Barko develops new Rough Terrain Carrier for forestry market.
SUPERIOR, Wis. – It’s a fact of life that things change. The horse-and-buggy was replaced by the automobile. The typewriter was replaced by the desktop computer. The big, clunky mobile phone was replaced by the tiny flip cell phone … and then later by the big-screen smartphone. Change usually has so much momentum that most of the time we simply accept that the old technology is gone and move forward with the new, whether we really want to or not.
Like any other production market, forestry has seen its fair share of technological evolution, with equipment manufacturers constantly innovating new features to improve their machines. But as Michael Jewell and other dealers and service providers know, there are plenty of people that remain attached to certain pieces of older equipment.
Beginning in 2000 as a small driveshaft repair shop, Jewell Machinery started up as an evening moonlighting gig for Jewell, who was employed full-time at another machine shop during the day. Fifteen years later, having built up a dedicated workforce of its own, the company has come a long way. In fact, it was just named to Inc. 5000’s list of fastest-growing private companies in America – for the second time.
Jewell Machinery’s tremendous growth has developed in various stages, perhaps none more important than when the company saw the opportunity to fill a void in the forestry industry in its area.
“I knew someone who had worked in forestry, so we started off doing some repair work and fabrication,” said Jewell. “As that evolved, we gradually started building more complicated machinery. We also were seeing that the equipment we were being asked to service and maintain was getting older and older. At a certain point it just makes more sense to replace those machines.”
In late 2013, Jewell Machinery entered a new chapter, signing on as an equipment dealer for Barko Hydraulics and Pettibone/Traverse Lift, both members of the Pettibone Heavy Equipment Group.
“With what we were doing originally we had no OEM product to sell, so we had to sell ourselves,” said Jewell. “Barko came along at a perfect time. We already had a loyal customer base, and now we had new equipment to offer as well.”
Jewell Machinery’s early successes with the Barko line focused mainly on selling Barko’s 495ML loaders, both for cross cutting and loading timber out in the forest, and for mill applications. The majority of the sales to mills included some form of carrier built to go under the loader.
Utilizing the extensive experience of its team of fabricators, Jewell Machinery previously produced a 6-wheel-drive self-propelled carrier for Barko loaders that it refers to as the LTC 6600. Offering customizable options for different customers, the carrier took off quickly, and Jewell sold about 17 units in the first year.
Even as the local market seemed to be embracing the 6×6 carrier, Jewell said he kept hearing one repetitive thing from customers: “We wish somebody would build a new articulated carrier.”
Articulated carriers were extremely popular in the 1970s and 1980s, before today’s straight-frame carriers became the industry norm. Articulation allowed users to turn loader trailers in a very tight radius, though this capability typically came with a much bigger price tag. Eventually, manufacturers stopped making such units. According to Jewell, there are plenty of decades-old articulated machines still operating, even if they are in very rough condition at this point.
“From the first day, I did not like the idea of an articulated carrier,” said Jewell. “I didn’t like the design. It was very unstable because when you put a loader on a carrier, it’s very tall and the center of gravity is pretty high. When you would go to turn, the front of the machine wanted to turn over. It’s common for people to run around with those articulated carriers with the outriggers extended out close to the ground, in order to prevent it from tipping.”
With the customer requests he had been hearing still on his mind, Jewell finally stumbled onto a possible answer to the problem during a meeting with representatives from sister manufacturers Barko and Pettibone. While the group was discussing Pettibone’s Cary-Lift 154, a versatile 4-wheel-drive material handler used both inside and outside the forestry industry, the path to a brand new solution seemed to present itself.
“When people who usually operate an articulated wheel loader go and sit inside a Pettibone Cary-Lift with its solid steel frame design, they instantly notice the stability,” said Jewell. “It’s very agile and can get around really quick. The capacity of what that machine will handle versus a typical wheel loader is significantly more. It will handle it safer and easier as well.”
Suddenly the discussion shifted toward the possibility of incorporating design elements from the Cary-Lift 154 into a self-propelled carrier for Barko loaders. The idea was hatched, and Barko almost immediately began to design and build a prototype for a Rough Terrain Carrier (RTC).
Completely new and unique to the forestry industry, the beauty of the concept is that Barko would be able to mount a standard loader on a straight rail carrier with a standard control package, yet now essentially have a 4-wheel-drive carrier with all the maneuverability and stability features of the Cary-Lift, including 2-wheel, 4-wheel and crab steering capabilities.
“Barko realized how superior of a product could be built over an articulated carrier, and all without making it too expensive,” said Jewell. “It has the stability. It has the turning radius. Both the front and rear axles steer 35 degrees. One axle is rigid in the frame under the majority of the load, and the other axle pivots under the front of the machine, but also has an oscillation lock if you need to keep it from pivoting. The contact patch that is on the ground never changes. The loader never knows that it’s turning; all it knows is that it has the support it needs.”
For the development of the Barko RTC, a significant level of front-end planning went into the design, which simplified the manufacturing process. Input from both Barko and Pettibone engineering teams was utilized and an accelerated prototype process was implemented, allowing the project to be completed and prepared for market quickly.
One of the early technical observations of the RTC was its incredible drawbar pull, or pulling capacity, for moving a trailer around a jobsite. With drawbar pull estimated at around 18,000 foot-pounds, the carrier also has demonstrated greater ability to travel up steep grades.
“Normally in a mill yard or other work site, the maximum amount of grade you would see would be somewhere around five percent,” said Jewell, who has been assisting with testing of the Barko RTC. “This carrier has been tested on a 20-percent grade and it just continues to keep moving. You would never take any of the predecessors to this machine up a grade like that. We’ve moved some pretty impressive loads with our previous designs, and this new Barko carrier has a lot more power.”
Jewell sees the RTC primarily as a valuable tool for mills, though the machine is so new that Barko is still exploring the possibility of using the carrier for in-woods applications. Once Barko finalizes testing the RTC and officially brings it to market, it may wind up being a case of each Barko dealer gauging customer interest in their own territories and determining good application fits on an individual basis.
“It’s getting close to its final form,” said Jewell. “It has surpassed all our expectations as we’ve been testing it, and the engineers almost can’t believe what we’re doing with it. To a certain extent we really don’t know its full capability yet.”
The timing of the new carrier development – and the realization that borrowing from the Pettibone axle design was the ultimate solution for the Barko RTC – was fortuitous, as Jewell Machinery has also been instrumental in helping to demonstrate and test the new wood baler attachment now offered on the Cary-Lift 154.
“The vision is to get the Pettibone Cary-Lift back into the forest, back into the mills, where it has been successful, but perhaps underutilized,” said Jewell. “The best fit seems to be at a mill, handling the logs or finished material. There are already forks designed to do that, but for conventional wheel loaders. Pettibone felt that with some modifications to an existing wood baler, the Cary-Lift would be very productive in these applications.”
Jewell has been highly appreciative of the team approach advanced by everyone at the Pettibone Heavy Equipment Group in the short couple years they’ve worked together.
“There is a lot of cut-and-dry salesmanship out there, where customers have to accept what the manufacturer offers or go somewhere else,” said Jewell. “I don’t see that at Barko and Pettibone. I see them being willing to try something that a customer is looking for and seeing how it works. Forestry is definitely evolving and changing. Now is not the time to sit still and wait for somebody else to come along. Barko and Pettibone and dealers like myself, we want to make these changes and see how much more productive we can be in this industry.”