New Zealand Logger - - Contents - Story & Pho­tos: John El­le­gard

Wheel load­ers used to be pop­u­lar in Wood­hill For­est for stack­ing and log truck load­ing du­ties, but they dis­ap­peared a while ago in favour of tracked ma­chines. They’re mak­ing a come­back, with the first in al­most a quar­ter of a cen­tury now work­ing for Stokes Log­ging. The NZ Log­ger Iron Test team puts New Zealand’s first forestry-spec Hi­tachi ZW220-5 un­der the spot­light.

ALL EQUIP­MENT MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ERS PROM­ISE TO de­liver more per­for­mance and pro­duc­tiv­ity with each new model in­tro­duc­tion, but how many of them man­age to do that as a re­sult of switch­ing to a smaller AND less pow­er­ful en­gine?

Hi­tachi ap­pears to have achieved this feat with its lat­est ZW220-5 wheel loader.

Re­plac­ing the 164kW (220hp) Isuzu 7.8-litre en­gine with the smaller Cum­mins QSB6.7 unit that puts out 145kW (194hp) in the re­cently in­tro­duced 5-se­ries model might have been viewed as a ret­ro­grade step.

But slot your­self into the op­er­a­tor’s seat and it’s a dif­fer­ent story. There’s power aplenty from the Cum­mins en­gine and hy­draulic per­for­mance seems to have gone up a notch.

That was our opin­ion af­ter Iron Test­ing the first of the Hi­tachi dash-5 wheel load­ers to go into the for­est in New Zealand.

This par­tic­u­lar ma­chine has been work­ing with Stokes Log­ging for Han­cock For­est Man­age­ment in one of the north­ern blocks of Wood­hill For­est for the past year and al­though it’s taken us a while to get around to look­ing at it, we’re glad we did.

The op­por­tu­nity came about af­ter ar­rang­ing a test of the new El­tec that Steven Stokes is now jointly dis­tribut­ing in this mar­ket.

His Hi­tachi ZW220-5 has been on our radar for a while, how­ever we al­ways seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But with the Hi­tachi work­ing in an­other of Steven’s crews 20 min­utes up the road from the El­tec that we cov­ered in last month’s is­sue, the stars were per­fectly aligned.

Crew 733 was formed specif­i­cally to work in the north­ern part of Wood­hill and the Hi­tachi was pur­chased with that job in mind.

It’s been a long time since any wheel load­ers have worked in this sand-based for­est to the west of the Auck­land metropo­lis.

Around 20 years, thinks Steven, adding: “I don’t know why, they just fell out of fash­ion.

“When I was young, my old man ran wheel load­ers and my un­cle drove one when they were in Wood­hill For­est, so we de­cided to look at one when we were asked to move in here.”

Steven hasn’t had much per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with wheel load­ers dur­ing his own log­ging ca­reer but he recog­nises that they can be a fan­tas­tic tool in the right lo­ca­tions and pro­vide a real lift in per­for­mance. They are pop­u­lar in parts of Kain­garoa and sim­i­larly flat­tish forests in the cen­tral North Is­land, as well as around Nel­son and Marl­bor­ough, where ground con­di­tions re­main firm across all sea­sons.

Among the sell­ing points for Steven was the fact that Hi­tachi dis­trib­u­tor CablePrice has a branch at nearby Sil­verdale, which has a good rep­u­ta­tion for pro­vid­ing back-up “and that was a real draw­card for me – I did look at other wheel load­ers but it was the back-up that sold it”.

Steven freely ad­mits that he doesn’t know much about wheel load­ers, say­ing: “I didn’t even know there was a new model com­ing out when I bought this one.”

But af­ter test­ing it at the CablePrice yard with some logs to make sure he was happy with the bal­ance, there were no qualms about pro­ceed­ing with the pur­chase. And he’s still happy with the new ZW220-5.

“It’s great, goes well,” says Steven. “Seems to do ev­ery­thing we ask of it and it’s been very re­li­able, we haven’t touched it since it ar­rived.”

De­spite his lack of wheel loader knowl­edge, Steven recog­nises their plus points, com­pared to a tracked loader.

“In the right op­er­a­tion a wheel loader is ex­tremely ef­fi­cient and it

would be good to use in some of our other op­er­a­tions, but it’s the ter­rain – we can get away with it here be­cause there is more flat ar­eas where it can get around quickly and the base is sand,” he says.

