Multi-faceted Operation in Massachusetts Recently Added New Komatsu XT430L-2

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Reliability, strength and leveling ability make Komatsu XT430L-2 a repeat choice

OAKHAM, Massachusetts — What’s in a name? Forward Enterprises, Inc. carries a reminder of the machine that got the business started in 1985, explained owner Paul Davis.

“I started with an old Franklin 170 forwarder and a chainsaw,” said Paul. Make that a Husqvarna chainsaw, the same brand on which Paul has relied for 29 years. (Paul still has the Franklin 170 forwarder, which he uses in the yard as needed.)

Across the years, Paul has purchased and realigned machines to match his market focus, which is always subject to change. A land-clearing and logging company, Forward Enterprises has readjusted to keep pace with opportunities. It has harvested tree length, cut-to-length and round wood for chips (for pellets and biomass). The newest addition to the equipment roster is a Komatsu XT430L-2 track carrier paired with a Risley Rolly II head.

The Komatsu track machine was purchased mid-year from Anderson Equipment Company. The leveling capability was one of the many traits that attracted Paul to the Komatsu. In fact, the leveling feature of the machine is what led him to its general predecessor, a Timbco (which Komatsu had subsequently acquired). Komatsu Forest has its core forestry manufacturing facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Umea, Sweden.

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“I bought my first Timbco in 1996,” said Paul. He then replaced it with another about seven years later. That machine served until the Komatsu XT430L-2 took over. (Paul sometimes calls the Komatsu his “third Timbco” because of its lineage and his affinity for his first two track machines.)

“Komatsu has just improved upon what Pat Crawford originally created,” said Paul. Pat Crawford, founder of Timbco Hydraulics, is world renowned as the inventor of the closed loop hydraulic track carrier featuring its unique 2-cylinder, 4-way leveling concept. The platform has exceptional hydraulic flow and can be set up as either a feller buncher or harvester. “The Komatsu cooling capacity is excellent. It has a great undercarriage – a strong, very stable and well-built undercarriage.”

Paul has always had a Risley Rolly II head on his carrier. “I chose the Rolly II head because they [Risley] would build it the way I wanted it,” he said.

At the time he purchased his first Rolly II, Paul was looking ahead and keeping his attention on possibilities. “I knew land clearing wouldn’t last,” he said. He wanted to be able to shift between bunching or processing modes, as necessary.

Currently, Paul and his team – generally, five employees – produce diverse products, meeting the needs of several markets. “We’re doing approximately 650 tons per week of chips,” said Paul. “And 50,000 feet of logs and 10 trailer loads of firewood.” Just a small portion of firewood is being processed by Forward Enterprises.

“I do process some at the house,” said Paul. “But the majority we sell [to other companies].”

Paul uses a CordKing firewood processor. “I do specialty firewood – cut to length, whatever length the homeowner wants. I separate my firewood. I only sell oak firewood, which has a high BTU value.” The firewood is air dried now, but Paul is considering kiln drying firewood to thwart pests, such as the emerald ash borer, and to add value.

As for deployment, Forward Enterprises can work two jobs. “I have excellent core support with my long term employee, Donnie, on the job, so we can divide into two crews,” said Paul. Even so, he finds that efficiency is greater “when the boss is on the job,” so he likes to keep the team together. Paul runs the Komatsu XT430L-2 with the Rolly II head.

“Right now, we cut extensively for Hull Forest Products in Pomfret, Connecticut,” said Paul. “They buy and mark the trees they want cut.” All wood is graded and grade lumber is among the products.

Tree length, cut-to-length and land clearing have all taken a turn in accounting for the majority of the work at Forward Enterprises. Land clearing was a very good niche when construction was booming. But “in 2006 the lights went out” for land clearing, said Paul, and he adjusted. It wasn’t the first time, he explained, and he doesn’t expect it to be the last.

Change is inevitable. “You just need perseverance,” said Paul. “You just need to do a great job. I want all my jobs to stand out as exceptional.”

In addition to the Komatsu XT430L-2, the equipment roster at Forward Enterprises includes three skidders – a Franklin 170 that was new in 2006, a Timberjack 380 and a Manitowoc two drum chain flail, one John Deere 748 grapple skidder and a Hydro-Ax 721 with a hot saw. A Timbco 820 forwarder is used to convey lengths to a landing where contract truckers collect them. A Hood slasher/loader is also in use at the landing separating biomass and clean chips.

