West coast loggers drawn to New Zealand technology

Tahlia HopkinsSteep Slope Logging

The tables are set to be turned on logging contractors in Washington and Oregon. For decades USA loggers have sold their old cable logging equipment to their New Zealand counterparts. Now, technology developed down under is rapidly gaining favor on the west coast. As a result, Kiwi loggers are set to show off their newest steep slope logging innovations on USA’s west coast on April 20, 2017.

New Zealand’s loggers faced massive safety challenges in tree falling, especially on steep slopes, in 2014. They simply had to reduce accidents or face massive workplace restrictions. A few innovative loggers led the way to a much safer way to harvest steep sloped forests.

The first innovation was a custom-designed traction-assisted harvester, the ClimbMax, built and commissioned by Nigel Kelly of Kelly Logging in steep South Island forests. Once he had proven winch-assist concepts in practice, others developed competing designs. This competitive spark drove innovations in other logging safety applications. The resulting innovations are set to provide benefits to loggers harvesting steep forests up and down the west coast.

Another logger-turned-manufacturer chose to use a twin-winch design. “We focused completely on key safety and engineering principles first,” says NZ-based logging equipment manufacturer Chris Hancock. He adds, “engineering standards come first, then we looked at performance expectations. So far it’s working well.” The result is a high-tech system mounted on an anchor machine remotely controlled by the harvester operator.

Quick to see the benefits of these New Zealand innovations was Frank Chandler, an experienced logger working throughout Washington state with his father, Frank Snr. Their company, C&C Logging has learned how to adapt and operate these new systems in USA west coast conditions.

Joining Kelly, Hancock and Chandler will be several other leading loggers with years of on the ground experience. They are just part of a strong contingent of forestry professionals heading to the Red Lion Hotel in Kelso, Washington for the first USA “Steep Slope Logging” Conference on April 20, 2017. The full conference program is now available online. To view the program and register, go to: http://steepslopelogging.events

Photo: ClimbMAX harvester

Tree-falling paradigm set to shift

Tahlia HopkinsSteep Slope Logging

The rise of winch-assist harvesters – Exports of New Zealand-designed and built high- tech forest machines is set to surge ahead following last month’s Steep Slope Logging Conference in Richmond, BC, Canada. A sell-out audience was on hand to see the new winch-assist mechanized harvesting techniques. Contractors and foresters heard how the new machines have revolutionised safety in New Zealand’s forest industry. With the large technical conference last week, these paradigm-shift in harvesting technology is now better understood in BC, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

With hundreds of US-based and Canadian forest managers and contractors registered, the conference sold out in the final week. Clearly, there was a lot of interest in the range of practical experiences among the five contractors and winch-assist manufacturers from New Zealand. Seeing the equipment in action was even more in demand as places on the field tour sold out weeks ahead of time. The forest locations chosen made for excellent demonstrations of these new machines operating on Vancouver Island.

On conference day the delegates were well-served with a range of loggers and engineers detailing their journey from concept to in-forest production with the now popular winch assist harvesters which have gained a strong reputation for both safety and production in NZ. However, many speakers explained that the benefits gained from New Zealand’s steep slope harvesters had flow to both contractors and licensees in North America – without that the introduction of these paradigm-shifting machines would not be happening.

Several of the speakers now have multiple winch-assist falling machines operating in a number of Pacific Northwest states as well as the BC coast and interior.

