Nathan Taylor, Mechanised Cable Harvesting Limited - Nelson
We are pretty passionate about mechanisation at MCH and have been engaged with utilising new technologies for the last 15 years. Our focus is around mechanisation making it easier to keep people safe in a cab environment rather than on the slopes. There are number of options out there and we progressed with an EMS machine tethering using a grapple swing yarder for extraction and a further EMS machine with a falcon carriage. The cost is expensive but it’s important for everyone involved to rationalise that against the cost of a life and keeping our people safe. From the health & safety aspect mechanisation is key to taking lives out of the most critically dangerous manual situations. We feel that there is great opportunity for our people to train and get themselves a new skill set as the operation of these machines should not be under estimated. Most definitely MCH feel good that we have made every effort to keep our crews safe.
Wayne McEwen, Blackstump Logging - Gisborne
Following a two-day trip to Nelson and being hosted by DC Equipment who were very willing to share their information and show us different techniques in harvesting and using the Falcon grapple, I became fully supportive of mechanisation and the aware of changes in processing and totally behind taking men off the slopes. With an open mind we have made changes to the way we log and we are able to shovel and feed our grapple because we have no people on the slopes. Some settings are getting us 100% off our systems and at times we have to revert back to manual but this is a positive change to the crew not having to do the manual work day after day. Understandably it takes a bit to get the system and operation right, but we are now seeing poor and average logging conditions achieving better production rates and others in the region have tethering technology and getting great results. I also think there is more opportunities for crew to move around the company and take up roles utilising new technologies, providing diversity and that extra challenge to advance themselves and their learning. We are finding that some of our younger crew members have some pretty good talent in this area, we have a 20 year old “weapon” to quote and our main breaker out is now operating the hauler & grapple system. With the addition of a Falcon winch assist machine arriving in March, we are expecting even greater productivity and I am sure it won’t stop there.
Nick Tombleson, Tombleson Logging - Taupo
As a ground base crew Tombleson Logging is a different story in regards to mechanisation to others as having operated for 7 years prior with zero incidences, this was not a requirement only for safety. Initially we felt that we did not want to be left behind with technology advancing production. We also recognised the social impact that can come about going mechanised, that social awareness not wanting to lose loyal staff and so were fortunate that we did not have to lose anyone in the changeover. Historically looking back, you think it’s expensive, but you have to consider all the benefits, the production gains and cost benefits. There is a high level of initial debt and I think forest managers may not realise the enormity of that debt. Mechanisation is now moving that fast, that if you’re not keeping up with it you will find you get left behind. Rapid advancements with technology in the last 6 months has provided effective tracking on checks and balances in your business and having accurate data to be able to talk about results with crew. That data is black & white and not hearsay and can be shared, making production real. With crews spread from Northland to Taupo this is going to mean we are more in control of our business.
Allan Sole, Sole Logging Ltd – New Plymouth
We have a huge issue finding labour on the West coast of the North Island and we have had to consider technology if we want to stay sustainable. It is not a shortage of jobs but a shortage of skilled people. So, bearing in mind mechanisation is a huge cost to outlay for relatively low production harvesting but facing severe skill and labour shortages, our options were limited and to continue operating we have invested in two different grapple carriages, the EMS hawk-eye and the DC Equipment Falcon grapple. We know from others that there is a period of learning, changing habits and settling in so it is hard to say what the cost variations are machine vs man but that will become clear soon and obviously there are few options if you do not have people to take up manual roles. Technology is also about testing the concept but unless people are prepared to give it a go, support it and supply feed-back to equipment companies then we will not move ahead. We also now operate 4 processors on the landings, again in response to the scarce labour resource. It is a balancing act to keep people on the ground as there are times when machines cannot be used and physical power versus technology is a totally different skill set. With mechanisation these important skill sets are slowly being lost.