“It is the height of the machine I really like – the machine’s undercarriage is clear of the forest floor to avoid the tree stumps and makes travel easier.”
“Even though the Kobelco is a short radius machine, the stability is very good when travelling; the forest floor is not smooth like on a building site, we have stumps and many rocks to go over.”
Kobelco dealer: Entrack AS
Customer: GM Skogsdrift AS
Machine: Kobelco SK140SRL
Operation role: Forestry management
Operation location: Jessheim in the Ullensaker municipality in Akershus of Norway
Operator: Ivar Mellemstuen, 39
Forest logging has long been an important aspect of Norway’s economy and, perhaps more importantly, its way of life. Paper production and construction materials made from timber are a big part of the country’s product exports. The forests of pine and spruce have also provided the main materials for home building for many centuries. Controlled logging and forestry management is also one of the biggest providers of employment in Norway.
To view the sprawling mass of Norwegian forests for the first time is unforgettable. Man and wildlife (bears, wolves, deer and elk among other creatures) have shared this natural splendour for centuries and will continue to do so with forestry management in place – did you know it is law that anyone can walk the forests without hindrance? Logging and forestry development requires specialised equipment and the care of the people who live and visit the wooded areas, but especially those who work within the forests.
Under the direction of Gunnar Filtvedt, a former manual forest worker, GM Skogsdrift AS is one such company who specialises in forestry logging and management. The Rena-based company started with two men and two machines and currently has 13 machines and 14 men to cover approx. 170-200,000m2 forests with sales of about NOK 25m a year.
“My name is Ivar Mellemstuen. I have worked in the construction industry for 17 years –almost all that time working with excavators and forestry machines. Working in the forest is peaceful but more difficult than working on the road construction sites because the terrain is very difficult for any forestry machine. And it can be lonely! I spend time on the phone talking to people and listening to music. There’s no FM radio here.”
The words of Ivar are an understatement – the nearest large town is approx two hours away and small villages are literally scattered through the mountain forests and there’s a greater chance of Ivar meeting elk and deer while working in the mountain forests. And yes, he has seen wolves. Although working in the forests for some years, Ivar has only recently been introduced to the Japanese brand Kobelco.
“This is my first time operating a Kobelco excavator. Before this the machines have nearly all been Volvo with some Komatsu. I have only been operating this machine for one month – that’s the time it has been with the company.”
So why exactly is a Japanese excavator working on a mountainside where even the passing elk sometimes struggle to walk? The role of the Kobelco SK140SRL-5 is to level the area where the logging machines have worked in order to keep natural streams clear and to avoid rain water and melting snow pooling and running down the mountainside to erode soil and natural vegetation. Keeping the forest floor looking natural is one thing, but it also serves the purpose of stabilising the forest’s ecosystem and preparing the ground ready for planting new tree stocks.
So why the change to Kobelco? “I had the choice of several machines for this role and I chose the Kobelco. The main reasons are the height of the undercarriage and visibility. It is the height of the machine I really like – the machine’s undercarriage is clear of the forest floor to avoid the tree stumps and makes travel easier. Even though the Kobelco is a short radius machine, the stability is very good when travelling; the forest floor is not smooth like on a building site, we have stumps and many rocks to go over.”
Ivar is the first to admit that traversing forest and rock floors on mountainsides are difficult working conditions for a tracked excavator. The ground conditions mean that the arm, boom and bucket system is frequently used to “dig in” and assist pulling the SK140SRL-5 up and across savage inclines and provide stable support on downward travel. This, of course, requires full performance from both the excavator’s engine and hydraulics.
“There are times when I feel I need more performance to help pull, but these are not your everyday working conditions”, says Ivar with a smile. The subject of boosting boom performance is being discussed with his Kobelco dealer.
“Also, with a change in brand, it takes a little time to get used to another machine. So far it is going well and it is a nice machine – very smooth controls and responsive hydraulics. The safety camera system is very good. I use it all the time because of the closeness of the trees – it is probably better than mirrors; mirrors are first to be removed when in the forest otherwise nature will do it for you!”
The Kobelco SK140SRL-5 carries the “L” designation denoting that it is equipped for logging. The height of the undercarriage that Ivar loves is due to the fact that the machine has the same components as a 20t class machine, even down to the 700mm track width. To see Ivar travel up and down and work on and around severe rock covered inclines it is obvious why the SK140SRL-5 was his first choice. If ever a lesson in precision excavator operation is required then we are sure Ivar and his SK140SRL-5 are the perfect teachers.
“Forestry in Norway is tough on machines – the terrain is unforgiving,” says Robert Kvesetberg, CEO Entrack, the region’s Kobelco dealer. “This is especially true with the machines’ tracks. In Norway’s mountains we see 4-5000 hours track life, while on flat site work you can easily get 8-10,000 hours. While the upper carriage is from the SK140SRLC-5 machine, the undercarriage and 700 mm tracks are from the 210 machine – the standard machine’s track pitch is 170 mm when this machine’s is 190mm. It is tougher for longer life.”
Another important aspect of the SK140SRL-5 is its quietness. From the roadside the engine is very quiet thanks to the iNDr (Integrated Noise & Dust Reduction Cooling System). Even when moving through the forest, the loudest noise to be heard is the breaking of stumps and the sound of metal tracks against granite and other types of hard rock. Deer and other wildlife keep a distance from Ivar and his SK140SRL-5 but they don’t appear to be overly bothered with the mechanical alien in their forest.
“Fuel economy will always be something to think of,” continues Ivar. “Climbing trails and making trails over rocks means asking more of the engine and H-mode is used for most of the time. So far in the time together it looks to be ok. It is also a new machine so the engine is new and will loosen. My diesel for refuelling is in a 500-litre bowser on my pickup.”
“It is very easy to do the daily service checks. Everything is so practical; it’s all at the right height to make life easier. I do not have the auto central greasing installed because I prefer to grease manually because I can check all the machine – the forest is very tough on any machine.”
Ivar’s SK140SRL-5 features an additional attachment to the arm. The use of a Marttiini metal tilt rotator (Mroto 20B – operated in cab with roller toggle switches) allows Ivar to rotate and tilt his bucket in every direction regardless of arm position, which is particularly useful if on an incline wedged in between trees. And, the SR (Short Radius) nature of his SK140SRL-5 means Ivar can place and operate it in very confined spaces.
Ivar himself isn’t small in size by any stretch of the imagination so you’d think he would be happy to stretch his legs every ten minutes. But no, he doesn’t need to: “I am 1.92cm tall but it is very easy to get into the cab because door entry is just right,” he explains. “I work with the machine between 8-12 hours a day, five days a week, so comfort is important. I have not used the air-con so much because it has been raining and cold for quite a lot of the time I’ve had the machine. More manoeuvrable armrests would be good, but I do have very long arms! Yes, I am liking the Kobelco very much so far.”