Vermeer’s forestry tractor demonstrations highlight visit to Pella Iowa’s “Vermeer Mile”

Vermeer-Plant-31by Jon M. Casey

Earlier this year, in mid-July, Vermeer® Manufacturing Company introduced the latest addition to their Wood Waste line of products when they unveiled two Forestry Tractors, the FT-100 and the FT-300. Hosting a daylong factory tour and demonstration event for more than a dozen journalists representing wood waste and timber media, company officials welcomed the opportunity to point out the exciting features of these new products. They also showed why they are industry leaders in equipment manufacturing because of their successful application of the LEAN manufacturing process in their operation. LEAN is a system that serves to improve equipment quality while increasing worker’s morale and production efficiencies.

According to Jason Andringa, Vermeer president and CEO, the continued growth of the company’s product line, including the addition of the new forestry tractor offerings, has been an ongoing process since his Grandfather, Gary Vermeer, began making wagon hoists for farmers beginning in 1948. He said that Gary’s innovative and inventive mind, launched what has become an international provider of specialty construction equipment that includes products for the farming, surface mining, pipeline, organic recycling, tree care, utility directional drilling and wood waste markets. Vermeer’s new forestry tractors are the latest addition to the company’s wood waste segment.

To begin our day’s activities, the group was briefed on the areas of available opportunities where the new Forestry Tractor Mulchers could find use in the North American market. According to Jeff Bradley, product manager on Vermeer’s forestry and recycling side, in the state of New York alone, more than 65,000 acres of utility right away, is available for clearing on an annual basis. Additional millions of acres of land throughout North America are cleared annually for construction and road building, and house building as well. This provides additional markets that need products like the forestry tractors to do the job.

“Growth in this industry continues to evolve,” he said. “We are anticipating an addition eleven percent increase in these markets in 2015 alone.”

Bradley continued by noting the increase in bio-mass and wood pelleting growth in the U.S. and worldwide, saying those are markets that will need to be supplied in the coming years. With the new forestry tractors, the residue from clear cutting of timber will provide a quality mulch to be left behind for growing grass or maintaining utility right of ways. “The forestry mulchers fit a number of markets besides the utility contractor’s needs,” he said. “We are excited about these new tractors.”

Plant tour

Following the product briefing, the group toured several of Vermeer’s manufacturing buildings along the “Vermeer Mile.” There, we were able to watch the manufacturing process in full swing, observing every-thing from the assembly of tree chippers and tub grinders to that of some of the FT-100 forestry tractors, which were demonstrated later in the day, at a forested site some distance from the plant. Our tour, hosted by Environmental Division plant manager, Kevin Van Engelenhoven, exhibited Vermeer’s implementation of the LEAN manufacturing process, a manufacturing system that offers them the flexibility to assemble several different models of equipment on the same assembly line. This method is thought provoking to say the least. By designing the assembly process into one of “just in time” parts supply at the assembly line, it gives the line workers the opportunity to build a variety of equipment during any given day. That helps prevent the fatigue and boredom that often accompanies conventional assembly line production.

Demonstration

At the demonstration site, Product specialists, Ted Dirkx (on the FT-300) and Ryan Marshall (on the FT-100) provided initial walk around presentations to give us a closer look at the features that make these new entrants into the market a profitable choice. Both the FT-100 and the FT-300 were designed with durability and serviceability in mind. Convenient access to the engine compartments in both models, give maintenance staff easy serviceability for engine and hydraulic systems. On the FT-100, the engine enclosure is fully enclosed with a heavy steel protective cover to help prevent damage to the unit when working in close environments.

The FT-300 offers two track options, one with 30-inch, steel Berco-D4, track and the second a 33.25-inch version with five ply strips and cross bars for low ground pressure (LGP) capabilities. The low ground pressure configuration with above ground mulcher has a 3.9 psi rating while the higher rated unit is only 5.0 psi. The FT-100 comes as an entire unit with tractor and mulch head attachment sold as one unit. It has a rubber, all-purpose tread.

On the FT-300, the self-positioning deflector, helps direct mulched material at a consistent discharge angle, keeping thrown objects directed safely down in the same direction for safer operation. The FT-300 also is available with an Arctic package (diesel-fired fluid heater) for cold weather applications. A rear mounted, 30,000 pound winch is also an option on the FT-300.

Both units offer the latest in operator safety. Fully outfitted with ROPS and FOPS safety protection, operators can focus on production safely. On the creature comfort side, the spacious cab offers air ride seating, user friendly controls and a standard, rearview camera with in-cab monitor, so that backing up is safe and effective.

Both units offer interchangeable rotor tips to meet the needs of the job at hand. Four options include sharp planar, clad-faced planar, abrasion resistant, and impact resistant tips. Whether choosing the FT-100 with the 73-inch mulcher head with 17 cutting tips or the FT-300 with its 100-inch mulching head with 23 cutting tips, clearing land will go more smoothly with either of these Vermeer Forestry Tractors. For more information on Vermeer and their product line visit their website at www2.vermeer.com

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