  • Falcon Forestry Equipment’s Dale Ewers, whose companies include 14 logging operations spread throughout New Zealand spoke to conference delegates about a range of innovative new logging systems that his large team of loggers and equipment designers have developed and implemented. They largest selling innovation has been the camera grapple carriage that removes the need for men to to on the slope hooking logs on. He also finished his talk with real film footage of his leading-edge research-proven carriage mounted felling head showing how easy it can fell trees.
  • EMS/Tractionline’s Chris Hancock detailed the exhaustive engineering approach they adopted in designing their traction-assist system to meet the appropriate engineering standards and relevant codes. Their equipment is already operating in Washington-based logging contractor, Frank Chandler’s operations.
  • With the several ROB machines already operating in production logging operations on Vancouver Island, Iain May, from Rosewarne and May, explained how their remote-operated bulldozer work. They operate in tandem with the slope-assisted feller bunchers and have been running in second growth settings in Island Timberlands’ private forests. The units are owned and operated by Lyall Newton’s Island Pacific logging operations.
  • Professional forester Ryan Potter, from Tolko Industries in Alberta, spoke to the conference group about the breakthroughs made in their forest operations. He emphasized the need for team communications regarding harvest planning and layout for these new safe and productive logging systems. In the presentation of the day Paul Jensen from ClimbMAX equipment joined in a practical panel session detailing learnings from their long experience having been the pioneers for winch-assist logging operations in North America.

Tremendous response for international steep land logging conference

Tahlia HopkinsSteep Slope Logging

Wide range of forest industry practitioners confirmed

Conference organizers are reporting a great response to a technical logging conference and field demo set to run on March 2-3 in Richmond, BC.  Foresters and loggers, keen to learn how traction-assist harvesters can safely handle forest slopes, have signed up in droves for the event.  Places for delegates on the field demos sold out earlier this week.


Steep Slope Logging conference delegates have been steadily registering for the conference – so much so that the field demos associated with the conference have now sold out. A big draw card for delegates is the presence of a number of key logging innovators making the trip to share their experiences with locally-developed traction-assist harvesters.

“Delegate response to our international lineup of technical logging speakers and the demos on the following day from both the licensees and the logging contractor community has been fantastic” says conference co-organizer, Rob Stanhope, of Logging and Sawmilling Journal.
Stanhope says western North American forestry leaders can take some comfort in introducing these new forest harvesting technologies, knowing that New Zealand’s leading loggers were careful to ensure systems were well-supported by both engineers and forest managers.  Regulatory agencies are also closely involved from the outset.

“Its great the field demos, scheduled for March 3rd has been fully booked.  We are pleased to have the team from FP Innovations organizing the demos.  They have selected two key systems to demonstrate.  They have also been able to include WorkSafe BC speakers into the demo program so we’ll have some good discussions on the day out in the forest,” says Stanhope.

The Steep Slope Logging” Conference runs at the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel on March 2, 2016.  The full program is available at: http://steepslopelogging.events

Industry challenged by new forest technology

Tahlia HopkinsSteep Slope Logging

The tables are being turned on foresters and logging contractors in British Columbia. Disruptive technology from New Zealand is set to create a whole new way of logging in B.C.’s forests. When meeting challenges to safely harvest NZ’s steep sloped forests, practicing foresters found convincing safety advantages with the new harvesting technology.

In recent years, loggers in New Zealand’s forest industry faced safety challenges in tree falling, especially on steep slopes. There was no choice but to reduce accidents. Up and down the steep, forested country, people turned to the safety of mechanized harvesters. Simultaneously, safety and productivity improved.

In New Zealand’s steep South Island logger Nigel Kelly pioneered the unique ClimbMAX harvester with Nelson Forests. His new machine removed many risks in tree felling. Its innovative computer control systems took the industry by storm there. Other forest managers and contractors quickly followed suit.

Since 2013, prominent New Zealand forest managers, worked with dedicated engineers, designers and logging contractors, to introduce more new traction-assist tethered harvesters. They are now commonplace in forests there.

“We were impressed with the integrity and professionalism of the systems we were presented with. They ticked all of the boxes,” says a leading forest operations manager. “Safety was clearly engineered into them from the outset.”

“As people integrate tethered machines into their harvesting planning and risk assessments, for some steep forests, they can be a much better way to go”.

B.C.’s coastal loggers at the Truck Loggers Association (TLA) convention got a taste of the new disruptive technology for steep slope harvesting at their annual meeting last week.

“Delegates at TLA’s event heeded the challenges facing us. At our event in March the line-up of speakers from New Zealand, Canada and USA will be focused on the solutions the new technology harvesters offer,” says conference co-organizer, Rob Stanhope, of Logging and Sawmilling Journal.

