Proven Process For Site PrepJuly 2008
By Jim Wahl
A low-speed, high-torque, stump-grinding attachment proved to be a profitable addition for this Michigan land-clearing contractor.
Nearly 20 years in the land-clearing business has taught Don Anderson of Anderson Tree Service in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a few things about equipment. All things being equal, getting a job done faster is preferable to taking a slower route. But equipment with a faster processing speed is not necessarily more efficient. And efficiency is the key to profitability—especially when clearing a couple thousand acres a year.
Anderson is a pioneer in the land-clearing industry, and the first one to advocate the shredding of materials rather than burning or burying them. “We can completely disassemble a set of woods much faster than anyone else because we put the right machines in the right applications,” says Anderson.
First he sends in the Hydro Axe 721s to “mow down all the little stuff” and “make it look like a park.”
With this unhindered access to the property, the crew marks the log trees. Then they begin to take out everything else. They use a Hydro Axe 721 with a 22-inch, high-speed saw head to lay down everything but the timber. Then the timber buyers (who buy it on the stump) come in to look over the timber, which Anderson auctions off to the highest bidder.
The loggers come in to cut down the timber, which Anderson skids out to the landing with his CAT 525 grapple skidders or a John Deere 648 grapple skidder. After the loggers cut off their log, Anderson chips the remaining tops directly into open-topped walking floor trailers. Finally, the area is ready for the stumpers to do their thing. Once the stumps are ground, the whole area is root raked with a D6 dozer and leveled off. The debris is run through a 13-foot tub grinder and hauled away, and the site is ready for excavation.
No Longer Stumped by Stump Grinding
While there are many options to choose from in terms of grinding brush and clearing vegetation prior to excavating, removal of stumps has long been a problem. Digging them out to haul them away is slow and costly. Burning or burying them is not the answer. Grinding them with high-speed, dedicated stump grinders was another option that Anderson explored and actually used for a couple of years.
His first foray into this realm was with a 175-horsepower (hp) dedicated tracked stumper, which proved to be undersized for his needs. He replaced this with a larger 275-hp model, which seemed to be a better solution for about a year. But component breakdowns and unscheduled downtime for repairs forced him to consider other options. So he checked out other high-speed options but found that each one was likely too hard on the equipment in terms of downtime and repair costs, not to mention the frustration that comes when breakdowns inevitably occur so close to the project’s completion.
In keeping with his philosophy of putting the best equipment in the field for a particular application, Anderson investigated the SH700, a low-speed, high-torque stump grinder from Fecon. The excavator-mounted grinder promised better fuel efficiency and better observation of the stump-grinding process, but the processing speed was sure to be slower. What Anderson found, though, was that the SH700 offered stump-to-stump efficiency that its tracked counterparts could not match.
“The excavator-mounted grinder is not quite as fast on a per-stump basis, but it is far more efficient. We can do 20 stumps without moving,” notes Anderson.
Operational Advantages Yield Increased Profits
Anderson has also found operational advantages with the low-speed, high-torque technology. “We found that the visibility is 10 times greater than grinding in the blind,” he explains. Because he can see the grinding disk and the stump at all times, Anderson always knows how much of the stump remains or whether there is a previously unseen tap root. That means he is able to provide a better clearing job for his customers, which is vital in keeping them happy and earning future business.
Using the excavator to carry the stumper while on-site offers numerous advantages. The curling action of the excavator is an ideal platform for stump grinding, providing reach, mobility, and control, which are unattainable from dedicated, tracked stump grinders. Because the SH700 is self-powered, Anderson’s crews can install it nearly as fast as they can change buckets. No hydraulic, fuel, or electrical connections are required.
Adding to the Bottom Line
While Anderson is sold on the concept of lower speed grinding, he is most pleased with the differences in operating costs. The SH700 uses a John Deere 6068HF275 engine, which delivers 225 brake horsepower (bhp) at 2,200 rotations per minute (rpm). It is easier on fuel than the 275-hp engine in a self-contained tracked stumper.
Both versions of the stump grinder accomplished the same amount of work, in this case about 1,700 to 2,000 acres per year. However, the costs to achieve that level of production are dramatically different. Fuel consumption is one consideration, especially as diesel fuel costs reach all-time highs. Savings on repair components and stumper teeth are an even larger consideration.
While processing speed is certainly an advantage in many instances, no sane operator would choose speed at the expense of efficiency or profits. Anderson has found that the efficiency provided by his lower speed stump grinder allows him greater profits on current projects, while increased visibility enables him to earn future projects and profits.
About The Author:
Jim Wahl, president of Wahl Marketing Communications, has written numerous articles on land clearing and improvement technology for a wide variety of magazines. Fecon is an industry leader for vegetation management. Products include The Bull Hog® Mulcher, FTX Track Carriers ranging from 97 to 440 horsepower, Grapples, Tree Shears, and Stump Grinder attachments. For more information, please visit www.fecon.com.
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