Tembec’s Kapuskasing Sawmill is a two-shift operation that consumes approximately 410,000 m3 of roundwood logs on an annual basis. The entire volume is received within a three-and-a-half month period, during frost season (December through March). Approximately 10,000 transport loads of logs are received in this short period. One of the challenges for the mill is to ensure good truck turnaround times to ensure that the entire volume can be delivered within that time frame, or risk the sawmill running out of log supply.

The mill invested in two new M325 wheeled log loaders in 2016, supplied by Toromont Cat. Previously it had been using older loaders. When the yard is receiving logs, the two units unload the incoming logs. The rest of the year, they deliver wood from the log yard to the infeed of the sawmill, using an attached trailer.

“Since receiving our two new M325 log loaders and additional training from Toromont Cat we have experienced solid mechanical reliability,” says mill manager André Boucher. He notes that a third log loader, a Caterpillar M322, was also supplied by Toromont Cat as a backup unit to ensure the log yard continues to run efficiently when the M325 units are undergoing regular maintenance or in case of an unexpected breakdown.

Boucher says operators were quick to adapt to the change in equipment due to the fact that there was very little change in the configuration. “Operators are pleased with the cab design and performance of the equipment. Slight improvements were noted with visibility, seating and ergonomics of the cab design,” he says.

Overall, the employees operating the M325 and the 950K, “are extremely happy with the comfort, cab noise level and ease of operating the equipment.”

Also in 2016, Tembec purchased a Caterpillar 950K wheeled loader to work with finished products (lumber). The loader is equipped with quick disconnect to convert from 8-foot lumber forks to a bucket in minutes. This was not possible with the mill’s previous 20+ year-old units as they were a permanent straight-mast lumber fork configuration.

“The change in configuration for the 950K lumber unit did take some time to adjust for the operators,” Boucher recalls. “This versatility added efficiency to our operation because operators now have the ability to switch to a bucket for snow removal, to push kiln charges, to transfer biomass or even to spread aggregate,” Boucher says. “This contributed to an overall reduction in overtime costs to our operation.”

The mill manager says one of the benefits of the switch to using only Caterpillar products in the yard is the support the mill has received from the Toromont service department at the local Timmins, Ont., branch, with regard to mechanical or electronic issues. “The on-board technology has made it easy to detect any performance or mechanical issues which contributes to increased uptime, cost reduction and efficiency,” Boucher states. Parts and technicians are readily available from the Timmins branch.

“We have to say the instructors that provided our training were true professionals and provided quality training to the employees,” says Boucher.

Boucher comments that part of the marked increase in efficiency is attributable to the fact that all units are new. “They will need to stand the test of time as our older units have,” he concludes.

This story previously appeared in the Summer #2 issue of The Working Forest. See the whole issue here.