t harm them reckons Nelson-based contractor, Dale Ewers.
So he is developing harvesting systems that can be operated from the safety of an office away from the forest with the aim of keeping his people out of harms’ way.
Dale unveiled his vision of what a remotely-operated harvesting system could look like at the Forest Industry Safety & Technology 2018 conference in Rotorua last month.
It’s a vision he and his teams at Moutere Logging and Falcon Forestry Equipment have been working on for the last few years, developing machines and systems to be used in dangerous and challenging environments, including the Falcon Claw grapple carriage that’s used in place of breaker-outs and Falcon winch-assist to enable falling and bunching of trees on steep terrain.
And they’re planning on using more technology to further replace people on the ground with machines, and eventually take the people out of those machines.
“At the end of the day, how can you hurt someone if there is no one there?” says Dale.
It all started back in 2010 when Dale was looking at reports on injury incidents and tasked his people to come up with ideas to drive down the serious harm trends.
The Falcon Claw came first and with 42 now operating they’ve clocked up a collective 200,000 operational hours with zero harm recorded. More than 55 Falcon winch-assist systems are also working and have clocked up 260,000 harm-free hours, leading to more than 84% of felling now being done by machines. That percentage will increase as the newly developed Falcon Felling Carriage enters service soon.
Another development is the upgrading of towers and swing yarders with new technology that will interface with other equipment and systems in the harvesting operation.
“You’ll be able to harvest a tree and return it to the landing with the push of one button, taking out all the complex part of harvesting,” predicts Dale, who says that GPS will also be harnessed to ensure the felling head returns to the same position on the skyline.
“We’re in the process of automating and integrating all our machinery. When we designed our winch-assist we had a vision of how it would work with the rest of the equipment going out years ahead and have it fully integrated.
“Our goal is by 2025 to be logging from inside an office.”
And he says that with the one-button process, it would be possible for a single person to be controlling more than one harvesting operation at a time from that office.
There’s still a little way to get to that goal, but Dale says the next step is to refine the current harvesting operation with the technology that is now being introduced so that the yarder, felling carriage, processor/ loader are more integrated and the number of crew required would drop down to two or three – they could even double-shift with five people.
To those who say this approach is taking jobs away from people, Dale says it’s hard enough getting new people into the industry and this way will make forestry more attractive to the next generation.
By 2025, Moutere Logging workers could be sitting at one of these simulators in a building far away from the forest, rather than in an actual cab.