ABP was formed eight years ago to acquire and manage high quality Blue Gum plantations located in the “Green Triangle” region of southwest Victoria as well as south-eastern South Australia and south-west Western Australia.
ABP’s plantation estate comprises more than 60,000 hectares of Eucalyptus Blue Gums originally established in the Green Triangle from 1992 and a further 31,000 hectares of Eucalyptus Blue Gums in WA’s Great South-West region. Plantations are managed on a 10- to 15-year rotation length.
Worldwide competition has spurred the ABP to develop new efficiencies to maintain its competitive edge, and it is investing in new plant and equipment to meet growing demand.
ABP has recently added a third purpose-built Komatsu D275A dozer, which works round-the-clock, to its lineup at its Portland facility in Victoria – and has ordered another to be delivered in the new year.
The dozers join two eight-year-old Komatsu machines already on the Portland fleet, each with more than 24,000 hours of unrelenting service.
ABP Portland Terminal Manager Gus Mclean, a 27-year veteran of the forestry and woodchip industry, uses the dozers in three shifts daily to help load onto specifically designed ships.
The machines build the stockpile stacks and break them down, pushing the chips to the ship loaders at a rate of 1000 tonnes an hour.
“Our job has been to provide efficiencies at every stage of the process. The new dozer has further facilitated the efficiency of our loading rates” Gus said.
Some of those efficiencies have been highly innovative. The company modified Canadian-designed autonomous-truck unloaders to enable B-Double woodchip carriers to be unloaded from a tipping surface plate, rather than using on-board lifting hydraulics.
Trucks drive onto the plate and are then tipped at an angle of 60-degrees to shed their cargoes without their driver being on board.
Uniquely for Australia and far in excess of Canadian design limits, the platforms have a 90-tonne lifting capacity and have regularly accommodated trucks of up to 82.5-tonne gross weight, providing significant operational gains.
Komatsu’s dozers have also been purpose-modified to maximise productivity.
Baskets built on site to comply with Komatsu machine specification are capable of capturing 80 cu m of chips on every sweep on the company’s two D275A bulldozers and 65-70 cu m on the smaller D155A machine.
The full baskets place substantial operational loads on the bulldozers, increasing fuel use; however, financial
calculations have determined that payload advantages outstrip fuel cost.
And critically, the machines are capable of easily accepting the higher load requirements. Aftermarket Mesabi radiators, made in the USA and fitted to meet Komatsu operational standards, are meeting the immense pressure of constantly pushedthrough woodchips with minimal damage to cooling fins.
Fast-operation on-board fire extinguisher systems – the equal of those used in top-end racing cars – are able to
foam-down any fire which may be caused by trapped chips.
“In all cases we’ve been careful to work within factory specification and to adhere to service and maintenance
requirements,” Gus said.
“That’s been the secret to maximising operational efficiency and productivity.”
Potentially damaging woodchip dust is a huge factor in maintenance scheduling. ABP uses Komatsu Oil Sampling services, genuine air cleaners and changes air filters on a regular three-week rotation.
“We use genuine parts exclusively,” Gus said. “The rationale is simple: would you use Ford parts on your Holden?”
Operator comfort, safety and well-being are essential considerations in ABP’s operations, especially as each machinery operator is working a full eight-hour shift in one cabin.
“The cabins are fully sealed and the only dust ingress is when the door is open. You’d be hard-pressed to get that sort of cabin sealing in a luxury car,” he said.
Operators work in air conditioned cabins with air suspension seats which maximise long-term comfort and with controls that are ergonomically designed to optimise operator efficiency.
“It’s important to provide our operators not only with real security but also a feeling of stability when they are working on the woodchip stacks,” Gus said.
“By the time they spread the chips from the trucks, some of the stacks can rise 25 m in the air and there is a need to provide operators with a safe operating platform in every movement they perform. Machine stability is a critical factor in that delivery.”
At every touch-point ABP has sought financial efficiency from its machinery deal. It has used Komatsu Finance, rationalising that the finance package is more efficient than tying up capex on machinery purchases.
With the introduction of the latest D275A, ABP has begun using Komatsu’s KOMTRAX remote monitoring
system, a vital tracking device now being used on more than 10,000 machines across Australia.
“We’re in the early days of understanding the benefits of KOMTRAX,” Gus said. “Yet it’s the next generation
of machine operation and protection.
“We have operated to high standards by conventional means and reaped the rewards of having a dedicated
on-site technician who abides by strict factory protocols.
“Now KOMTRAX has opened new avenues to make our business even more efficient.”