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12. Forest harvest training - The Sumalindo Project - D. Ed Aulerich* and Jefri R. Sirait**

* FOREST ENGINEERING INC., 620 SW 4th Street, Corvallis OR 97333 U.S.A., Tel: ++(1 541) 754 7558, Fax: ++(1 541) 754 7559, E-mail:

** PT. Sumalindo Lestari Jaya, Gedung Astra Agro Lestari, Lt. 2, Jl. Puloayang Raya Blok OR-1, Kawasan Industri Pulogadung, P.O. Box 3396 Jakarta 13930, Indonesia, Tel: ++(62 21) 461 6641, Fax: ++(62 21) 461 6681, E-mail:


The purpose of analysing, advising and implementing a variety of different harvesting options by P.T. Sumalindo Lestari Jaya was not to meet any special reduced impact logging (RIL) regulation. The purpose was to conduct operations that would be economically feasible while meeting socially acceptable standards. Since harvesting is more of an engineering activity than a forestry activity, the requirements to conduct such operations have to be physically possible (Aulerich, 1991). These three goals (economic feasibility, socially acceptability and physical workability) are basically the essence of RIL. The objective was, and is, to conduct cost-effective harvesting operations while reducing impacts on the environment.

PT. Sumalindo Lestari Jaya is an integrated wood-based industry company headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia. It is operating in the natural forests of the upper reaches of the Mahakam and Boh rivers in East Kalimantan, Borneo. It also manages forest plantations in the lower reaches of the Mahakam and Kerdang Kepala near Sebulu, East Kalimantan. The operations in the natural forest supply logs to a plywood complex located in Samarinda and the plantation wood is used in two MDF (medium-density-fiberboard) plants located on the Mahakam River approximately 90 km up-river from Samarinda. The company has made enthusiastic efforts to improve harvesting operations to match their efforts in growing and utilizing the forests under their control.

Although the purpose of the initial investigation of Sumalindo operations by Forest Engineering Inc. (FEI) was to look at road construction activities in the swamps of East Kalimantan, this project quickly expanded into the analysis of the logistics of all harvesting options and activities.

Road construction and harvesting must be considered jointly, especially when difficult terrain conditions, such as swamps and mountains, are encountered. A harvest plan should be generated first, and then the required access system (roads, for example) should tie it all together. Overall plans prepared by skilled staff are, from an engineering perspective, vital to successful harvesting (Aulerich, 1992). For example, no roads should be built without knowing how harvesting will be conducted on each side of the road; no harvest block should be designated until operations for all adjacent blocks have been planned.

All forest harvesting activities require the basic steps of engineering, techniques and equipment. As the harvesting difficulties increase, the importance of each step increases. However, none of the steps will be taken unless top management supports the project both financially and in time allocation. This was true with Sumalindo from the beginning. Whereas it is vitally important that top management is behind the project, it is also important that there is interest at all levels within the organization.

Success depended upon “engineering” the operation because of the difficult terrain. This meant that there needed to be a knowledgeable group of people applying the correct techniques both in the planning phase and the operational phase.

After the initial evaluation of the ongoing operations, cable logging (primarily skylines) seemed to provide the most promising alternative for improving production, decreasing costs and reducing environmental impacts. The primary reasons for this conclusion were the steepness of the terrain, the high rate of soil erosion and the heavy rainfall, which could shut down tractor operations.

Major problems were encountered early in the attempt to implement cable systems. First, the application of cable yarding was prohibited in the natural forests in Indonesia where most of the operations were being conducted. Second, there was little understanding of skyline cable systems within the company, although some of the employees had been exposed to the high-lead system previously. Third, there were few, if any, cable systems working in the area.

Based upon these basic philosophies and conditions, a program of harvest planning and application was implemented, evaluating all harvest activities but concentrating on the application of cable logging systems. It must be remembered that to conduct acceptable harvesting operations there has to be a large degree of concern (both economical and environmental), knowledge, and accountability. This paper will concentrate on the knowledge component.


Training is necessary at different levels within an organization and for regulatory groups outside the organization. In the Sumalindo situation where a different harvest system was needed, there were three groups that had to be exposed to the new harvesting method.

