By: David Sikorsky, Product Support Specialist, Caterpillar Forest Products
When machine components fail, often the cause can be traced to operator failure. With some regularity, I have seen inadequate lubrication, exhaustion of lubricant or contamination as the most common problems. All can easily prevented by due diligence on the operator’s part.
Lubricant doesn’t disappear into thin air, and while some leaks are the result of catastrophic failures that allow immediate loss of all lubricant, most happen over time. Careful inspection of any machine can prevent downtime and reduce operating costs. These inspections should be performed daily.
The first step should occur at the end of the previous day when the machine is stopped. Always try to park on a level, clear area so that the entire unit can be visually inspected. Sight glasses and dipsticks are calibrated for a level machine, so readings will be inaccurate if it is parked on a slope.
Before climbing on the machine, walk slowly around it. See that pins and their retainers are in place. Look at all hydraulic cylinders and attachments for oil trails. Remember that even a minor hydraulic leak that allows fluid to escape also lets dirt in. Look under the machine for fluids that may have leaked out since last operation. Because porous soil underneath the machine may absorb a lot of fluid, it is more important to look for wet areas and drips on the machine. Pay special attention to rims and tires on wheel-type units and sprockets and final drives on track-type machines. Even small amounts of oil (especially if it was clean the day before) should signal the need to check the oil level of the component.
By: Tom Hirt, President and Owner of FSK Equipment & Supply, Inc., McKinney, Texas
In my equipment career that has spanned more than 40 years, I have interacted with loggers and small business contractors—all great people—around the world. This has been key to my understanding of the many opportunities and challenges that exist in the purchasing and/or selling of used equipment.
My company has focused on the used equipment market since 2007 and I have learned much about the pitfalls that exist when individual owners enter this ‘hazardous world’ on an occasional basis. I will try to highlight some of the more critical issues in this article.
Here are some answers I get when I ask owners why they want to sell equipment themselves:
— “I am not trading, so the only way to maximize value is to sell it myself.”
— “My dealer won’t give me what it’s worth to me.”
— “I need to sell it fast and my dealer or broker won’t make as much effort as I will.”
— “I know as much about equipment as anyone, so I can sell it just as well as any dealer or broker.”
— “I don’t want anyone else to know I’m selling some of my stuff!”
Here are some reasons why you should consider enlisting sales help:
— Specialists will have more contacts and will advertise your machines on websites and use other media.
— You work long hours as it is. Do you want to put your phone number in front of thousands of people and receive calls at all hours?
— If you find a buyer, are you prepared to document the sale properly to avoid any legal issues or conflicts after the sale?
By: Garrett Ginglen, Caterpillar Customer Safety Services
Machine upkeep isn’t just about ensuring that your forestry equipment is performing at peak efficiency. Even more important is keeping your machines in top condition so your operators will be safe. A machine walk-around at the beginning of every shift, followed by any repairs or cleaning, is an important safety, as well as maintenance, step.
Think of a safety walk-around inspection in three levels: ground level, machine level and finally the operator cab. You are looking for anything on the machine that might be damaged, loose, missing or faulty in some way. A good habit to get into is to always start the walk-around at the same place.
Picture a skidder for this step-by-step safety walk-around. We start the ground level inspection at the right front wheel. Look for cuts, bulges, any foreign objects in the tire and proper air pressure. Look for cracks, corrosion or other damage at the wheel hub. Next check the wheel lug nuts. Are they all there? Do any of them appear to be loose? A good way to tell if the lug is loose is to look for paint missing or rust forming around the lug.
After the right front tire we move to the front and inspect the front axle, looking for leaks or other damage. From there we move to the decking blade. Check the hydraulic cylinders for leaks, damaged hoses or other damage. It is important to check every point where the cylinder is pinned to the machine to be sure the pin retention bolts are not missing or loose.
Now we walk in front of the machine, checking the decking blade to ensure that it is not damaged. Then we move to the left front of the machine where we again check the axle for leaks or damage. The left front tire is next, inspecting it and the wheel hub for the same issues as the first tire.
