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Lonard Scofield dos Santos

Director of Master Forestry Solutions


The most important thing is to have a system to “call your own”

I am honored by the invitation of the prestigious Revista Opiniões to write about the world panorama of harvesting systems. However, writing about this topic is not an easy task, as this publication is distributed to the entire Brazilian forestry system, which, fortunately, is full of professionals who are world-renowned specialists in forest harvesting. Therefore, reading about harvesting with a harvester or with a feller , for such a select audience, can be boring, as obvious as it may seem.

In my opinion, the world panorama of harvesting systems converges, for the most part, to the two main harvesting systems: the short log production system and the whole tree or the whole tree harvesting system.

I present my commentary on the world view of harvesting systems and a brief analysis of most harvesting systems known to me.

It is important to emphasize that when looking at and analyzing a certain harvesting system for the first and only time, it can be concluded that the system is flawed. However, those who experience their own harvest on a daily basis will be convinced that that system fully serves them.

The breadth of harvesting systems is immense , obviously due to the enormous diversity of topography, soil type, reforested species, monthly harvest volume, destination of the wood, Average Volume per Tree, climatic conditions, supply and qualification of labor , training centers, investment capacity, infrastructure, road network, etcetera . With such diversity, companies are forced to adopt their own unique harvesting system.

In general, we have two main systems of mechanized forest harvesting:
The short log production system: This system can be composed of:
Harvester on tires or tracks;
Hydraulic excavator with harvester head ;
Forwarder ;
Self-loading agricultural tractor with crane.

And the whole tree or whole tree harvesting system . This system can be composed of feller buncher on tires or tracks.
Excavator with feller head with disk or directional feller head;
Skidder 4 by 4 or 6 by 6;
Skidder clam-bunk ;
Mini skidderr .

This expression was created by the forest management of a Swedish company, which led and financed a large part of the development of machines, equipment and harvesting systems, to express the real meaning of the rapid advance of the mechanization of harvesting activities, thus allowing to pass from the horse (which were and still are actually used) to the harvester in just over 35 to 40 years. Obviously the horse was used for removal, transporting the logs and not for harvesting, harvester. But the expression can clearly indicate the effect of mechanization.

The development of the Short Log Production System took place in Scandinavia in the early 1960s. And from 1985 to 1990, the vast majority of forest harvesting in Scandinavia was already done with harvesters .

The Short Log Production System produces short logs between 2 and 8 meters. In Brazil we had the opportunity to start using, albeit with great tropicalization for use in eucalyptus, the harvesters that had already been hard developed in Scandinavia, from 1995 to 2000. In other words, just 15 years after the emergence of the technology.

How are we currently? Fortunately, at the same technological level as in Scandinavia. Machines and equipment that leave the factories today for Europe, the United States, Scandinavia, are exactly the same that arrive in Brazil. There is still little difference only in relation to the telemetry system due to 4G , 5G coverage conditions in Brazil.

Whole tree harvesting system: From IRON MULE TO SKIDDER :
The development of mechanized dragging started in the 1920s, leading to the concept of the skidder. current as early as 1970. That is, it has an older development history than harvesters and forwarders .

The Whole Tree or Whole Tree Harvesting System is considered to be of simpler technology (less electronics) than the machines of the Short Log Production System. In addition, it is individually considered more robust and more productive than the Short Log Production System machines.

Obviously, the choice of system does not only take into account robustness and greater productivity per machine individually, but all the productive stages of the harvesting system itself.

It is noted that the short log production system represents the largest harvest volume in Brazil, while the whole tree system or whole tree harvesting system uses the original machines of this system, but to produce short logs (logs from the production system of short logs), either with a processing head after dragging or with the use of a tracer grapple.

There are also numerous other systems that can also be combined:
Drag tower;
Drag tower with processor head;
Machines with auxiliary traction winch;
Self-propelled traction winches ;
Delimbing ;
Impact delimbing .

Certainly, the next steps in terms of harvesting systems will involve improving remote machine monitoring systems: maintenance, production control, predictive maintenance, performance of the operator, etcetera .

And in the very near future, we will have the emergence of autonomous machines.

The forwarder is an ideal candidate to become an autonomous machine, like the autonomous trucks already in operation in mining.

With globalization and the presence in Brazil of the vast majority of forestry machine and equipment manufacturers, the exchange of systems and access to existing technologies will occur immediately, providing forestry companies with the possibility of using any harvesting system that is being used under similar operating conditions.

I am not aware of the existence of updated statistical data on the percentage distribution of use of each harvesting system. Most of the statistics are from 3 to 4 years ago, but it is commonly accepted that the short log system is dominant in terms of harvest volume worldwide.

Due to the enormous growth of the pulp industry in Latin America, with operation in flat areas, a single species, and debarking in the field, the short log system represents more and more in terms of harvest volume.

In general, we can summarize the world panorama of harvesting systems according to the highlighted table :

I conclude this article by stating that, regardless of globalization, technology, trends and other factors, the most important thing is to have a system to “call your own”. What matters is whether the system meets the objectives of cost per cubic meter, security and guarantee of raw material supply required by the company.