The Ponsse Scorpion King harvester in action…

Ponsse – one of the leading global brands in timber harvesting – is making its presence felt in the South African forests working in pine sawlog and Eucalyptus pulp harvesting operations.

The local company behind Ponsse and other leading forestry equipment brands is Green Projects, owned by Frank Uzzell, a well known figure in forestry circles with more than 25 years’ experience in the industry.

He’s worked as a harvesting contractor for 12 years, spent 10 years at Bell as a brand manager for forestry and sugar equipment and two years at Matriarch Equipment, which has now been bought out by Bell.

Frank launched Green Projects in 2010. In 2012 he was approached by the Ponsse team in Finland with a request to distribute and support their equipment in South Africa. Green Projects took over the Ponsse dealership from Babcock, which was more focused on mining and construction than forestry.

Since then the number of Ponsse machines working in South African forestry has increased significantly. There are currently 17 purpose-built Ponsse machines in SA, both harvesters and forwarders, plus another six Ponsse heads attached to converted excavators harvesting Eucalyptus for the pulp market, mainly in KZN.

Green Projects workshop in Howick in the KZN midlands (left to right) Len Lombard (parts and distribution), Frank Uzzell, John Roos (chief mechanic), Thabo Daluka (operator trainer) and Estha Matengu (office assistant). The workshop team was busy fitting a Ponsse H7 Euca head onto an excavator for a client in Zululand.

York Timbers
York Timbers, which owns plantations and sawmills in Mpumalanga, is one of Green Projects’ biggest customers with four Ponsse harvesters doing thinning and clearfelling, working in tandem with four Ponsse forwarders, plus two excavator-based loaders also supplied by Green Projects.

The rest of the Ponsse machines currently operating in SA are working for contractors in central Mpumalanga, KZN and in the southern Cape area.

It is a well known fact that the key to the successful operation of any mechanised harvesting equipment is the level of support available for that equipment, including maintenance, repairs and spare parts availability.

To this end Green Projects has established a workshop and head office in Howick, a spare parts depot in Chrissiesmeer in central Mpumalanga, and has partnered with an established company, MTS Parts based in Nelspruit, to support their machines working in the Lowveld region.

Excellent visibility and operator control are hallmarks of Ponsse harvesters.

Meeting customers’ needs
“Our whole existence revolves around providing support to our customers including training, technical support as well as spares,” said Frank. He said that they keep day-to-day spares at their three depots, and get weekly air freight shipments from the Ponsse factory in Finland.

“We will grow our footprint to suit our customers’ needs,” he said.

Green Projects also has a Ponsse harvesting machine simulator available for training operators. Ponsse experts from Finland regularly visit South Africa for training purposes, and to provide specialist technical expertise as and when required. In-house Green Projects technician John Roos and trainer Thabo Daluka have both been trained at the Ponsse factory in Finland.

York harvesting machine operators were trained on a simulator for six months prior to the purchase of their first machine, with additional training for the harvesting manager and operators provided by the Ponsse factory trainer who was brought out from Finland especially.

Frank Uzzell (right) delivering a brand new Ponsse Buffalo forwarder to KLF in Mpumalanga.

Ponsse harvesting machines working in South Africa include the Bear, which is used for large sawlog timber, the Beaver used mainly for pine thinnings and the Ergo (currently working in the southern Cape on an MTO plantation). Forwarders include the Elephant King (for large timber) and the Buffalo used for thinnings. These are all highly versatile wheeled machines. Green Projects also supply Olofs Fors bogey tracks which are fitted to the wheels of harvesters and forwarders for use on steep slopes.

One-pass harvesting
The recent introduction of ‘one-pass’ harvesting by Mondi led to another breakthrough for Green Projects after the H7 Euca head designed specifically for Eucalyptus harvesting and de-barking performed well in trials. Subsequently harvesting contractor Quinton Preen has purchased seven of these heads which are fitted to converted excavators and working in Zululand and the Midlands.

These heads are renowned for their ability to de-branch and de-bark Eucalyptus causing minimal damage to the stems.

The on-board technology available on all Ponsse harvesting machines is cutting edge and provides operators, managers and technicians with a wealth of information about productivity and machine operation.

Green Projects also supplies and supports a number of other leading forestry brands in South Africa, including:
• Nokian tyres
• GB saw-bars
• Monra Forestal – a Spanish manufactured biomass bundler
• Olafs Fors – bogey tracks
• Hultdins grapples
• Rotobec grapples, rotators and cranes
• Alucar – timber bunks and steel uprights

In addition to the above equipment, Green Projects supplies the Raptor head for harvesting stumps, and fuel anti-theft devices, both designed and manufactured by Green Projects.

This dedicated Eucalyptus head has been fitted to an excavator for one-pass harvesting in Zululand.

The Green Projects technical team of Thabo Duluka and John Roos working with Janne Loponen (in the operator seat) from Ponsse Finland, fine tuning the controls on the H7 Euca head fitted to an excavator.

Ponsse H7 Euca on a Hitachi ZX 200 working in Zululand.

High productivity Ponsse Buffalo Forwarder now working in South Africa.

Enquiries: Frank Uzzell, cell: 082 820 5701

Related article: Myths and legends of Finnish forestry

*First published in SA Forestry magazine, July 2019



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