Today technology and mechanisation play a key role in extending the operational capabilities of small and large businesses while keeping skilled employees safer than ever.
In any industry it can be difficult to find enough reliable, skilled workers. This is especially challenging for tree care companies due to the highly specialised nature, and also perceived risks, of their typical working tasks.
In recent years increased mechanised assistance is becoming apparent in tree take-downs and trimming across Europe and North America, as well as projects including vegetation control along waterways and roads, to help offset this workforce shortage and ease pressures on business owners.
This shift in equipment utilisation may eventually be likened to that seen in large scale timber harvesting operations here in Australia, which until not so long ago were dominated by hand-falling crews working on the ground with chainsaws. During these times near-miss incidents, injuries and deaths were unfortunately frequent.
Over the last few decades Australian attachment supplier Forest Centre has seen this advance of mechanisation in forestry – a change which has taken skilled operators off the ground and into the safety of a machine cabin where they are able to control felling, cross-cutting and processing functions at the touch of a joystick button – and are these days receiving increasing enquiries for this level of technology for use outside of the forest.
“Our attachment range has expanded to cover 5 ton compact machines right up to 30+ ton excavators, as well as other carriers including truck mounted cranes and telehandlers” explains Forest Centre Sales manager Rey Kell, referring to a product stable of all-European brands in hydraulic grapples, rotators, tree shears and grapple saws.
“Rather than replacing skilled hand-fallers or climbers, mechanised processes using purpose-built grapple saws and tree shears can serve as a means to extend the operational capabilities of a tree care business” Rey adds “this can allow more work to be performed safely, with smaller crews, reduced operator fatigue and in less time.”
Challenging projects involving the removal of diseased or poisoned trees and storm blow-down timber for example can be approached with significantly less risk exposure for the operator.
Manufactured in the Netherlands by Gierkink Machine Techniek, GMT compact felling grapples are available in two different sizes with 35cm and 50cm cut capacity, presenting capabilities for loading, cross-cutting and falling on any machine from 5 ton class upwards that can run a regular rotating hydraulic log grapple.
Designed with a tilting upper frame and hydraulic chainsaw, the GMT grapples are essentially a scaled-down forestry directional felling head. A dangle mount rotator and swing yoke allow directional control when bringing down the cut piece whilst also reducing any torsional forces on the boom of a truck crane or smaller excavator.
A patented hydraulic valve block built into the grapple allows all controls; jaws open/close, rotate, tilt up and saw cut to be controlled by only four buttons; two valve functions and either 40 litres or 60 litres per minute minimum hydraulic flow.
Unlike other compact grapple saws no electrical control modifications, wiring, remote controls or batteries are required. The hydraulic sequence valve also has a unique safety aspect in that the saw will not operate until there is a firm grip on the limb or trunk section you’re wanting to cut. The saw function can also be turned off for extended use as a loading grapple.
For more demanding tasks in cross-cutting and tree removal Forest Centre also offers both dangle and fixed mount grapple saw combinations manufactured by Vosch Equipment and Hultdins Sweden to suit larger machines.
Carriers from 10ton class excavators and upwards offer greater stability and hydraulic horsepower, opening up the possibilities for driving larger displacement saw motors with larger pitch saw chains, single cut capacities beyond 500mm and the ability to have a higher degree of directional control when withdrawing large and heavy cut pieces from the working area using positioned type rotators.
TMK Tree Shears
In some working environments such as cutting close to ground level, tree shears may be preferred due to their simple yet very durable cutting systems.
Introduced to the Australian market in April 2018 by Forest Centre, Finnish-built TMK Tree Shears are designed with a single powerful moving jaw that draws the tree across a fixed cutting blade integrated into the lower frame of the shear.
Three different models are available, with softwood cut capacities of 200mm, 300mm and 400mm (slightly less for hardwoods on the two larger models), which can be fitted on machines from 2 ton up to 20+ ton.
Optional equipment includes a two-stage ‘Turbo’ cylinder allowing fast cycle times without sacrificing power on machines with lower hydraulic pressures, as well as a collector arm for multi-stem accumulating.