A chain flail debarker from Manitowoc is used to debark wood slated to become clean chips. The wood is then chipped with a Morbark 3036. The clean chips head to Rentech, Inc. (formerly New England Wood Pellet, in Jaffrey, New Hampshire), which uses them to make high quality pellets.

Wood that is too crooked or small to be handled by the chain flail debarker goes directly to a model 3036 Morbark chipper, which produces chips for biomass fuel for Pinetree Power Fitchburg in Westminster, Mass., an electricity producer. For transporting chips, Forward Enterprises uses its own vehicles, including two new ITI chip vans from JP Rivard Trailer Sales.

“We cut mainly hardwood,” said Paul. There is always some softwood in stands, though, especially white pine and hemlock.

The Komatsu XT430L-2 and Risley Rolly II pairing is a good one – strong and versatile, said Paul. “The Rolly II has a 24-inch saw on it,” he said. With the saw he can sometimes double cut an exceptionally large stem, but he reaches for his chainsaw for 30-inch and bigger trees.

Forward Enterprises generally works within a 75-mile radius of its base in Oakham, Mass. The company works 12 months each year, except in extreme circumstances, such as very wet conditions following a hurricane or a particularly muddy interval in spring.

Oakham is part of Worcester County in the central part of the Bay State. The town, which was incorporated in 1762, has 1,900 residents. It celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2012.

A native of Massachusetts, Paul grew up in the wood products industry. “My dad owned a saw mill,” he said.

Paul worked in his father’s mill for a short time, gaining experience in several different posts — on the debarker, on the edger, on the green chain, but the logging side of the industry beckoned. “I just enjoyed being outside,” he said. “I just like seeing what God has created.” And working outdoors affords him the opportunity to do so every day.

“As much as possible” is the approach Paul takes to doing maintenance on his equipment. The design of the Komatsu XT430L-2 simplifies maintenance. “The hose layout is very easy to work on,” he said.

Paul also has a solid partner nearby in the team at the Anderson Equipment facility in Lancaster, N.H. “I’ve been working with them [for a long time] – when they were The Oliver Stores.” (In late 2012, Anderson Equipment purchased The Oliver Stores and took on most staff, many of whom Paul had worked with for a long time. He bought the Franklin 170 forwarder through The Oliver Stores and then bought “five or six more machines” from the company, he explained.)

Anderson Equipment Company has 20 locations throughout New England and in New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. “These guys are top-notch mechanics,” said Paul of the team at the company. “They’ve just been really, really good.”

Paul said that the entire linkage tying him to dealer and manufacturers has been great. “Anderson Equipment – they’re excellent to work with,” he said. “Komatsu’s been an excellent machine. Rolly – Risley – has always been really good with technical support. They’ve done a great job of improving their head. They make a head to do what I want it to.”

The Komatsu carrier can also be paired with other heads, including Quadco and Log Max®. The flexibility gives the logger the opportunity to match his unique requirements.

Among the improvements Komatsu engineered into its XT series, which it introduced in 2011, are those to the undercarriage, such as cut-outs in the track frame to reduce packing of debris and improve maintenance of the rollers. The swing system also incorporated changes, including gears with better hardening to increase longevity.

And the boost to horsepower (300 peak HP) coupled with improved access top the list of attributes that got Paul’s attention. “The ease of working on that equipment” is so good, said Paul. It was among the top reasons he “stayed with Komatsu.”

Paul is a member of the Massachusetts Forest Alliance. Being a part of the forest products industry is something he relishes. He believes he may have sawdust in his veins, as the old expression goes.

Taking time away from the business, Paul has several interests. “First and foremost, I enjoy spending time with my family,” said Paul. “I try to incorporate them into everything.” He especially likes to share the outdoors with them. His 17-year-old son already helps some in the business. And his youngest child, age four, rides with him in the Timbco and likes to push the “sawzer” button, as he calls it.

“Being a student of the Bible, I enjoy talking to people about Bible truths and Kingdom promises. When the wind blows greater than 25 mph, I will be out windsurfing.”