“The turn-around on your log­ging trucks is twice as quick as a dig­ger. And you can de-phase your skids, push your stacks out so it be­comes a safer en­vi­ron­ment and you haven’t got dig­gers work­ing on top of each other un­der pres­sure try­ing to put the wood away.”

There are sig­nif­i­cant cost-sav­ings, too. Steven says: “We’re run­ning one dig­ger plus the wheel loader and if we didn’t have the ZW220 we’d prob­a­bly need to have three dig­gers, so it re­places two ma­chines.

“The big­gest ef­fi­cien­cies for me is that we can do 400 tonnes a day with a dig­ger and the wheel loader. If you’ve just got two dig­gers try­ing to do that sort of ton­nage it’s quite stress­ful and you prob­a­bly won’t reach your tar­gets.

“The wheel loader takes all the pres­sure off the front end of the job. So load­ing out times are much quicker – he can load a truck in un­der 5 min­utes – and with some of our loads go­ing to An­der­sons down the road at Kumeu it means if your truck is do­ing four loads a day nor­mally, you can get it back for an ex­tra load. Truck­ing is a hell of an is­sue down here and it just makes it a lot eas­ier for them, too.”

The ad­van­tage of a wheel loader is not just about speed over the ground, it’s also those big forks on the front that can grab around twice as much as a tracked loader’s grap­ple. The En­sign-made beak on this par­tic­u­lar ma­chine can hold up to 1.7 square me­tres of logs and it will cope with an all-up weight of around 8 tonnes. Not bad for a ma­chine that only tips that scales a tad over 18 tonnes it­self.

Since the ZW220-5 went to work for Stokes Log­ging it has cer­tainly lived up to Steven’s ex­pec­ta­tions.

“There’s lots to like about it, such as low op­er­at­ing costs,” he says.

“Be­cause of its speed over the ground you can send it out to load wood at dif­fer­ent skids. That’s prob­a­bly the thing I like about it the most. It’s that fast. When you shift skids the wheel loader can go and start work at the new site and then it can shoot back to load out a truck at the old one. It can even do a lit­tle bit of 2-stag­ing – if we get a pocket of wood say 100 me­tres down a forestry road and there’s no skid for it, we’ll some­times shovel it back and load it out, and it’s still pro­duc­tive.”

Armed with that in­for­ma­tion and Steven’s ring­ing en­dorse­ment, the Iron test team sets off for South Head, not far from the en­trance to the Kaipara Har­bour. When we ar­rive at the Crew 733 skid site, the Hi­tachi ZW220-5 is load­ing a truck and trailer, with a se­cond one wait­ing in the wings.

At first glance, it’s hard to spot the changes that sep­a­rate the new 5-se­ries from the pre­vi­ous ZW220 model from the out­side.

We know the cab is a wee bit dif­fer­ent, ben­e­fit­ting from the in­crease in size of the front and rear screens, which im­proves what was al­ready out­stand­ing vi­sion from the op­er­a­tor’s seat.

This is fur­ther en­hanced by re-shap­ing the rear bon­net to pro­vide bet­ter close-up views be­hind the ma­chine, which is aug­mented by a stan­dard rear-view cam­era. Op­er­a­tors can see bet­ter in the dark too, thanks to an ex­tra pair of front and rear lights.

And to keep the ma­chine look­ing cleaner on muddy sites, the mud flaps have been

widened and elon­gated.

But it’s on the in­side of the new ZW220-5 that the ma­jor­ity of the 5-se­ries changes have taken place.

As men­tioned at the start, Hi­tachi has re­placed its Isuzu en­gines with Cum­mins in its medium range wheel load­ers (ZW180-to-ZW220 mod­els) for en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons, al­though the units run­ning in New Zealand are still Tier 3, not the Tier 4 Fi­nal ones used in other mar­kets.

On pa­per, this would seem to be a step back­wards per­for­mance­wise, as the pre­vi­ous 7.8-litre Isuzu en­gine puts out 13% more (net) power than the new 6.7-litre Cum­mins. How­ever, the Cum­mins de­liv­ers a sim­i­lar amount of torque to the Isuzu and its peak is spread over a wide rev range, so the op­er­a­tor is treated to near-max­i­mum lev­els of per­for­mance once it gets into its work.

To make more of the avail­able power and torque, Hi­tachi has equipped the ZW220-5 with a new torque con­verter au­to­matic trans­mis­sion with five for­ward gears in place of the old four-speed box (it still has three re­verse gears).

