Euan Mellis of Mellis Forestry Contractor offers his customers a sensitive and low impact solution for the harvesting of thinnings. The company is based in Elgin in the northeast of Scotland and works throughout Moray and Aberdeenshire.
Euan’s fleet consists of a Komatsu 901 harvester with a C93 harvesting head, a Komatsu 825TX forwarder and a digger winch – built and supplied by Forest Machine Services based near Hexham in Northumberland – for any awkward or steep areas which are unable to be mechanically harvested.
I met up with Euan just outside of Elgin on an upland first thinnings site, he was harvesting for Gordons sawmill of Nairn. Normally Euan operates the Komatsu harvester and Ian Garden extracts behind him on the forwarder, but on this particular day, he had a temporary operator working for him, as Euan had a few errands to run.
This gave me the opportunity to chat and discover a bit more about Euan’s aims and ambitions for his business. Almost immediately I understood where he was coming from. Euan is a thinning contractor who cares deeply about the quality of his work and the impact his harvesting has on the environment. His choice of equipment reflects this, his Komatsu harvester is an 8WD low impact fuel efficient machine. It was specified with smaller bogies to narrow the overall width so he could use low ground pressure 710mm tyres and still be able to harvest in tightly planted crops. The 11m reach crane offers precise and responsive crane operation. The main boom to the tip of the telescopic arm is controlled by the operator with a single smooth lever movement. This allows operators to concentrate solely on the harvesting head which reduces operator fatigue making a more relaxing working environment.
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Euan finds the cabin a comfortable and spacious workplace, the rotating and levelling cabin with good soundproofing eases the stresses of long working hours. The side mounted crane offers fantastic visibility to the felling head. When you are working in first thinnings on dull or wintry days you are having to constantly use the harvesters’ lights to see properly. An unobstructed view to the head is hugely beneficial for keeping stumps low and preventing equipment and remaining crop damage. Another advantage is the stability, Euan pointed out that even with the long crane reach, the machine sits solid on its wheels. The C93 harvesting head is a good all-rounder for all types of thinnings and premature clear fells. It has 600mm felling diameter and an impressive feeding speed of up to 5m/second.
The block of spruce was quite heavily branched and in all fairness the head was doing an excellent job of de-limbing. The 3.7m chip cutting size was good for both the harvester and forwarder. The ground was reasonably firm on the finished racks, the machine was able to work easily without tracks or chains, certainly not the usual wet peaty ground usually found on the west coast.
As it was quite a gritty soil, Euan was changing his chainsaw chains about three times a day, he prefers to swap chains over rather than sharpen them on the head. Around 65-70% of the harvesting work requires the use of stump treatment and the Komatsu’s urea guide bars have proved to work effectively.
The reliability and performance of the harvester has been exceptional, the 0.9 litre of AdBlue and 14 litre of Diesel produce on average 8.5m³ per hour.
This is the first Komatsu 825TX forwarder in Scotland and is compact and agile machine for this type of work. The forwarder is 2,700mm wide with 710mm tyres and is easily capable in tightly spaced crops. It is currently set up for single bays of 3m chip or double bays of up to 2.4m lengths. The 825TX is fitted with Smart Crane for improved productivity, Komatsu Comfort Ride – which offers exceptional operator comfort by dampening jolts and vibrations – and provides excellent visibility in all directions. The four-cylinder EU Stage V engine also packs plenty of punch at 173hp.
Euan opted for non-balanced bogies – balanced bogies can also be fitted – as they minimise damage on softer ground conditions. An advantage of this forwarder is that a tracking frame can be specified. The front and rear axles are equidistant from the centre joint, and this ensures both front and rear wheels follow the same path. This enables narrower routes between trees and reduces the risk of damage to standing trees when manoeuvring in tight spaces.
This forwarder has the 7.7m single reach extension 105F crane (9.5m and 10m reach double extension options are also available with Smart Crane) and a G.28 Grapple. I agree with Euan’s choice of crane, as I find the shorter crane is less cumbersome and has better manoeuvrability, which I find
makes loading easier in confined thinnings (that’s just my opinion, some others might prefer the extra reach).
I watched Ian extract a few loads of chip with the forwarder and was greatly impressed with what I saw. This is an agile forwarder, it had plenty of room in the single rows of removed trees and was quick across the ground, and it didn’t need traction aids either. The crane looked smooth and well set up and took hardly any time to put a load on.
After both machines had travelled in all the extracted racks, there was barely a mark. I never saw any damage whatsoever to roots or to the remaining standing crop. Once out of the racks, the forwarder had to travel along the forest road to the stacking area to unload and it was hardly leaving a dent.
The forwarder has been using just under 0.6ltr of AdBlue and 11.25ltr of diesel while extracting 10m³ per hour.
Euan is delighted with his choice of equipment, they are the right size for line thinning and have a light footprint for softer areas. Both machine have proven to be exceptionally reliable and the back up service from Komatsu exceptional.
“At Komatsu Forest Ltd, we prioritise customer service above all else. We understand that reliable and high-quality service is vital for our customers to meet their deadlines and generate profits. That’s why we introduced Proact 2.0 maintenance agreements and XP (extra protection warranty) to ensure our customers’ expensive machinery is well-maintained and operates efficiently. Our team of engineers is strategically located to provide prompt responses to machine breakdowns, minimising any downtime. Additionally, our Komatsu Forest telematic system, Maxifleet, delivers further support to customers, allowing them to access live data straight from the machine and receive remote assistance from our Service team.
“We continuously work to improve our parts support and logistics, ensuring we have the right parts at the right time. Our new Komatsu Forest Ltd HQ, set to open this summer, will allow us to expand our inventory, providing our customers with Komatsu-specific parts and consumables at competitive prices. As a global group, we are always exploring new ways to enhance our after-market customer service. Stay tuned for exciting developments in this area!” said Stephen Bellas, Managing Director of Komatsu Forest UK.
Both machines are under the MaxiFleet service contract which Euan has found really works well. Komatsu have a great system for delivering spare parts to customers by using Menzies newsagents as pick up points. Even though the areas Euan works is quite a distance from Komatsu Forests base he was quick to point out that they have never let him down and they use Frasers, a local engineer from Inverness if an emergency arises.
It’s a long time since I have seen as tidy thinnings as Euan does. He carries out silvicultural thinnings by selectively removing the trees that should be removed to allow room for the healthiest trees to flourish and mature. He is a passionate contractor working to incredibly high standards using only the equipment that fits in with his work ethos.
“Euan’s investment in specialist thinning machinery along with the care & skill taken by him & his operators, allows us to carry out sensitive, selective thinning in our client’s woodlands. It is very important to us that thinning is carried out without damaging the crop or the site & with careful tree selection. We’ve all seen the effect of using inappropriate machinery and it is refreshing to see someone taking the care to do the job properly, with a result that we can all be proud of”, concluded Steve Conolly, managing Director at Cawdor Forestry Ltd.
Forest Machine Magazine is written and edited by a forest professional with over 40 years hands on experience. We are dedicated to keeping you informed with all the latest news, views and reviews from our industry.
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