volume: 42, issue:
Forwarding technology is well established in use around the world but, at the same time, forwarders are expensive machines that require a good planning to ensure the sustainability of operations. In addition, forwarder market is characterized by a limited pool of customers, therefore innovation attempts may be limited compared to other product development industries. Since the steps towards a full automation of operations are still at their beginning, improvements of forwarder machines may rest in developing and integrating components that could contribute to an increased effectiveness. To respond to such challenges, the Forwarder2020 project developed innovative components that were integrated in a number of forwarder prototypes based on a market pull approach that resulted in a flexible adaptation to customer requirements and work environments. Since one of the typical work environments was that of low access forests, some components (i.e. suspended cabin and transmission system) were engineered to enable faster and safer operations and to economize fuel. As a common validation step is that of bringing field evidence on the performance improvement, this study evaluated the operational speed, productivity and fuel consumption of a forwarder prototype in conditions of a steep-terrain low-access forest. The main findings were very promising as the prototype was able to operate at significantly increased speeds and the fuel savings were evident. For an average forwarding distance of about 1.5 km, net productivity and efficiency rates were estimated at 14.4 m3/h and 0.07 h/m3, respectively. They were related to the availability of wood, and further improvement of such figures is possible by a better organization of tree felling and processing. Operational speed was affected by the condition of skid roads used for forwarding, which were harsh. During the transportation tasks developed on roads typical for forwarding, the machine was able to sustain average speeds estimated at 8 km/h. As a matter of fact, in such tasks, the dominant operational speed (almost in 100% of the cases) was higher than 5 km/h irrespective of the road condition. Hourly fuel consumption was estimated based on the time in which the engine was working and it amounted to 17.1 l/h. More importantly, by considering the forwarded payload in terms of volume and mass, the unit fuel consumption was estimated to be 1.25 l/m3 and 1.47 l/t, respectively. These results bring evidence on the performance improvement by modular innovation. In fact, such solutions could answer the challenges related to the sustainability of forest operations in low access forests.