Workshops were organized to introduce top management and middle management (group 1) to the alternatives to the basic ground-based systems being applied. Potential changes in road construction activities were discussed also. In the workshops and meetings, the primary purpose was to inform management of what would be expected in the areas of engineering, training and equipment purchases to make the new system operational and successful.

Meetings were also held with the regulatory agencies (group 2) to explain the concepts and approach to be taken. Since there was a lack of understanding about different systems, it was important that all parties had an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the methods to be employed.

Operations people (group 3) are often identified for training programs, although these programs are rarely successful unless the management understands the need and supports such programs.

In the case of Sumalindo, the most enthusiastic group was top and middle management, and this was the major reason for the success of the program. Building on the past efforts of Sumalindo to be leaders in plantation establishment and wood utilization, it was only natural that they would also be interested in options for improving harvesting operations. They also recognized that governmental policies that limited cable logging were in error and based on misperceptions and lack of knowledge about harvest systems.

The training consisted of more than the operation of the cable system. Since the success of cable operations is highly dependent upon the engineering of roads and systems prior to installing the cable equipment, the training efforts required by top and middle management covered all the aspects of an integrated operation. Such activities as road location and construction, linkages between tractor and cable operations, and loading and transportation were covered, as well as the actual cable operation.

Topics of a far-reaching nature were presented in these awareness sessions and included:

Topics of a more detailed nature were also discussed. Examples included:

Since the success of most harvesting operations (especially cable operations) depends on: 1) the initial engineering; 2) the correct technique used by the operational crews; and 3) the correct selection of equipment, each of these components was addressed in the training. All workshops stressed the importance of harvesting plans from the engineering (rather than scheduling) point-of-view.

One-week classroom workshops were conducted initially for the operational management personnel on the following topics:

The training of top management is a never-ending effort of presenting material that increases the knowledge about different harvesting options. Normally managers are trained in other disciplines so they can see how and why other options will benefit the present program. They also need to know the necessary effort for achieving success and the costs and benefits involved. This total effort can take months or years. FEI has found that it takes approximately 5 years from initial efforts to see such a program of planning, training, and implementation become established. This, of course, depends upon many factors including the interest, knowledge, and acceptability of governing agencies (group 2).


The field phase of the cable training at Sumalindo began immediately after the classroom sessions with planning exercises, designed for planners, to examine terrain features that would influence the operation. Ground profiles were measured and payload estimates were determined. These sessions were conducted primarily for engineers and line supervisors who would be directing the operations.

A small (7-m tower) cable machine was purchased for the field training effort for the operational personnel. The machine was a Koller K-300, 3-drum, skyline machine and was equipped with a Koller SKA 1.5 multispan, clamping carriage. The selection of this machine was based on cost, simplicity of operation and relative safety of operation. It is an ideal training machine and can also be used in thinnings and final harvests of plantation wood for loads of 1-2 m3.

Planners, future cable planners and logging crews were required to train on the machine. Initially, all planners were required to spend two months working on the operation to give them a better understanding of what is needed to lay out a successful skyline setting. This meant they had to rig trees, put out guylines, notch stumps, and splice and set chokers along with the rest of the crew.

All trainees were instructed in the installation, operation and maintenance of a skyline logging installation. This meant that they learned where to set up the system, how to install the guylines and how to anchor the system. They were instructed in the installation of other structures such as tail trees and intermediate support trees. Basic techniques of splicing, felling of timber for the skyline, notching stumps and installing other types of anchors were covered. In total, each trainee spent approximately four months in training on the small cable system before moving to the larger cable machine in the natural forest. The training exercises were conducted first as part of a land-clearing program, but later, as the technique was applied to actual plantation harvesting, the program shifted to on-the-job training.

In the meantime, strategic planning was being conducted in the natural forests of the interior Mahakam River drainage, where a large 21 m tower would be utilized (Aulerich, 1995). This yarder was a Thunderbird TTY 70 slackline machine using a Thunderbird D-35, drum-lock, slack-pulling carriage equipped with a multispan truck carrier. The system can be used in a partial-cut or clearcut operation, yarding uphill or downhill.

All settings and roads were planned based on a designed strategic plan that had been field-verified. The cable logging was integrated into the tractor operations wherever possible after the initial test and training phase. The combination of systems greatly reduced the impact of skidding and allowed the tractors to skid downhill and the skyline to yard uphill.

