If increasing the final price of a product is difficult, you must reduce the costs. What is the solution? Simply put, it is conducting a strictly controlled business, preferably near the end customer, and purchasing equipment whose operating costs are reasonable.
Most of Brazil’s commercial pine stock is in the southern parts of the country, particularly in the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina. The major pulp and paper manufacturers are also located there, and they use a large proportion of the pulpwood cut from the area. It is important for independent growers to receive income already from the first stage of the utilisation of forest.
Marcelo Tedesco views that mechanised harvesting is an essential prerequisite also for smaller operators. Malda Empreendimentos e Participação started 8 years ago by planting pine trees after it obtained its first 200 hectares of land. “We converted a cattle farm into a planted forest estate,” he explains. Already from the get-go, the idea was to sell timber that is suitable for a number of purposes. “We sell all our pulpwood to Primo Tedesco (paper and paperboard manufacturer). Medium-diameter and thick logs are sold to sawmills and local plywood and furniture manufacturers.” The rotation period is about 18 to 20 years.
Malda’s co-owner Marcelo tells that it is usually very difficult to make the first thinning profitable. “One of the problems is labour. It is scarce and expensive. Mechanisation is vital for business – the use of manual labour in these circumstances will come to an end very soon,” he anticipates. At the moment, Malda manages thousand hectares of planted forest. They use two harvesters in which the base machine is a 14-tonne Hyundai excavator. The harvester head in the first machine is Nisula 500H, and the newly delivered machine features the new Nisula 555H head.
The work is done in two shifts. The harvester needs two operators, and another two employees are needed to handle the logs with a crane. Moreover, the work is supervised and coordinated by a supervisor, so there are five people working in total. “I think that doing the same amount of work manually would require 20 to 30 people plus the animal labour for skidding the logs,” Marcelo compares. The company is currently engaged in thinning projects taking place in a pine forest in Caçador (SC). “If the work was done manually, moving the timber out of the area would cost us real money. I’m not a forest engineer but I do understand what work costs,” Malda’s co-owner states.
On the basis of the above-mentioned considerations, it was decided that the work will be mechanised by using forest equipment supplied by TMO. “The strengths of TMO’s machines include low operating costs and the fact that they pay attention to the safety of the operator.” The work is organised so that the harvester takes every seventh row of the trees and the logs are divided by diameter into two classes, over and under 16 cm. “We always try to ensure that we have a truck or trailer waiting for loading and ready to transport the timber to the end user. This reduces the number of handling operations and therefore also the final costs,” Malda’s co-owner Marcelo emphasises.
Logging produces about six thousand tonnes of timber per month per harvester, which means a little over 120 tonnes per shift (or 1,100 felled trees per shift); 120 kg of timber is obtained from each tree on average. The area is 25 kilometres away from a pulp mill, and the road to the mill is paved. The forest they are logging now is 10 years old, which means that the first thinning is done a bit later than usual. It is a procedure in which half of the trees are usually harvested. In the area managed by Malda, 30% of this amount are logs over 18 cm in diameter. These logs are more valuable and are mostly sold to other companies for further processing. The rest 70% is pulpwood suitable for manufacturing pulp. “In these circumstances and with the current machine configuration we can be profitable even with the smaller diameter timber,” the co-owner of Malda declares. In particular, he wants to emphasise the fact that the information provided by the forestry crane manufacturer and the seller of the Nisula harvester head have proven to be accurate. The estimates of productivity, rate at which the stems are processed and fuel consumption were correct and the expectations were even exceeded in practice.
The managers of TMO’s forest operations understood that all the customers of the company, both small and large, felt that they must mechanise their operations. To be able to do that, however, they need a harvester head that is correctly dimensioned for thinning projects. This led to cooperation with Nisula, a Finnish harvester head manufacturer. “The heads available on the market were way too large and did not meet the local requirements,” says Heuro Tortato, sales director at TMO’s forest operations. Nisula’s high-quality harvester head line is the ideal solution for us because it combines reasonable price with high quality.
Nisula 500H or 555H harvester head combined with a mid-sized excavator of 14 to 16 tonnes is an ideal package for the first three thinnings in which the age of the pine forests is from 8 to 14 years.
Heuro Tortato emphasises that the main advantages of Nisula’s harvester heads are their accuracy and durability. “The accuracy of both the diameter and length measurement functions is excellent. The durability of the frames in excavator use has been incredibly good, thanks to the material and good design of the harvester heads,” he explains.
Before the actual work starts, TMO equips the excavators so that they fit perfectly for demanding harvesting work. “We install the harvester head to machines that are customised for logging,” Heuro Tortato points out. Each machine is fitted with equipment that increases its stability and safety, and the machine is also equipped so that its power is sufficient for working in difficult terrain conditions.