Hilberg Logging Focus on Cut-to-Length

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Company Reaps Benefits from Cleaning Radiators with Cleanfix® Reversible Fans

CRYSTAL FALLS, Michigan — Picture-perfect towns built of red brick meet expansive, deep green countryside to make the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a favorite destination of vacationers. Yet regional aesthetics belie the powerhouse the peninsula is, contributing timber, copper and iron to industry.
Even in the beautiful Upper Peninsula, however, heavy equipment gets hot, dusty and dirty. Logging equipment that runs 40 to 50 hours each week not only generate heat, noted Gary Hilberg, partner in Hilberg Logging with his brother, Ron, but they also get pelted with debris.
A radiator performs best – and provides proper cooling to an engine — when it is clean. Removing dirt and debris that gets sucked into the radiator is a must; all the better if the radiator can be cleaned without dismantling anything.
Gary equipped his two Fabtek 133 harvesters with reversible radiator fans from Cleanfix® to keep them running clean and keep the engines running cool and strong. His introduction to reversible fan was by chance. When they bought a new Fabtek 133 track harvester three years ago, the Cleanfix reversible fan was offered as an option, he said. “And we decided to try it.”
A short trial period on the Fabtek 133 sold Gary on the Cleanfix reversible fan. Having two identical harvesters running at the same time, one with a Cleanfix and one without, made it easy to compare performance and the benefits of the reversible radiator fan. “In summer the machines run hotter without it,” he concluded. As a result, he decided to retrofit his older Fabtek 133 with a reversible fan, too, using one of the machine-specific retrofit kits offered by Cleanfix.
The Cleanfix reversible fan helps the engines run cooler, prolonging engine life, and provides other benefits. “It saves a lot of maintenance,” said Gary. The harvester operators do not have to stop work to clean out the radiator. “Each operator saves four to five hours per week” in downtime for maintenance.
Now, the reversible fan does that work automatically. “It reverses every 20 minutes,” said Gary. The timer setting can be changed, too.
Cleanfix also offers the VP series of reversible fans, which have variable pitch with thermal control; as the temperature of the engine and hydraulics increases, the fan blades adjust automatically to a steeper position to create more cooling performance. Also, when the machine operates in cooler conditions during winter, the blade angle flattens, reducing the power consumed by the fan and providing additional fuel savings.
Hilberg Logging produces about 45,000 cords of wood annually. The company works within 70 to 100 miles of its base in Crystal Falls, a town of about 1,800 residents in the south-central Upper Peninsula. Hilberg Logging works in softwoods, poplar, and mixed hardwoods, supplying wood to several mills in the region, including New Page, Pine River Lumber, Verso, Louisiana-Pacific, Stora Enso and Potlach.
Gary buys stumpage and markets everything from pulpwood to saw logs. He handles logistics and also runs between crews to get them anything they need. Sometimes he operates a dozer used for building roads on job sites. Ron assists Gary as needed, operates the feller-buncher and handles office responsibilities.
Hilberg Logging does predominantly cut-to-length logging. Besides the two Fabtek harvesters, the company has two Fabtek 346B forwarders to get the wood out. The feller-buncher usually works with a John Deere 548 grapple skidder, and a logger with a Husqvarna chain saw works behind them to remove limbs, top and tree and buck it. The company has two dozers, a John Deere 750 and a Caterpillar D5. All trucking is subcontracted.
“My father always logged,” said Gary, and he also had a business selling chain saws. When his father died, Gary took over the business. Gary was logging and urged his brother to team with him. They launched Hilberg Logging in 1983, starting with chain saws and skidders.
The dealer that got Gary started with Cleanfix reversible radiator fans is Nortrax Equipment in Escanaba, Mich. That is where he bought his Fabtek 133 harvester with the Cleanfix fan installed and had his other Fabtek 133 retrofitted with a Cleanfix fan.
Nortrax Equipment also offers the Cleanfix reversible fan kit to suit most models of John Deere equipment, including the JD 1270D harvester, JD 1110D forwarder, JD 759G feller-buncher, and JD 648G-III skidder, among others, as well as other makes of logging equipment.
The concept built into the Cleanfix fan is that the pitch of the blade ought to match its task. If it is sucking in air to cool, the blades should have the same air flow when they are reversed to blow out the radiator. The Cleanfix fan goes one step further and rotates the fan blades 180 degrees from the cooling position to the cleaning position while the engine rotates at full rpm. This creates a strong pressure wave and the large volume of air flow needed to blast debris out of the radiator cores. In addition, Cleanfix offers a large number of fans with different blade sizes. The goal is to pair the best fan design with the radiator system it will augment.
In technical terms, the basic Cleanfix fan has nine or 12 blades. Each blade rotates on its own axis. Blade pitch is reversed with air pressure controlled by an integrated air cylinder and off-center (eccentric) linkage that is housed in a central fan hub. Spring tension resets the fans, ensuring it always returns to the cooling position. The air pressure for the cleaning process comes from a 12/24-volt compressor, and it can be automated with an optional electronic control module.
The Cleanfix VP (variable pitch) series fans are paired with a thermal control system to provide true variable pitch and automatic blade adjustment. For example, when the engine and hydraulic systems are cool, the blade angle is small; angle increases as heat increases. The difference between the smallest and largest angle is an 18-degree span.
Reducing the horsepower required to keep working is one way to save fuel. And that is another dimension Cleanfix considers when it designs its fans. The Cleanfix VP series includes an energy-savings ‘Eco’ setting for minimum fuel consumption and a ‘Max’ setting for maximum cooling.
Another benefit of the Cleanfix reversible fan is that it improves fuel efficiency and economy. The manufacturer estimates that installation of a Cleanfix fan can mean fuel savings in the range of 6% compared to a machine without one.
His company has experienced notably better fuel economy, Gary indicated, and the Cleanfix reversible fans do a great job of blowing out debris and leaves. “We have two operators and both of them are really satisfied,” he said.
From Gary’s perspective, just the reduction in downtime with the Cleanfix fans is important. “Definitely, we wouldn’t run another processor without one,” said Gary. “It was a very worthwhile investment.” He has noticed growing interest in reversible fans; one of his subcontractors just bought a new John-Deere machine with Cleanfix reversible fans installed.
Gary and Ron are active in professional organizations, including the Timber Producers Association of Wisconsin and Michigan, the Michigan Association of Timber­men, and the Iron County Timbermen’s Association.
“Being outdoors” and “being your own boss” are the two big plusses of owning a logging business, said Gary. When he gets free time, Gary likes to hunt and fish and get in “a little bit of travel.”