By Mariève Paradis
Quebec manufacturer Eltec comes with a rich forest machine heritage, adding a new player to the forest machine market.
By Mariève Paradis
Readers will recognize the heritage. Originally Direct, and then for a time Volvo forest machines, Eltec purpose-built track feller bunchers and harvesters are now manufactured in Val-d’Or, Que., by a new subsidiary of the Element Group known as Element Technologies.
The new manufacturng location is in an industrial park in Val-d’Or, a forestry and mining community in northwestern Quebec, where the Element Group already specializes in the sale, repair and maintenance of heavy equipment for the mining, construction and forestry sectors.
As part of a recent deal, Element Technologies owns the intellectual property, manufacturing rights, drawings, templates and moulds for the three Volvo forestry machines originally launched at DEMO International 2008 in Halifax.
“We had some delays, but we finally started production in June,” says Charles Arcand, CEO of Element Technologies. In May, the company hired 18 new employees to begin the manufacture of machinery, renamed Eltec, in the freshly built new premises behind the parent company’s existing building. During Canadian Forest Industries’ visit in late April, new employees were already relocating parts and equipment and constructing offices. “The next time you come, you will not recognize it,” promises Arcand.
Poised to Grow
The future looks bright for the Eltec line, according to Arcand. Plans are to once again distribute the line, once made in Korea, on a global scale.
“We want to expand the distribution network across Canada, New England, on the West Coast and even in Russia,” he states, adding that the network is currently available to the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of western Quebec, as well as at Service Mécanique EGR Inc. in St-Antonin and Guydrolic in Normandin. Still, business seems to be on a roll. A distributor in Western Canada has also shown interest in the Eltec line, and interest in the line at the recently held DEMO International 2012 was brisk.
The total market for track bunchers and harvesters is around 640 per year, and Element Technologies is looking for just a fraction of that to succeed. The company aims to make between 35 and 40 per year on three shifts. For the first year, production will be around 12 to 16 machines, allowing time to establish a strong distribution network and offer training to both employees and distributors. Arcand likes the timing.
“The industry recovery is coming in the next two years. That gives us time to get established and to develop a good distribution network so we’ll be ready to attack whenthe recovery happens,” says Arcand in his characteristally
At least among Quebec’s production loggers the interest in this line is already present. The supplier sold its original inventory in the first five months of operation, and back in April had already sold its first new production model. “We had to get that out by the end of July because it was already sold,” Arcand exclaims. Speaking at DEMO International 2012, Element Technologies president Patrick Élément said eight machines have been sold to date.
Made in Canada
While the technology found in the Eltec line is global, as much as possible the manufacturer sources local components. Steel parts are moulded and bent by Foresco, another Element Group subsidiary. Hydraulic Val-d’Or, also a subsidiary, provides pre-assembled Linde hydraulic parts.
Arcand recognizes the risk of putting a new brand of purpose-built logging machinery on the market. “Still, Eltec evolved from Volvo, and is thus a known commodity, with technology and features that are well engineered and already appreciated. There have been many developments made on this machine, “ he adds, still confident despite the current economic climate.
The line will be sold without any preferred attachments, allowing dealers to adapt to local logger preferences and local support networks
“Every region has its head suppliers and preferences. We do not want to be associated with one particular company. We want to let the customer decide what they will need,” says the entrepreneur, who sold his own drilling operation just two years ago. He adds that the timing of the launch, just ahead of DEMO 2012 in Quebec, was ideal. “It allowed loggers to see the Eltec line in action, and there is no substitute for that. “In the end it is all about production and performance – we believe that it is essential to be able show what the machinery can do.”
Working the Woods
In that light, CFI went to the woods to talk to local loggers using the machinery. One such is Sylvain Tremblay, a contractor working for Tembec near Senneterre, not far from the Ontario border. Tremblay owns two of the first Eltecs to hit the woods, part of the inventory made in Korea before the change of ownership.
In November 2011 he bought an Eltec 226, an ultra-short-radius harvester powered by a 330-horsepower Volvo engine.
“It’s a heavy machine with a lot of pull, but it works well on soft ground,” Tremblay says. The region is well known for its bogs and soft terrain. He says the biggest adjustment he and his operators had to make when he acquired the first machine was the speed.
“When we deliver a machine, we’ll lower the speed to a level the operators are used to for a while, gradually increasing it to full production mode as they get used to it,” Arcand explains.
In April 2012, Tremblay bought an Eltec H277L, another ultra-short-radius harvester, but with more reach than the other model. Both are fitted with LogMax 7000 harvesting heads, used here to make processed tree-length wood. To date he manages to cut 3000 m3 of wood per week with the two tree-length harvesters, despite the region’s relatively small-diameter timber.
“In the right conditions, we will do more. With proper spring maintenance on the heads, I get very good reliability.”
Tremblay admits that it is quite rare to harvest tree-length logs with a CTL system, “but that’s what I do!”
The contractor says he receives excellent service from the manufacturer, not surprising given that he is an early adapter. “In fact I have to fight with them to make sure they don’t come out here too quickly,” he says with a smile. “I had a minor breakdown that I was able to settle with a service technician over the phone, but he was ready to come lend a hand in the woods.” As a former machinery owner, Arcand knows all too well that the service and parts support is as important as technology to modern loggers.
“These machines are their livelihood. There is enough time lost elsewhere in the production cycle, so we have to be sure to provide service and parts in a hurry,” adding that having the parts and factory in Canada will be a major time saver should they be needed.
Eltec Comes in Three Flavours
Like the Volvo line before it, the Eltec line of feller bunchers and harvesters comes in three basic models – zero-, short- or full-tailswing. All have 324 horsepower courtesy a Volvo V-ACT Tier 3 diesel, and harvester options come with an extra fuel tank, 10.15-metre (33.4-foot) boom and dedicated hydraulics.
Eltec 220: This zero tailswing weighs between 27,200 and 29,900 kilograms (60,000 to 65,700 pounds) depending on undercarriage choice (the manufacturer offers regular-duty, heavy-duty, and extreme-duty forestry undercarriages).
Tractive effort ranges from 85,000 to 100,000 pounds. The fuel tank holds 1,062 litres.
Eltec 270: A short-tailswing model, its specs are almost identical to the 220, including the 8.6-metre (28.2-foot) buncher boom. It boasts a 1,635-litre fuel tank.
Eltec 310: The full-tailswing model offers a 10-metre (33.1-foot) buncher boom for reduced movements and site travel, and 100,000-pound tractive effort. It has a 1,514-litre fuel tank.
Mariève Paradis is editor of Opérations foréstieres et de scierie,Canadian Forest Industries’ sister publication serving Quebec, eastern Ontario and New Brunswick in French. Translated with additional reporting by Scott Jamieson.