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Research to increase logging efficiency

by A. KOROLEFF, Director, Research Division, Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, Montreal

Logging has not yet received its proper share of the benefits of science and engineering and generally speaking, it is lacking in efficiency.

Although it is heavy work, logging still depends principally on the muscle power of men and animals; even in industrialized countries, logging mechanization often lags behind mechanization in many less strenuous occupations. For instance, in eastern Canada and in the northeastern part of the United States, during conventional logging each bolt or log is often handled between five and seven times, which corresponds roughly to moving from four to six tons of wood manually for each cubic meter of wood produced.

It is as well to remember that throughout the world much more manpower and money are spent on logging than on all other forest management activities, so that the cost of logging usually constitutes the principal part of the cost of wood production. Increase in the efficiency of logging would be the best means of reducing this cost, or at least of checking its rise.

Theoretically, the possibilities offered by research devoted to the promotion of logging efficiency are almost staggering The reality, however, is far less impressive, as it is determined by provisions for such research, by its planning and execution, and by proper application of the findings: in all these aspects there is certainly much room, and great need, for improvement. Since the field of logging efficiency research is vast and the available facilities small, it is particularly important to apply the principle of clearing with first things first and to consider carefully where attention should be centered,

Categories of research

Logging efficiency research may be divided into two categories:

(a) improvements of logging practice by a better choice and use of the available means and methods of logging;

(b) the finding of new, considerably more efficient means and methods in place of those now employed.

For convenience of reference, logging efficiency research of the first category will be called evolutionary or "E" research, and that of the second class revolutionary or "R" research. Since a clearcut division between these two classes is not always possible, an intermediate or "I" class will also be recognized.

There are important differences between "E" and "R" research. The first pertains essentially to improvement in the management of logging operations, aims at the betterment of current routines and usually results in a gradual, relatively slow increase of efficiency. In contrast, the "R" class of research pertains to developments, inventions and discoveries that can lead to sudden far-reaching changes and rapid gains in efficiency. Successful cases of such revolutionary research can be likened to such leaps in the change of characteristics of a certain species as are caused by some mutations and which are of paramount significance in genetics. While the potentialities of class "R" research are great, their attainment is difficult, and rapid progress in this field calls for different, much more substantial research provisions than those needed for "E" research.

This distinction can be shown by consideration of some of the problems that are typical for the "E", "I" and "R" classes of research, and some of the factors pertinent to each class.

"E" research

One of the great, intrinsic difficulties of logging is that in all its phases the productivity of the workers is affected by many variables. Varying factors which affect the workers' efforts change continuously. Even though the processes are repetitive, various adjustments are constantly necessary to meet the needs of efficiency and safety.

Logging production per man-hour depends on such factors as the primary products to be made from trees, the tools and techniques, the physique and skill of the worker, the basis of remuneration and the degree of his application to his work, by the accessibility of the place of work, and many other technical, economic, human and physical factors. Some of the latter are the following: tree species, diameter, degree of branchiness, form factor, defectiveness, stand density, wood volume per unit of area, underbrush and other obstacles, topography, bottom, climate, season of the year, and weather. Great differences with regard to many of these factors are often found even within a very short distance. Moreover, the efficiency of logging as a wood harvesting process may be seriously affected by the requirements of silviculture and forest protection, such as the prescribing of a certain cutting method and provisions as to slash disposal.

Many studies have been conducted, on a local or regional basis, to determine the effect of certain factors in the operating conditions and practices on the rate of output in woods work. Much of "E" research is directed towards the elimination of waste effort through time and motion studies, but most of it has probably been intended to provide an adequate guide for manpower and cost estimates in logging, for the needs of planning and cost control, and, particularly, to provide a proper basis for piece work rates and for collective work and wage agreements between woods labor and its employers.

Research on the correlation of the variable factors in logging conditions with the rate of output is, with some exceptions, more of an aid to sound administration of operations than a means for achieving rapid increase in efficiency. 1

1 See Unasylva, Vol. VII, No. 2, p. 81, "Logging Techniques and Training of Forest workers" (Work of FAO).

"I" research

A good example of this class of research is constructive analysis of the annual logging cycle in those operations where seasonal influences constitute an important or even controlling factor. Considerable gains in efficiency should often be possible by means of improved adjustments in the use of labor and better choice of techniques for specific kinds of work at certain times of the year.

A thorough, critical analysis of the framework of logging operations, with a view to an increase in their efficiency, is a fertile but a difficult field for research. Such a problem usually has many roots in the areas of labor choice and management, of logging techniques and machinery, and of forestry. Closer integration in the management of both labor and of the forest is badly needed. The improvements required are usually not single steps but sets of interrelated measures which must be introduced together.

