Customer Input Key to New Product Development

Komatsu Logging Machinary
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Komatsu America Corp. is a leading heavy equipment manufacturer of construction, mining and forestry equipment. In fact, according to the Komatsu America web site, its parent company Komatsu Ltd., of Japan, is the second largest manufacturer of such equipment in the world. Through its distributor network, Komatsu America Corp. offers state-of-the-art parts and service programs to support its reliable, high-quality products.

Recently, Komatsu America Corp.’s forestry business, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, had been hard at work confirming the final details of its next generation XT-5 Series Track Feller Bunchers.

Komatsu has a product development process that is highly comprehensive and customer focused. It was through one of Komatsu’s U.S. distributors, Power Equipment, that logger Floyd Turner’s company had the opportunity to play a key part in the new XT-5 Series product development process.

FNT Logging in the Loop

Floyd Turner owns FNT Logging of Crossville, Tennessee, which is located a little more than an hour’s drive from the Komatsu factory. His company is well established and his logging crew is very familiar with Komatsu forest machines.

Floyd, and several of his seasoned feller-buncher operators, played a direct role in the machine performance feedback loop by field testing the new XT445L-5 and XT465L-5 prototype models and later an XT445L-5 pre-production model.

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Floyd says, “We currently run several Komatsu XT-3 Series machines, including the XT445L-3 and an XT460L-3, each fitted with 22-inch Quadco hot saws. We focus on hardwood, but we harvest a variety of timber in all sorts of conditions. Our work is often on steep and rocky ground, but it can also be thinning a pine plantation on soft and wet ground. Every day can be different and maybe that is why, over the years, Komatsu has stayed in contact us and listened to what we have to say.”

The connection to Floyd Turner was initially arranged through the Komatsu distributor, Power Equipment. Their forestry equipment salesman, Larry Prater, and product support specialist, Neil Ashburn, look after FNT’s business from Power Equipment’s Knoxville location. Larry says, “Floyd comes from a logging family and has been running these machines since he worked for his father’s company. Floyd knows firsthand how these machines have increased production.

“I knew Floyd and his operators would provide valuable feedback and wouldn’t pull any punches when discussing machine performance or their opinions on some of the new features. That’s what the Komatsu’s engineers wanted, and I think that is what’s important,” concluded Prater.

The Legacy of Komatsu

Komatsu XT Track Feller Bunchers have a heritage that dates back to 1979. The machine’s purpose-built multifunction performance has truly been the gold-standard of the feller buncher industry. Over the 40- year history of the XT product line, it has evolved to encompass several brand name changes and many significant machine improvements. However, nothing to date even comes close to the magnitude of change represented by the new XT-5 Track Feller Buncher family. The new lineup is comprised of the XT430-5 non-leveling, XT445L-5 and XT465L-5 which have operating weights ranging from 66,359 to 74,516 lbs. (30,100 to 33,800 kg.).

Steve Yolitz, Manager, Marketing Forestry, Komatsu America Corp., says, “For several years we have been systematically gathering and analyzing performance data, field research, and customer feedback that would define Komatsu’s next generation of feller bunchers. The XT-5 Series represents the culmination of all our research and blending new technologies into producing a machine series that truly meets the needs of today’s demanding loggers.”

Many New Features

The new 310 peak horsepower (231 kW) Tier-4 Final engine offers more power and torque, but with lower fuel consumption due to advanced engine and hydraulic system control designs. The gull-wing style engine hood folds open to provide an elevated service work platform with excellent access to all engine-related components. The innovative hydraulic tank design requires 55 percent less oil.

The state-of-the-art forestry cab has been relocated to the left side of the boom for industry commonality. Design changes give the operator a superior line-of-sight to each track. Standard rearview and optional right-side-view cameras further enhance the operator’s view. Komatsu’s exclusive KOMTRAX® remote equipment monitoring and management telematics system provides the operator with valuable machine health and operational data.

The new rugged undercarriages have significantly longer service life due to changes that include: heavier track chain links, high density material track roller bushings and final drives with triple labyrinth floating seals. A robust forestry-specific guarding system covers the boom, arm and rear hydraulic tubes and hoses providing superior protection and assists in shedding debris.

Extensive Field Research and Customer Feedback

Nearly every major area of the previous XT-3 Series has been updated resulting in improved performance and productivity, operator comfort and convenience, reliability and durability, and ease of maintenance and serviceability. Both within Komatsu and from an industry perspective, the tagline “This Changes Everything” captures the significance of all these improvements.

Ray Thompson and Terry Wolfe cut for FNT and run the machines in hardwoods, pine and on their occasional land clearing jobs. Both are seasoned operators and were involved in the field tests. Ray bluntly states, “I’m a low-tech man in a high-tech world, but I know how to run these machines. You get to where you know them like the back of your hand.

“I was in both the XT445L-5 and the XT465L-5. Each model has more lift. I liked the larger machine because it takes that 24- inch Quadco head. It gets you through most of the big trees without having to back cut a notch. Both machines are great, but for our area and the work we do, the XT445L- 5 is the better all-around fit for us.”

Ray continues, “I’d say one of the things that stood out to me was the extra stability. I could feel it even though the XT-5 test machines had the narrow track shoes. FNT always runs with 28-inch wide track shoes on our machines so with those, I’m sure that you’d really feel that extra stability.”

He concludes, “They moved the cab to the left side of the boom, but I don’t think most guys would notice the difference. That cab is very nice and now it’s even quieter than before. There are so many little things that Komatsu has done that I’ll just say it’s a really good machine. We’ve always been happy with Komatsu.”

Appreciating the Differences

Customers requested greater lift capacity at full reach to improve their productivity. The XT-5 delivers in that regard with a 75 percent increase on the XT430-5 and XT445L-5, and a 16 percent increase on the XT465L-5. This increase enables the XT465L-5 to easily operate the Quadco 24-inch (610 mm) cutting-capacity, highspeed disc saw heads (Quadco is a Komatsu-owned company).

Floyd says, “My crew really likes these machines, especially the increase in lift power. It was a very noticeable difference. Overall, Komatsu had done so many things right that it was hard to find any issues. Early on, we did make a suggestion to improve the view to the tracks and Komatsu responded. The XT-5s have excellent overall visibility, a clear view to each track, and a terrific skylight. They valued our input and it’s nice to be heard,” he added.

Floyd says, “That gull-wing engine platform is really convenient and the overall access to service points is excellent. Early results are that it’s really good on fuel. I take my hat off to Komatsu. Their people really did their homework and made so many improvements to this new series.

“The comfort and visibility are excellent; the speed and responsiveness of the boom and arm and the saw recovery are incredible. New guarding protects the hoses and tubes from damage. Daily service is easy with everything being readily accessible.

“Komatsu listened and made the changes that make sense for a logger. I don’t think you’ll find one compromise on their part. It’s a far better machine, probably the best machine on the market.”

XT-5 Machines are Winners

Floyd concludes, “Komatsu already has an outstanding distributor support system, so I’m really interested in KOMTRAX. Downtime is a killer in our business. We do everything we can to avoid it, so as an owner, I’m glad to have a tool like KOMTRAX which will help to further insure that my distributor and my crews can stay ahead of any potential machine problems.”

“My guys like these XT-5s, and they should know. Komatsu is known for quality and these new XT-5 machines are going to be winners.”