It’s an au­to­mo­tive-style plan­e­tary au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, which makes gear shifts feel smoother and more car-like, while the lockup torque con­ver­tor helps to im­prove fuel ef­fi­ciency. Al­though it’s au­to­matic, the op­er­a­tor can se­lect the most ap­pro­pri­ate gears for the ma­chine to utilise, de­pend­ing on the ground con­di­tions – by se­lect­ing third gear, for ex­am­ple, it will shift through first up to third and down au­to­mat­i­cally, but not go be­yond that limit.

Dur­ing heavy work around the skid there’s an au­to­matic shift-up de­lay of four sec­onds from se­cond to third gear to pro­vide the op­er­a­tor with more ur­gency and con­trol­la­bil­ity, which is par­tic­u­larly handy when work­ing in con­fined spa­ces.

Hi­tachi says all shift changes are based on en­gine load rather than rpm or speed, en­sur­ing the trans­mis­sion se­lec­tions are made at the most ef­fi­cient time.

An­other neat fea­ture of the new ZW220-5 is the ride con­trol, which re­duces vi­bra­tion while the wheel loader is trav­el­ling on rough ground. This fea­ture turns on when the ma­chine is trav­el­ling and goes off au­to­mat­i­cally when it’s in load­ing mode.

To put Hi­tachi’s power smoothly and ef­fec­tively down to the ground, the ZW220-5 em­ploys torque pro­por­tional dif­fer­en­tials, re­duc­ing wheel spin and min­imis­ing tyre wear. Heavy-duty axles en­sure this loader can put up with the rigours of work­ing in hos­tile forestry en­vi­ron­ments. The hy­draulic sys­tem has also been en­hanced to make it more re­spon­sive to op­er­a­tor in­put and smoother dur­ing finer load­ing ma­noeu­vres. An­other new fea­ture is the anti-drift valve that pre­vents in­ter­nal oil leak­ages that can cause creep­ing of the lift arm.

There is a choice of two work modes, which the op­er­a­tor can se­lect to suit the job and work­ing con­di­tions; in the Stan­dard mode the en­gine revs are con­trolled so that the em­pha­sis is on smooth, ef­fi­cient op­er­a­tion in nor­mal con­di­tions, while the Power mode of­fers ex­tra trac­tion for heavy-duty load­ing or trav­el­ling up­hill.

When work­ing in Stan­dard mode, a quick power switch on the dash­board can be se­lected by the op­er­a­tor to de­liver a power boost when ex­tra lift­ing per­for­mance is re­quired.

Steven men­tioned the good fuel con­sump­tion he’s see­ing from the new ZW220-5 and ad­di­tional fuel sav­ings can be achieved with an op­tional auto-en­gine shut­down func­tion that pre­vents ex­ces­sive idling by switch­ing off the ma­chine af­ter a set time, which is fit­ted to this ma­chine. To help the op­er­a­tor main­tain ef­fi­cient work prac­tices, an ECO mon­i­tor dis­play shows when the wheel loader is op­er­at­ing eco­nom­i­cally in ECO mode.

Im­proved main­te­nance has also been a fo­cus in the de­sign of the new ZW220-5 and pre­vent­ing the ra­di­a­tor from clog­ging up in dusty con­di­tions with­out the op­er­a­tors hav­ing to get out and clean it them­selves was one tar­get for Hi­tachi. The re­versible cool­ing fan can be set to au­to­matic mode to pro­vide a minute of re­verse flow for every 30 min­utes of op­er­a­tion or the fan can be re­versed man­u­ally.

There’s bet­ter ac­cess from the ground to the daily main­te­nance points around the en­gine as a re­sult of the re­designed en­gine cov­ers, which lift up fur­ther out of the way.

Ac­cess to the cab is safer, thanks to steps that are

less steep be­cause they’re an­gled fur­ther out­ward.

There are doors on ei­ther side of the cab but the pri­mary en­trance­way is on the left side of the ma­chine, which also opens out wider than be­fore.

Up here, the fruits of the en­larged glass area are im­me­di­ately no­tice­able. The op­er­a­tor has a com­pletely un­ob­structed, panoramic view for­ward, with the front pil­lars moved fur­ther out. There’s good vi­sion down to the ground on ei­ther side of the forks and to the rear, both sides of the coun­ter­weight can be seen clearly from the cab for bet­ter ma­noeu­vring in tight quar­ters.

The heated air sus­pen­sion seat is very wel­come on cold early morn­ing starts and it comes with ad­justable lum­bar sup­port and a high level of travel to com­fort­ably ac­com­mo­date even the tallest op­er­a­tors, while the wrist and arm rests and side con­sole are all ad­justable.

