MANISTEE, Michigan—When Dave Gentz talked with TimberLine three years ago, his company, Gentz Forest Products, was coming through a tough stretch, but Michigan markets for wood were just beginning to pick up.
“Sometimes I wonder if we would still be in business,” he said at the time.
Dave still managed to maintain a level of optimism because Arauco had begun construction of a new particleboard plant in Grayling, about 100 miles northeast of his home in Manistee, which is on the western side of the Michigan Lower Peninsula, about half-way up, and right on the shore of Lake Michigan.
Today, thankfully, and in large part because of Arauco’s investment, wood markets on the Lower Peninsula are in better shape.
In addition, Dave has changed his business strategy somewhat to serve markets for ‘clean’ chips. In the course of making the change, he now relies on two new machines from Bandit Industries and another from Precision Husky.
One thing that helped Dave get through the recent tough times was his Tigercat forestry equipment. His company relies heavily on the Tigercat brand, and the durability and low maintenance costs of the machines helped him keep operating when markets were down.
Manistee is on the edge of Huron-Manistee National Forest. The office and shop for Dave’s company are in a new building he built in Brethren, about 18 miles further inland, in 2010.
Dave, 50, grew up in the Manistee area. After graduating from high school, he worked for a logging company for a couple of years, then went to work in his father’s trucking business in 1990. After a year, he and his father, Robert, began logging, and they worked together for more than 15 years. Dave and his wife, Melissa, bought the business from Robert — now retired — and three other family members in 2006.
Dave previously owned a drum chipper from another equipment manufacturer to produce fuel chips. However, the new Arauco particleboard plant requires clean chips. The Packaging Corp. of America mill in Filer City, next to Manistee, which makes cardboard material, also requires clean chips. Those markets buy both hardwood and softwood chips – mainly hardwood for the Packaging Corp. of America plant and more softwood for Arauco.
“He had a few markets change for him,” observed Ed Dodak, large equipment regional sales manager for Bandit’s Midwest region, which stretches from the Dakotas across to the Great Lakes states and south as far as Kentucky. Ed represents Bandit and sells factory direct, putting on equipment demonstrations throughout the region.
Dave sold his previous drum chipper and invested in a new Bandit 2400 whole tree disc chipper along with a Precision Husky FD-2600 2-flail debarker. Precision Husky manufactures the debarker for Bandit to be used in tandem with the chipper. In addition, Dave purchased a new Bandit Beast 3680XP horizontal grinder. He received the new machines in July.
Markets on the Lower Peninsula for wood have improved, noted Ed. The Packaging Corp. of America mill “has been going strong for a while,” he said. “And the new particleboard mill really picked up things, from chips to round wood. It’s created a lot more opportunities to revive the logging industry in the northern Lower Peninsula for sure.” In addition, several power plants in the region buy fuel chips.
The Arauco mill has been a boon for the forest products industry. Representing a capital investment of $400 million, it reportedly is the world’s largest particleboard plant. Arauco is a global forest products company with headquarters in Chile.
Ed was surprised by Dave’s decision to consider Bandit because he hadn’t looked at the company’s equipment for some time.
One thing that attracted Dave to the Bandit 2400 was the Bandit feed system, according to Ed. The Bandit feed system features a pair of top and bottom feed rollers as well as a pair of vertical feed rollers. “You can control the wood a lot better to produce a quality chip,” said Ed, “and it feeds in a lot better.” In addition, “He really liked the engineering of the disc,” said Ed.
The disc is engineered with bolt-in wear parts. With other machines, he noted, if a contractor has to produce a different chip size, the change may require cutting slots in the disc or making welds. “Ours are all bolt-on parts. It’s a lot easier to maintain and a lot easier to keep up chip quality.” The chipper also has a separator system to detect and discharge dirt and debris before it reaches the disc.
Options include engine horsepower, proportional feed system, 9-foot infeed conveyor, and operator cab with loader.
Ed summed up the key benefits. “It’s a simple machine to maintain. It has strong feed power with the slide box feed system and four feed rollers. Bolt-in wear parts on the disc. You get high quality chips, and a high percentage of clean chips.”