The initial training at this location consisted of the planning and operational phase conducted on a 1 000-ha block. An engineer-hooktender initially directed the activities of the crew, but later acted in an advisory capacity. He was on the project for a total of four years.

Another cable operation that was installed by FEI and applied by Sumalindo in their plantation operations consisted of a monocable skyline using an 11-horsepower capstan winch system rigged in a zigzag configuration. This system consisted of open-sided blocks that enabled the logs to pass hanging blocks. The logs were attached manually to the skyline while it was moving.

The purpose of utilizing the monocable system was to increase productivity in swampy areas unsuitable for ground-based systems. Hand-carrying production rates were approximately 1 m3/person day. Kuda-kuda techniques were also tested and had a small production increase but were not used widely in the plantations. The initial tests using the monocable system resulted in production rates of 6-7 m3/person day. After the initial training machine was installed and tested, an additional eight units were purchased. Sumalindo then constructed two additional units.


At the same time, a concerted effort to improve road design and construction was also being conducted. This was especially critical with the new skyline cable systems that were anticipated, since the preferred location of roads on the ridge tops enabled uphill yarding whenever possible and reduced side-hill road construction.

Although the company had developed and used complex engineering designs, there were some major problems with the location and the actual construction techniques. The location of roads, especially in the plantations, followed a grid pattern around the planted blocks, which rarely matched the ideal location for a harvest road.

In the steeper terrain of the interior, the final road rarely mirrored the paper design. This was primarily a result of no staking, allowing the equipment operator to build at will. This is quite common in many parts of the world where companies often feel that engineering expenditures are a waste of money. The results are that, in many cases, excessive materials are moved, thus causing environmental and economic disasters in the construction phase. Another problem is that in many cases the structural integrity of the road is in question.

In Sumalindo’s case, top management recognized the need to improve and initialized a program of engineering in the design, location and construction control. A program of field staking was developed so that the equipment operator could receive directions during the construction phase.

To aid in this application, FEI developed a field design manual that would allow the engineers to locate, design and stake roads directly in the field (Aulerich and Shen, 1994). Training sessions were conducted in the classroom and in the field to illustrate the necessity for road staking to reduce costs and negative environmental impacts of road construction.

Initially, river crossings on the Sumalindo main-line road were simply improved fords that were sometimes dangerous or even obstacles for transportation. As the engineering level for roads was improved, the necessity of developing a permanent road system with adequate drainage structures, including culverts and bridges, was recognized.

A program was initiated to replace temporary culverts with concrete culverts constructed on-site. This, approach, along with a well-designed maintenance program of road grading and culvert cleaning, helped ensure consistent access.

For the major streams, several different bridge designs were developed and installed. The first was a multispan log stringer bridge constructed over the Majud River. The next series of bridges were steel stringer bridges manufactured in place and installed at different locations, such as over the Bakun River at Kilometer 83, a major operations and training site. The largest and most complex bridge project was the design, construction and installation of a 60-m single-span bridge across the Boh River at Kilometer 122.


Concern by an organization about doing a good job, both environmentally and economically, and employing people who are knowledgeable about the systems required for the work will result in RIL. Unfortunately, in today’s society many people do not realize that RIL will not occur simply by wishing for it or by passing regulations mandating it to happen. It will result, however, from ethically motivated organizations with competent professional personnel, trained by knowledgeable instructors, working in a stable and viable industry. In many ways, PT. Sumalindo Lestari Jaya is such an organization. It has an enlightened management team that is searching for ways to improve techniques and is willing to allocate resources to training programs and systems applications that will bring results.

There are only two ways to achieve RIL. One is to do the logging job correctly, and the other is to stop logging altogether. The second alternative is not practical or acceptable.


Aulerich, E. 1991. Welcome address for the Symposium on Forest Harvesting. In: Proceedings of a Symposium on Forest Harvesting in Southeast Asia, June 17-20, 1991, Singapore. p. ii.

Aulerich, E. 1992. Harvesting plans: the strategic and the practical. ASIAN TIMBER, December 1992. pp. 30-33.

Aulerich, E. & Shen, Z. 1994. Engineering tables for forest roads metric. Forest Engineering Inc., Corvallis, Oregon 97333.

Aulerich, E. 1995. Applying skylines to partial-cuts in the tropics. ASIAN TIMBER, November 1995. pp. 41-45.

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