Stanhope says B.C.’s forest leaders can take some comfort in introducing the new technology, knowing that the loggers from New Zealand have been well-supported by both engineers and their forest managers.

“It’s been through constant communication that the loggers and foresters have come to grips with the issues they had to overcome – and they did it,” says Stanhope.

The key industry leaders from New Zealand and the early adopters here on the West Coast will all be at the March conference. These practical loggers will be in Vancouver for the first “Steep Slope Logging” Conference running at the Executive Airport Plaza Hotel on March 2, 2016. The full programme is available at: http://steepslopelogging.events

Bad to best: all because of steep slope innovations

Tahlia HopkinsSteep Slope Logging

New Zealand forestry has gone from a bad performer to being one of the best, and John Stulen says this is because of the new innovations in steep slope harvesting.

In recent years, New Zealand forestry has faced massive hurdles in safety, especially on steep slopes. Too many accidents occurred because workers were facing too many risks in the workplace – it had to stop. However, leaders in the forest industry have stepped up to the challenge, hugely reducing the number of serious accidents.

“It’s no coincidence that forest workplaces have become safer,” says John Stulen, co-organizer of the Steep Slope Logging Conference. He says a completely new generation of hi-tech steep slope harvesters has made the forest workplace much safer for everyone working at the felling face.

These new technologies, developed by kiwi innovators, have made forest workers much safer by taking the risk out of harvesting on the steep slopes of the New Zealand countryside.

More than five engineering companies in NZ have led the way by working with their logging customers to develop these machines and new technologies. They worked quickly, getting them onto the forest floor and enabling contractors to remove crews from the highest risk areas of tree felling.

Since the first machine, the ClimbMax, was proved on the slopes, more engineering innovators have developed their own machines, creating a competition that has driven even further innovation. The result is that workers in NZ forests are now much safer, and accidents have reduced dramatically.

Now, Canada is getting a taste of these innovative machines that have had such an impact on the NZ forest industry’s safety. British Columbia has shown great interest in what New Zealand has done to increase safety on steep slopes.

The Steep Slope Logging Conference is scheduled for March 2, 2016, and will showcase the best of the best.

New Zealand and Canadian engineers and innovators are coming together to show North America just how steep slope harvesting technology has progressed.

A group of practical logging speakers are heading to Vancouver to share on how they have used steep slope harvesters to reduce the risks of working on some of the country’s toughest terrains.

For more information on the Steep Slope Logging Conference, and for the full programme, visit the event website http://steepslopelogging.events/.

Safer tree-falling technology coming to BC

Tahlia HopkinsSteep Slope Logging

Leading logging experts heading to Vancouver Logging Conference

The tables are about to be turned on logging contractors in British Columbia. After years of exporting logging equipment and technology to countries like New Zealand, there’s been big change in forest harvesting down under. Kiwi loggers are set to show off their safe logging innovations on Canada’s west coast in March 2016.

In recent years, loggers in New Zealand faced massive safety challenges in tree falling, especially on steep slopes. They had to reduce accidents. It took a contractor to respond quickly to the dilemma by building a specialised harvester to meet local needs.

Once the first steep slope harvester, the ClimbMax was proven on the hill, more engineering innovators developed competing designs. This spark in competition drove innovation. The results are now set to provide those same safety benefits to loggers working on steep slopes in Canada and USA.

One of the first to build an engineered solution for his loyal logging customers was Chris Hancock of Electrical & Machinery Services (EMS) in Rotorua, on New Zealand’s North Island.

Hancock and his EMS design team worked closely with their logger clients and professional engineers to ask, “How can we tick all of the boxes for safety and engineering requirements first?”

Working closely with the engineers, they then set out to see how steep they could take a Caterpillar feller-buncher on forest slopes while keeping the operator safe but productive.

“Safety and productivity can be designed into a modern harvester that tackles steep slopes”, says Hancock. “We worked with a professional engineer to ensure no safety or engineering principles were compromised,” he adds.