Dave was able to increase his tonnage production. At the same time, the Bandit 2400 disc chipper is consistently producing high quality chips. Sampling has shown that 90 percent of chips are acceptable. “Both plants are saying they’re the best chips they’ve seen in years coming into the facilities, as far as quality goes,” said Ed. In demonstrations of the Bandit 2400 with the Precision flail, the lowest percentage of acceptable chips was 87 percent, and the highest, 96 percent. After two months, it was still averaging in the mid-90s.
With the Precision FD-2600 2-flail debarker, Bandit puts production at 60 tons per hour, depending on the material. Dave uses a trailer-mounted knuckleboom loader-slasher to feed trees into the flail. The two machines are set up adjacent to one another. When the trees exit the flail, they feed directly into the chipper. The 2400 whole tree chipper can fill a larger trailer van in 15 minutes, according to Bandit. Capacity is wood that is up to 24 inches in diameter.
Precision Husky redesigned and built the FD-2600 2-flail debarker specifically for Bandit. It features a 2-flail system powered by a Caterpillar 375 hp diesel engine. It has a 26-inch diameter debarking capacity, making it the largest stand-alone flail debarker in the industry, according to Bandit. A variable speed feed system allows for six speeds; coupled with the variable speed flail drums, it enables a contractor to adjust feed speed for the type of species that is being debarked. Bark and leaves are discharged from the side via a push-ram system (the largest capacity in the industry for a 2-flail machine) – material that can be processed further for boiler fuel markets. The debarker feeds material into the chipper at the same feed speed as the chipper itself – a key in producing bark-free chips that are consistent in length and thickness. Feed speed is adjustable from 0 to 200 feet per minute.
The Precision Husky FD-2600 2-flail debarker is equipped with the user-friendly and reliable Danfoss Plus+1 operating system to provide engine and system parameters and diagnostics. The machine is equipped with a 200-gallon fuel tank, enabling it to run all day without refueling. A wireless link with the chipper it feeds to improves bark removal and chip quality.
“We are excited for this opportunity to work with Bandit and look forward to many more in the near future,” Scott Smith?, president of Precision Husky, told TimberLine. “Both of our companies are very well respected in the industry, and it only makes sense to find common ground and work together in areas where it benefits us both.”
Precision Husky was the first to introduce a 4-flail debarker in the market back in 2006, noted Scott. Originally designed for the eucalyptus plantations in the southern hemisphere, it was quickly proven to provide the lowest bark content available for in-woods chipping – in most cases less than half of 1 percent.
“With our newly redesigned FD-2600 2-flail debarker, we applied the same proven technology as the 4-flail to insure we will continue to be the leader in this area,” said Scott.
(Bandit has produced a short video – under 5 minutes – about the partnership between Bandit and Precision Husky and how the combination of machines is performing for Gentz Forest Products. It is available for viewing on the Bandit Chippers YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/jXF-hf6C1BQ.)
Dave also invested in a new Bandit Beast 3680XP horizontal grinder, a towable version, in order to grind the slash from the flail and his logging operations into boiler fuel that is supplied to a power plant. The grinder has Bandit’s patented cutter head, and he chose the 30-tooth cutter head. Other horizontal grinder manufacturers utilize a hammer mill technology, noted Ed. “A cutter mill takes less energy, so it can run on less horsepower and burn less fuel.”
The Bandit Beast 3680 also features the company’s patented drop-away screen gate. If a contaminant object enters the chipper, the gate can be opened via remote control to let it out, and the machine can continue grinding. “It’s a nice feature,” Ed pointed out, “because otherwise you would have to shut the machine down to remove it. It really saves on your down time.”
The grinder also has a discharge belt that is height-adjustable and can be operated via remote control. That’s a benefit when it comes to top-loading trucks, depending on truck height and wind conditions. “You can load a truck more efficiently,” said Ed.
Bandit grinders also feature a proportional feed system with six speeds. If the engine rpm slows down, the feed rate automatically slows down so the engine and cutter mill can handle the load capacity. As material goes through and the load capacity eases, the feed rate automatically increases. “It produces a more consistent product and consistent production,” said Ed. The mill stays full and the belt stays full, which also helps save on fuel.
Ed and Bandit service personnel were on-site to train Dave and his employees on the new machines and the start-up procedures – a three-week process. The start-up operations included running the flail, chipping hardwood and softwood trees, and running the grinder.
(For more information about Bandit chippers and grinders, visit www.banditchippers.com.)