Merensky has modernised and streamlined log handling capacity at three sawmills by replacing old machinery with versatile Bell L2106E Front End Loaders.

Fritz and Daniel
Wet mill Production Manager at Merensky’s Weza Sawmill, Fritz van Zyl with Daniel van Huyssteen, Bell Equipment’s Sales Representative.
bell loader
The new Bell loader doing what it’s designed to do – load and offload timber fast and efficiently.

Traditionally, mechanisation refers to machines replacing humans in the production environment. Modernisation, on the other hand could be used to refer to the fine-tuning of an already mechanised system, for example, where a single, more efficient machine replaces several older and slower machines. This is exactly what a leading forestry and timber-producing company is proving.

The Hans Merensky Holdings Group (HMH) is named after the famed geologist Dr Hans Merensky who, in his later life, spent much time on his farm Westfalia, near Tzaneen. It was here that he pioneered sustainable forestry practices, water conservation and the prevention of soil erosion.

Today, HMH subsidiary Merensky Timber Limited runs the largest privately-owned plantations that are managed on a saw log rotation. Their pine and eucalyptus plantations all carry the prestigious Forestry Stewardship Council certification and the group is known for exceeding standards of environmentally-sustainable forestry-management practices.

The group has three softwood sawmills situated in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. We visited the sawmill at Weza in southern KwaZulu-Natal which produces structural timber for use in the construction industry.

Fritz van Zyl is the Wetmill Production Manager at Weza and he explains the order of events as the saw logs arrive at the sawmill. “Our timber is harvested at between 23 and 27 years and, when it arrives at the sawmill, it is unloaded from the timber trucks and stockpiled,” he says. The company used to unload its trucks using an excavator with timber grapples. This machine was supplemented by the use of a Bell L1506D Front End Loader with timber grapples as well as another, older Front End Loader with a more traditional bucket that was used for housekeeping duties.

During the early part of 2012, Merensky decided to replace its older log-handling vehicles with three Bell L2106E Front End Loaders with interchangeable tools comprising Rockwell sorting grapples and 3,6 cubic metre buckets.

The machines were delivered during May and June in 2012 and are performing well. “Our Bell L2106E at Weza is utilised at least 14 hours per day,” Van Zyl says. “We really cannot do without it, as it now handles the work that was previously done by three machines with ease.”

All three Bell L2106E Front End Loaders were supplied with extended warranties and service contracts to 6 000 hours, and are meticulously maintained by Bell technicians from the Bell Equipment Customer Service Centre in Pietermaritzburg. Operators perform daily checks according to set schedules and lubrication is checked daily. Operator training was overseen by trainers from the Bell Equipment factory in Richards Bay.

The machine can unload a 30-tonne timber truck in under 10 minutes, which shortens cycle times and gets the fleet back to the loading zones near the compartments, says Van Zyl.

The Bell L2106E moves timber from the brown-stock stacks to the debarker and, from there, back to the mill-feed stockpiles.

“Our Bell L2106E has now been in service for a year and mechanical availability is in excess of 95%,” Van Zyl says. “Taking into account its workload and multi-tasking, we cannot complain about its average fuel-burn of 15,2 litres and running costs of about R300 per hour respectively. This all adds to us being able to produce structural timber competitively.”

*Published in Dec 2013

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