By: Diego Navarro, Aftermarket Sales Manager, John Deere Forestry
Southern loggers and their equipment may not have to cope with the brutally harsh winter conditions faced by their Northern counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they can ignore colder weather challenges. Here are a few simple steps every logger can take to help ensure uninterrupted productivity as the temperature drops.
Change to a lighter-weight engine oil. Most forestry equipment manufacturers recommend switching from heavier 15w40 to lighter 10w30 for winter operation. The lighter oil makes morning starts easier, reducing the load on batteries. It also flows more quickly and smoothly through cold engines to better accomplish its engine-protecting mission.
Check engine coolants. For winter conditions in most of the region’s forests, a glycol concentration of 50% is more than sufficient, protecting against coolant freezing down to -30ºF. Test-strip kits make this check easy, even in the field. If the glycol concentration is low, add glycol to your cooling system until the concentration reaches the desired level. If the cooling system is full, you will need to drain some coolant before adding glycol.
Also test for the proper level of coolant additives, which protect the cooling system against corrosion and cavitation. Separate test strips are available for additive testing. If the additive concentration is low, add the concentrated coolant additive specified in your owner’s manual.
By: David Abbott, Managing Editor of Southern Loggin’ Times magazine
The American Loggers Council held its 23rd Annual Meeting on September 28-30 in Natchez, Miss. As it does every fall, the ALC meets in the home state of the outgoing President, in this case Mississippi logger Ken Martin. ALC Presidents serve single year terms. Along with voting on many issues of great significance to the industry, attendees at the event have the opportunity to network with their peers from throughout the country.
Among the activities was a visit to the job site of a local logger. This year, the group toured operations of Chip Sullivan’s BLC Logging, based in Tallulah, La. What made the job particularly interesting was its location: on Davis Island in the Mississippi River, right on the line between Mississippi and Louisiana. The island has a lot of history: it was once owned by the family of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
After educational/technical seminars Friday and an auction Friday night, the ALC Executive Committee met on Saturday morning, followed by a meeting of all members present. Later, at a Saturday luncheon, several individuals and companies were singled out and honored for their support of the ALC and of the industry. Among these, DK Knight, the Co-Publisher and Executive Editor of Hatton-Brown Publishers, parent company of both Southern Loggin’ Times and Timber Harvesting, was recognized for his 50 years as an advocate for loggers.
From the ‘People Power’ column in Timber Harvesting magazine
Written By: Wendy Farrand, Owner of WFarrand Consulting
“What’s the big deal? You come to work, you get the wood out, and you go home.”
Those were the exact words of an old-time logger I worked with who was totally perplexed about the need for regular meetings in the woods. Smaller crews may be able to skirt the regular meeting recommendation, but if you are a leader, and you are not holding regular structured meetings, your crew isn’t as effective, productive or as safe as they could be, no matter what size it is.
I believe that with all my heart. Things may be flowing smoothly, but without the opportunity to regularly share, set expectations and hold people accountable, you will feel the impact somewhere down the road.
Strong, clear communication is key, and not just for communication’s sake, but for the sake of a lot of other things as well, including safety, accountability, raising the bar, setting goals, motivation, team building, squelching negativity, and education.
As a leader, contractor or supervisor, it is your responsibility to bring your crews together on a regular basis to build a strong structure in which the wood can flow. Ideally, this is a structure of respect created by the professionalism that you demand from the professionals that work for you.
By: J.J. Lemire, Director Of Loss Control, Forestry Mutual Insurance Company
Data compiled by the Federal Highway Safety Administration reveal that speed and driver distractions are the two main causes of truck accidents. Issues such as cell phone or CB radio use, becoming sleepy from long hauls, along with boredom, are main contributors. The driver has direct control of both speed and distraction factors. If you work to control them chances are good that you’ll make it home to family and friends, but do nothing and you could become a statistic for us to talk about.
Sometimes external sources or hazards beyond your control contribute or cause these accidents. How often have you seen another driver race to get in front of the truck because they did not want to be stuck behind the tractor and trailer? You do not have control over bad drivers, but always remain alert and be on the lookout for situations that can lead to an accident. Look ahead and constantly scan!
If you keep the truck and trailer on the pavement, you lessen the chance of rollovers from soft shoulders or sudden weight shifts. Let’s consider some simple ideas on how to keep safety awareness at a high level.