The subjects just mentioned do not lend themselves fully to constructive study on a very broad basis. In class "I" as well as class "E" research, each logging operation usually needs special study, on account of its particular complex of conditions and requirements.

"R" research

Certain widely-used logging practices are intrinsically inefficient, though this fact is not always obvious. Here there is a definite need for revolutionary research to diagnose the situation correctly and to find a sound solution.

A good illustration of an inefficient logging method is the use of draft animals in skidding timber down steep, rough hillsides. A strenuous and slow ascent and a difficult descent have to be made for each small load, while the work calls for merely one-way, downhill transport which can be accomplished by gravity. Since chutes, cableways and such other means are economically justified only with concentrated operations, the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada has in recent years conducted some research on the development of a simple and cheap method of transporting wood down excessively steep slopes, by its own weight, over a suspended singlestrand, strong steel wire - with gratifying results.

While logging mechanization, where applied effectively, has greatly increased the total efficiency, much research of the "R" type is needed to improve further logging machinery and techniques. For example, crawler tractor skidding is usually done either by dragging timber directly behind the tractor, in spite of great load resistance, or by pulling loads which are semi-suspended from a trailing arch or a sulky behind the tractor - with the addition of considerable deadweight and a loss of maneuverability. Both of these procedures have substantial intrinsic weaknesses. If semi-suspension of the load were provided not by a trailing arch but by a suitable change in the construction of the tractor, the decrease in the load resistance would combine happily with a considerable gain in the machine's pulling power, by an increase of its traction. The soundness of this simple reasoning is supported by some American research of eight or nine years ago (United States Forest Service Tomcat tractor) and by recent Russian experience with such special skidding tractors (KT-12 and ETT-1 models).

The development in the United States of the bulldozer and its wide adaptation in many countries in the construction of forest roads is a case of a revolutionary change which resulted not only in great gains in logging efficiency but also in broader benefits to forest management.

The gains from "R" research are usually much greater than those resulting from the "E" or even "I" classes, not only on account of more beneficial changes but because of much wider applicability of those changes. Yet the task involved in revolutionary research is usually more difficult and calls for greater investment in facilities and development work

Research provisions

A considerable list of substantial increases in efficiency of logging through "R" research could be given and a still longer list of important problems which are waiting for solution. The degree of future progress will depend on the planning and the provisions for research - not only on the total funds and effort to be invested but on their allocation. 2

2 See Unasylva, Vol. VII, No. 2, p. 96, Logging Mechanization the U.S.S.R. by A Koroleff (Selected Reviews).

Let us consider, in this connection, two different kinds of research provisions:

(a) well-organized endeavors by means of centralized efforts (forest research organizations aiming at increase of logging efficiency), which can be designated as research provisions of "C" class (centralized);

(b) relatively casual efforts which may be called dispersed or "D" endeavors.

These two kinds of research provisions differ greatly as to their possibilities. With "C" provisions, research is normally conducted under careful planning by qualified personnel, who work steadily with good facilities. In contrast, dispersed research in logging efficiency depends principally on those whose main duty is not research; it is often done rather casually on a part-time basis and under various handicaps. The effectiveness of the work under "C" provisions - whether on a per hour or per dollar basis - is probably much greater, but due to a lack of organization and co-operation and the very great numerical superiority of class "D" research workers, most of the time, effort and funds expended in all research are too thinly spread and much of the work is dissipated.

Both classes of research are of course necessary, but the "D" type does not lend itself sufficiently to such difficult, substantial studies as are usually needed for clearcut solutions of the most important problems in logging efficiency.


In the writer's opinion, the following are the main courses that need to be followed:

1. Consideration and definition of the tangible research problems, the solution of which would contribute most to an increase in logging efficiency in the country concerned.

2. Endeavor to increase and further to improve the provisions for organized, centralized research.

3. Increase in the emphasis on the revolutionary class of research by forest research organizations, even if at the expense of evolutionary research ("RC" combination being usually more efficient than "RD"). Since they are in a good position to evaluate and to develop them, such organizations can act as a magnet for attracting from many quarters various constructive, revolutionary ideas on the promotion of logging efficiency.

4. Encouragement of those engaged in dispersed research endeavors to deal directly with the evolutionary type of research, and to deal with the other kinds in co-operation with the forest research organizations or through them (since "ED" usually tends to be more effective than "EC", in so far as certain important local conditions are concerned).

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