Get­ting into the seat is also eas­ier be­cause the steer­ing wheel can be tilted fur­ther for­ward when the op­er­a­tor is en­ter­ing or ex­it­ing.

The lay­out of the new dash­board is much cleaner and more user friendly, but what we par­tic­u­larly like is the in­tro­duc­tion of trans­mis­sion con­trols to the joy­stick lever on the right, where the op­er­a­tor also works the boom and forks. There’s still a trans­mis­sion lever on the steer­ing col­umn for tra­di­tion­al­ists, but it’s largely re­dun­dant, as we’ll soon see.

The A/C sys­tem has also been up­graded and is bet­ter at keep­ing the cab warm and cosy in win­ter and cool on hot sum­mer days. There’s a new sound sys­tem too, which in­cor­po­rates an MP3 dock to al­low op­er­a­tors to play their own choice of mu­sic.

Plenty of stor­age spa­ces around the cab, with a large space be­hind the op­er­a­tor’s seat for a lunch box and to the right-hand side is a cooler com­part­ment that will hold four cans or bot­tles plus, there’s a large drink holder on the other side of the seat that will hold a 1.5-litre bot­tle.

I’ll leave it to Iron Tester, Stan Bar­low, to fur­ther ex­plain the nu­ances of the cab and con­trols in his col­umn on page 36.

Mean­while, reg­u­lar op­er­a­tor Leighton Lip­sham, has fin­ished load­ing the first truck and is in the process of lift­ing the trailer off the back of the se­cond truck to al­low Stan to load the bunks and fleet around the skid as part of his Iron Test du­ties.

When Leighton joins us for a quick chat be­fore Stan takes over we men­tion how eas­ily the Hi­tachi seemed to cope with the weight of the flat deck trailer.

This trailer is prob­a­bly around the 7-tonne mark, but Leighton says it has coped with more: “One of the 5-axle log deck truck and trail­ers that comes in here is 7,900kg and I can pick it up for the driver to re­verse out with­out any prob­lems.”

We don’t want to hold the driver of this unit up, so Leighton gives Stan a quick run-down on the ZW220-5 con­trols and points to the stack of logs that need to be loaded. This may be the last truck to­day, so we want to take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity now.

With Stan un­der way, I ask Leighton how he is en­joy­ing his time in the for­est, as he’s only been in the in­dus­try since this crew was es­tab­lished last year.

“Re­ally en­joy­ing it, I was in earth­works op­er­at­ing a dig­ger for a con­trac­tor, but that was with a bucket, so this is my first ex­pe­ri­ence with logs,” he says.

Be­fore he could be let loose in a ma­chine in the for­est Leighton first had to learn how a har­vest­ing skid site works and he spent six months as a QC, with the oc­ca­sional op­por­tu­nity to hop into the ZW220-5 cab dur­ing smoko breaks.

The Hi­tachi started in this block with the highly ex­pe­ri­enced se­nior op­er­a­tor, Harold, at the con­trols and Leighton says he learned a great deal from the veteran log­ger.

“I count my­self very lucky to be taught by some­one like Harold – such an ex­cel­lent op­er­a­tor,” he says.

As Leighton gained more ex­pe­ri­ence he was able to sit his wheel loader ticket, fol­lowed by a fleet­ing ticket and then load­ing truck and trailer ticket. By Christ­mas, he was in the ma­chine full time.

Does he like it?

“Yeah, al­though I’ve got noth­ing to com­pare this with as it’s my first for­est ma­chine – it’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent to a dig­ger, es­pe­cially one with a bucket, which is what I’ve been used to,” he says. “It took a while to get com­fort­able work­ing with a fork, be­cause you have to work with grav­ity whereas buck­ets are mostly about the con­trols.”

Watch­ing Stan ma­noeu­vre back and forth to po­si­tion him­self be­tween the trailer bol­sters with a full load of logs in the beak, Leighton says it’s much eas­ier to use the right-hand com­bi­na­tion lever to work the gears and the arm/forks in­stead of the sep­a­rate steer­ing col­umn-mounted for­ward/re­verse lever.

“I did use the gear lever on the steer­ing col­umn when I started, but I don’t any­more,” he says.

“Once I used the joy­stick op­tion I found it way bet­ter, you save a whole lot of time, es­pe­cially when I go in for a grab with it in neu­tral or re­verse and I can do it all with one hand.”