• Animals on the road. Do not try to swerve suddenly to avoid them, as the center of gravity can move and cause rollovers.
• Fog and heavy rain. Slow down when visibility is not good. These conditions reduce the distance you can see in front of you.
Machine Upkeep articles are taken from the archives of Southern Loggin’ Times.
By: Barry O’Leary, Technical Support Specialist, Caterpillar Forest Products
Now is the time to make sure the air conditioning systems in your equipment are ready for the long, hot summer. Here are tips on what to check and how to maintain the AC.
Air Filters—Clean air filters are the most important aspect of keeping AC in working order. Cab fresh air and recirculation filters are designed to provide clean air to the system and keep the cab pressurized. Clogged filters reduce airflow to the operator and reduce cab pressurization, which allows dirt to infiltrate the cab. If filters are not properly maintained, the evaporator coil will be coated with dirt, retarding cooling.
Filters should be inspected daily. Intervals for cleaning or replacing air filters depend on the severity of the application and the environment. If conditions are extremely dusty, filters might need to be cleaned/replaced daily; weekly intervals might be sufficient. In addition to inspecting filters for dirt, look through the filter toward a bright light to check for holes. Check for damaged gaskets or dented metal; toss damaged filters.
Replacing filters is preferable to cleaning them. The filter’s efficiency is reduced every time it is cleaned. However, if you choose to clean, you can remove loose dirt with compressed air. Do not exceed 100 PSI from an air nozzle that is 0.125 in. in diameter. Keep the air nozzle at least 2 in. from the filter.
The fresh air filter should be replaced at least two or three times a year, or when damaged or so caked with dirt that it cannot be cleaned. Recirculation filters are foam and can be blown out with low-pressure air and also may be gently washed with a mild detergent. After washing filters, dry with low-pressure air.
From the Building Blocks column in the May/June issue of Timber Harvesting magazine.
There are a lot of moving parts involved in running any type of business, but this is especially true in logging. You make big investments in equipment and in training and retaining good operators. You carry insurance, incur big fuel bills, fork over a lot for repairs, may be involved in trucking, and sometimes may lose sleep at night trying to keep track of it all.
Given all these moving parts, how can you keep accurate track of everything so you can run a profitable operation?
To succeed you need well-maintained equipment, follow productive harvesting and hauling methods, and rely on competent, dedicated employees. But there is one not-so-obvious asset critical to financial success: a well-designed software system to track core business information such as job type and characteristics, compensation, load tickets and time sheets. A good software system is like a good business partner—you come to rely on it to tell you the unvarnished truth about how your business is doing and where you need to improve.
General accounting package such as QuickBooks or Sage 50 are great for the big picture tracking of revenues and costs, but are not designed to incorporate the detailed information that an astute logger needs to understand business economics. Nor do they provide the checks and balances needed for ensuring that you are paid for all the wood you harvest.
Managers at Hadaller Logging in Kelso, Wash. understand just how valuable it is to have an industry-specific software tool to supplement an accounting package. They adopted Caribou Software’s Logger’s Edge system four years ago, primarily with the objective of tracking weekly production and paying truckers, but they have come to rely on Logger’s Edge for much more.
By: Nick Carter, Agency Manager, Forestry Mutual Insurance Company
Not a day goes by that I do not receive a call about some company’s commercial auto premiums increasing. This cycle starts with the logger or log trucker who is experiencing the pain of his operating cost falling into negative territory. Comments I hear include: “I cannot find acceptable drivers,” “I cannot find reliable contractors,” or “My insurance costs are driving me out of business.”
Timber is not purchased at $20/ton and sold to mills for $15/ton. It is simple math. Losses, lawsuits, medical and underinsured/uninsured motorist costs are pushing premiums out of control. Once a claim occurs these costs escalate very quickly and the insurance company has to pay.
Commercial auto carriers are steering away from writing all types of truck insurance. Companies such as AIG, Zurich and Progressive are just a few examples. Carriers will continue to withdraw until the market is profitable. No business should continue to operate with excessive losses year after year.
What is driving these costs and frequencies upward?