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Logging on the equator demands quality and uptime

Indonesia’s agroforestry sector is improving sustainable logging practices in the Sumatran rainforest – and to keep up with increasing demand from the paper and pulp industry, one local contractor relies on a fleet of Volvo excavators to help shift 200,000 tons of wood a year

Logging on the equator demands quality and uptime

Sumatra, western Indonesia, is the sixth largest island in the world with a 480,000km2 landmass and a population of 50 millions. Its elongated shape measures almost 1,800km from tip to tip, giving it a diverse landscape including mountains, rainforests, swampy plains and even active volcanoes. The island's third largest city, Pekanbaru, sits right on the equator and thanks to its hot and wet climate the area is abundant in Acacia and Eucalyptus trees – hardwood species that originate from Australia – that are used in the paper and pulp industry.

The Sumatran forestry industry has come under scrutiny over the years because of illegal logging operations that have contributed towards deforestation and the loss of natural habitats for the island's many unique wildlife species. Today, the industry is closely monitored by the Indonesian government and not-for-profit environmental organizations such as the WWF. Local businesses are encouraged to improve forest management strategies to plan for a sustainable future.Owner of the Prima Kas Lestari company, Mansudin (right), poses in front of a working Volvo excavator with his son, Nico Jonathan

A family business

PT Prima Kas Lestari is a family-run contractor, owned by Mansudin and his son Nico Jonathan, that fells Acacia and Eucalyptus trees and delivers the wood to a mill owned by PT Riau Andalan Paper & Pulp (RAPP), 80km from Pekanbaru. Mansudin is dedicated to minimizing his company's impact on the environment, so all of the trees that are cut down are replaced within two weeks – planted by hand to achieve a balanced forest density, biodiversity and good quality wood. While certain species of tree take hundreds of years to grow, the varieties that are planted here can be rotated every six years – and are usually felled when they reach a diameter of 20cm and a height of 10-15m.

The company was founded in 2004 and has expanded from a log transporter into tree felling, and operates at various sites in and around Pekanbaru. In total, Prima Kas Lestari has 100 employees including 60 machine operators and 10 on-site technicians. At one of its 35-hectare operations, Mansudin uses a fleet of six Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) EC140 BLC excavators. "To meet the demand we need reliable, good quality machinery – something the Volvo brand is known for," he says.

Local innovation saves time and money

At the plantation, the trees are felled using handheld chainsaws, and cut to size (usually 2m in length) using a harvesting head. Then, the Volvo excavators are unleashed to collect the logs from across the site and transfer them onto a sledge – a local innovation that keeps the logs in a tidy pile and can be dragged across the bumpy terrain to speed up the clearing process. When the sledge is full, the excavator pulls it to the transporter-truck loading area – on more even ground – where it uses its log grapple to move around 30 tons of wood in just 15 minutes.

The Volvo EC140 BLC hydraulic excavator features a Stage III Volvo D4 diesel engine with high torque, even in low revs, for fast and powerful ground clearing. It combines a high lifting capacity with a stable undercarriage to safely transfer the long logs onto transporter trucks and delivers higher fuel efficiency and uptime, even in tough operating conditions such as the unstable terrain of the Sumatran jungle.
Son Nico Jonathan and fellow workers are replanting the Acacia trees on a newly harvested plantation site

The epitome of quality, uptime and support

"I have always been aware of Volvo machines' supreme quality – but what really stood out to me was the excellent back-up support they offer," says Mansudin. "So far the fleet has clocked up 10 hours a day for six months and they are all still going strong with minimum downtime reported. But if a problem does arise, our local dealer will send a technician to the site within six hours – which is impressive bearing in mind the remote locations our sites tend to be in."

PT Indotruck Utama (ITU), a subsidiary of Indomobil Group, was established in 1988, and is now one of the largest distributor of heavy equipment in Indonesia. As the only authorized Volvo Construction Equipment dealer for Sumatra, Java, Bali, Nusa Tenggara and Papua, ITU has strategically located sales, service and spare parts premises close to its customers in order to deliver fast, effective support.

In Pekanbaru, the tropical climate means that operations must cease during the three-month rainy season. Mansudin says: "When the ground gets too wet, we have to stop work. So, when the rainy season ends, it's vital that our machines are up and running straight away so that we can make up for lost time. That's why we rely on ITU's support to maintain our machines well."

A positive outlook

According to the Jakarta Globe, Pekanbaru's paper and pulp market is forecast to grow by 5% during 2015 due to increasing global competition and a rise in paper consumption in China – good news for PT Mitra Angkutan Sejati. "We have faced a period of uncertainty in the industry with the change of government and a slowdown in demand, so this news couldn't come at a better time," says Mansudin. "If business continues to go well, we'll add more EC140 BLCs to our fleet in the future. The machines are a good investment for us, offering lower fuel consumption."

Mark Gabel, managing director at PT Volvo Indonesia, adds: "Sales of Volvo Construction Equipment machinery into the agroforestry sector have almost doubled in the past year to account for more than a fifth of our total sales. We're delighted that businesses in this segment are realizing the benefits of our machines in terms of the quality and aftermarket care we offer with the help of our dealers in Indonesia – and we hope to see this trend continue."