For a rea­son­ably long ma­chine – just un­der 8.5 me­tres from coun­ter­weight to the tip of the tines – the ZW220 is highly ma­noeu­vrable. There’s limited room on the side of the trailer that is clos­est to the log stacks, but the pivot pro­vides good steer­ing lock to al­low Stan to line it up eas­ily with­out too much fuss.

Leighton agrees, adding: “One thing I like about this ma­chine is its mo­bil­ity. It’s good to move around on the skid, it’s fast and very agile, es­pe­cially when I’m fleet­ing.”

When he’s just work­ing around the skid Leighton prefers to min­imise the gear changes and re­strict the trans­mis­sion to no higher than third gear.

“That’s more than enough,” says Leighton, and af­ter check­ing the spec sheet to see that even in third gear he can still hit a top speed of 24.9km/h, I’m in­clined to agree. Out on the track be­tween skids it’s a dif­fer­ent mat­ter and the ZW220-5 can be given its head, pro­vided the ground isn’t too rough, with a max­i­mum of 36km/h pos­si­ble in fifth gear.

“It’s quite handy to have that fifth gear when we’ve got two skids

run­ning and I have to go be­tween the two, you can get up and back a whole lot faster – it would take a dig­ger half-an-hour to walk,” Leighton adds.

Like all mod­ern equip­ment, the Hi­tachi con­trols can be cus­tomised to suit the op­er­a­tor or the op­er­a­tion it­self and one fea­ture he par­tic­u­larly likes is the ride con­trol where he can set it for dif­fer­ent speeds, ie firm for fast speeds when trav­el­ling longer dis­tances and a low set­ting to de­liver a smoother ride on a bumpy skid site.

There is, how­ever, one set­ting Leighton doesn’t like; the dual lift arm auto lever.

“It’s kind of a nui­sance be­cause it prob­a­bly re­lates more to us­ing a bucket for load­ing metal in a min­ing or quarry sit­u­a­tion,” he says. “When it’s on and I go in for a load it clicks back and then auto lev­els, which is an­noy­ing when I’m try­ing to flush out logs or clean some­thing up and the stack starts to rise and it gets in the way, so I turn it off.”

But he is happy with just about ev­ery­thing else and says that even with a heavy load in the forks the con­trols re­spond quickly and pre­cisely, which make load­ing a truck and trailer eas­ier. And the ma­chine feels very sta­ble with the 2,270kg of coun­ter­weight on the back.

“It’s got a good ton­nage ra­tio, so it will do 7 tonnes around the skid site eas­ily and maybe 8 when I load a truck and trailer, but I wouldn’t want to go past 8 tonnes,” Leighton says.

“With a 4-axle truck, two grabs and it’s done, then two grabs and a top-up for the trailer. And with the 5-axle trailer its one grab for the first packet and then two for the back.”

Load­ing the truck and trailer is made eas­ier with the ex­cel­lent all-round vi­sion, though Leighton says he keeps an eye on the re­vers­ing cam­era when back­ing up, be­cause there are still blinds spots be­hind the big bon­net. He’s set it so the view from the rear-fac­ing cam­era comes up au­to­mat­i­cally on the large screen when­ever re­verse gear is se­lected.

Stan has com­pleted load­ing the truck, which has now moved off to where the driver can chain up, leav­ing the skid clear for a spot of fleet­ing. Leighton briefs Stan on where the cut logs are to be stacked and he’s off to get a feel for how the ma­chine be­haves in this role.

Be­ing a Fri­day af­ter­noon, we’re mind­ful of the fact the boys want to fin­ish on time so they can get into town.

That’s not go­ing to be a prob­lem, thanks to the way the Hi­tachi ZW220-5 skips around the skid and leaves it tidy with min­utes to spare.

If only more sites around the coun­try were able to make use of a wheel loader – think of the lift in in pro­duc­tiv­ity.


Above left: A cou­ple of loads are enough to fill the bunk – much quicker than an ex­ca­va­tor-based loader. Above right: Iron Tester, Stan Bar­low, uses the pre­cise con­trols to nudge way­ward logs into place.Be­low: Reg­u­lar op­er­a­tor, Leighton Lip­sham, has no trou­ble lift­ing the 4-axle trailer off this truck.

Above left: The pivot pro­vides an ex­cel­lent turn­ing cir­cle.Above right: Clean­ing up the skid site with a log in the forks helps smooth the sur­face for faster speeds.Be­low: Even with a heavy load, the Hi­tachi ZX220-5 keeps its wheels firmly planted on the ground when out­stretched.

Good ac­cess to the en­gine and main­te­nance points from the ground.

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