The result is a double winch system that is controlled by a separate base machine remotely controlled by the harvester operator – the “Tractionline” system. (http://emsnewzealand.co.nz/products/tractionline/)

“Our logging design team have worked closely with both loggers and forest managers”, says Hancock, “we need everyone’s input so our designs perform.

“Engineering standards come first, then we need to meet performance expectations. So far it’s working well.”

Hancock leads a focused logging equipment company based in Rotorua – the heart of New Zealand forestry. He’s quick to point out, “Our success very much comes from a team effort.”

EMS has a long history of supplying innovative equipment. EMS is highly regarded for their innovations in cable logging. Their new Tractionline steep slope harvesting system comes on the back of years of boosting logger productivity with their Harvestline system – a highly developed hybrid excavator/yarder.

Personally, Hancock has years of logging experience himself, working on New Zealand’s toughest logging country on the east coast of the North Island. He is one of a small group of practical logging speakers heading to Vancouver for the first “Steep Slope Logging” Conference planned Vancouver on March 2, 2016. Check out the full programme at http://steepslopelogging.events

Leading Kiwi logging experts head to Vancouver

FIEASteep Slope Logging

Innovative remote-controlled steep slope harvesters boost safety

As New Zealand’s first remote-control forest-harvesting machine is being put to work in one of the country’s biggest region of steep slope forests even loggers in Canada are taking notice. Building up from the research stage to commercial trials the Wood Contracting team doing the testing has gained a track record of success already.

Ross Wood is one of the most respected loggers in New Zealand. Given his long service to the logging industry here, he’d be well qualified to rest on his laurels or retire. But he is doing just the opposite – he’s leading the loggers into a new and exciting way of working forests on steep slopes. Personal safety is the key motivation behind his drive to succeed.

“We’ve been running winch-assist harvesters for several years now, but as the terrain got even more challenging and the slopes steeper we looked to remote-control to give our men a more sustainable working environment”, says Wood.

As a contractor you also want to keep moving forward to stay ahead of the game in harvesting – this next step into remote operation is just the start of longer journey,” he adds, “next we’re going to modify the mechanics of our harvester.”

Remote control operator Tony Irvine is still getting to grips with his new machine. As an experienced logger himself he’s normally sitting in the cab of a 40-tonne self-leveller cutting down trees on the steep slope, but this week he’s started trialling a remote-control operation.

“It’s a lot better in this machine,” says Mr Irvine. “You feel a lot safer.”

The remote-control unit in his hand has all of the controls and displays he would normally see in the cab.

Working as a private logger on a project with much wider benefits than just to his own company, Ross Wood and his development team have been able to work closely under a novel funding mechanism for primary industries. The Primary Growth Partnership programme is funded through New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries.

Wood and his development partners are confident this radical new forest technology will reduce the safety hazards in forestry. The innovation is just one part of a wider group of projects that New Zealand’s most innovative loggers have been able to achieve in several collaborations between the Ministry for Primary Industries and the forestry industry.

One of the key developers behind this safety and productivity breakthrough is Paul Milliken, of Cutover Systems. He is one of a small group of practical speakers heading to Vancouver.

Working on behalf the industry and government-funded agency, Future Forests Research CEO Russell Dale has helped to back the project team to develop the technology. He says the loggers he’s working are incredibly innovative – and there’s a shared vision.

“This type of operation we are looking for has no man on the hill – we’re doing both the felling by the remote machine and extracting logs from the hill using grapples. No actual men or women are physically close to either of forestry’s two most hazardous activities. Clearly, it’s a much safer operation for our workers.”

Aside from the safety benefits, Ross Wood and his development team know there is huge potential to lift harvesting productivity too, meaning it probably won’t be too long before more remote-controlled machines are operating in forests around the country, and the globe.

The first “Steep Slope Logging” Conference is running in Vancouver on March 2, 2016. Check out the programme and further details at www.steepslopelogging.events.