Wood Business

New Gear Harvesting New Gear
Customer Built

Fell. Bunch. Repeat. Making that cycle relentless is key for today’s contractor. It’s also the inspiration behind John Deere’s new M Series track feller bunchers and harvesters. That’s not surprising, since that inspiration came from you, the Canadian logger.

The manufacturer leaned heavily on its global Customer Advocate Groups (CAGs) for the concept, design, build and test processes for the new machines. As a result, it got a lot right, from big items like tractive effort, flow, swing torque, visibility, access, fuel capacity, and boom performance, to such details as instrument position, storage, and LED lighting.

“The CAG process was amazing to be a part of,” explains Mark Maenpaa of K&M Logging in Thunder Bay, ON, who currently runs a 700 Series buncher.

“You meet loggers from around the world, talk about the different machines and features that work under different conditions, tips, ideas – just great. You also feel you’re part of making a better machine. We reviewed early designs at the Deere factory from machine station to machine station, provided detailed feedback on what was missing, what made sense, then saw the first prototype a year later and provided feedback on that. Finally we got to run an 800 series buncher in big timber and slope in Oregon a year after that. That was an impressive machine.”

Launched in mid January at a press event in Langley, BC, the 800 and 900 M Series are already shipping to clients. According to Marty Wilkinson, VP Forestry at Deere, the series represents the company’s largest forestry investment since the Timberjack acquisition, with over 250,000 design and test hours spent on the project to date, as well as a major investment in manufacturing to deliver the new units.

He adds that the key investment was in the customer feedback loop. At launch time, prototype and early production machines had over 11,000 combined operating hours.

Production boom

The most obvious change to the machines is the boom, which sits farther back than older models and is dramatically simplified in look and operation. Plumbing is neater, with hoses and wires tucked up inside the boom and through the nose. The biggest improvement is less visible.

An available Rapid Cycle System (RCS) allows for up to 35 per cent faster cycles thanks to a single boom joystick and adjustable automation that reduces operator input and fatigue. RCS combines automated felling-head arm cycling with simple boom control, and can be turned on or off with one button. Configurable for operator skill level, preference or conditions, RCS is also a useful training tool to get recruits up to speed.

“One of the main comments we’re getting back from loggers using the system is that it really narrows the gap between their best operators and their newer operators,” explains Jonathan Hunt, engineering manager for track bunchers as we run a machine walk-thru on a JD 853 on a customer lot south of Langley. “The biggest difference is with the newer or lower-skill operators, where the automation and simplified approach increase production and reduce machine wear and tear.”

Also boosting production is the boom set back, which dramatically boosts visibility out the right side. That, plus a cab forward design, increases visibility by 44 per cent, a massive improvement that is instantly apparent when sitting in the cab.

Despite the boom set back, boom reach is as good or better than past models. A variety of options are available for both harvester and buncher to match terrain and legislative challenges, from long boom, small head combos in Quebec to shorter boom, larger head options for BC’s bigger timber and steep slopes.

Other improvements include:

Fuel Capacity: Up 50 per cent to 230 gallons, so machines can now run 24 hours depending on conditions.

Power: Engine power has been increased 25% to 300 hp, the basis for better multifunctional performance. That is twinned to a high-torque swing option (standard on harvesters) and closed-loop hydrostatic drive that is designed to improve multifunctioning on steep slopes.

Tractive effort: This has been improved by up to 45 per cent

Cabin comfort: Space has been bumped by 17 per cent, with dedicated storage space and fully-adjustable armrests for fingertip control.

Access: Service points have been amalgamated to ensure work gets done, and an optional undercarriage-mounted toolbox adds to that efficiency. John Deere’s ForestSight and Ultimate Uptime services are available.

Production units are already being shipped, but feedback from loggers on test units has been positive. “It’s a pretty incredible machine,” says Maenpaa of K&M Logging of the 800 Series buncher he ran in Oregon. “That machine was very neutral in terms of balance. Some smaller machines tend to tip forward, while bigger ones tip back – the balance was great. The terrain was a steady slope and it was big timber – there’s no way my machine would handle that anywhere that easy. The visibility was far better than anything I’ve seen. I can’t wait to get my hands on one for a longer trial run here.”

By the Numbers

Depending on which models are being compared, the new M Series offers substantial gains over past models. Here are a few comparisons.

  • 25% more engine power at 300 hp
  • 45% up to 45% more tractive effort
  • 50% more fuel capacity
  • 24 hrs possible running time between re-fills
  • 44% more viewing area from cab
  • 11,000 hrs on test machines
  • 50% more swing torque on bunchers
  • 17% more space in cab