Innovative productivity improvements in forest operations: a comparative study of the Assortment Grapple using a machine simulator
Because of generally small log piles, loading forwarders during thinning is time consuming. The Assortment Grapple, an innovative grapple with an extra pair of claws which facilitates the handling of two assortments during one loading crane cycle, has been designed to decrease forwarders’ loading time consumption. A standardized experiment was performed in a virtual thinning stand using a machine simulator with the objectives to form guidelines for working with the Assortment Grapple and to analyse its development potential. Four experienced operators participated in the study. According to the results, the Assortment Grapple’s accumulating function is beneficial only when there are no remaining trees between piles loaded during the same crane cycle. In such cases, none of participating operators lost time, and 3 of 4 operators saved time notably. The problem with the remaining trees is the extra time required to steer the crane tip around them. Therefore, a harvester should place those log piles that are later to be forwarded together in the same space with no remaining trees between the piles. Furthermore, we recommend that the Assortment Grapple’s usability will be improved by adding an own rocker switch on the forwarder’s controls to command the extra claws.
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