Canada

Canfor’s Investment in Technology a Win for its Fleet

Speaking with Mike Grimm, General Manager of Capital and Preventative Maintenance at Canfor, you get the sense that Canfor is one of those companies that’s got it figured out. And you get that sense because they practice what the how-to-be-successful-in-business books preach: the company sticks to its commitments.

“We have rebuild and replacement programs. And even in the hard times, we keep them up so we don’t fall behind,” says Mike.

He isn’t just speaking theoretically. He is explaining why Canfor invested in a brand new Cat 966M XE Wheel Loader at a time when many companies were figuring out how to scale back. In 2014, staring down an aging 966G wheel loader that burned a little more than 20 litres of fuel an hour, Canfor needed an alternative.

Finning had one.

“Canfor needed a way to save money on equipment, parts and labour,” says Jason Woodbeck, Canfor’s account manager at Finning. “We knew the 966M promised a 25 per cent fuel savings. So we pitched this to Mike and his team. They agreed to bring one in on a trial basis, a six-month rental.”

Canfor tracked the new machine’s fuel consumption and found that it didn’t just meet the fuel guarantee. It performed even better. Canfor purchased the machine outright in 2015 and has recently put in an order to Finning for two more.

“The 966M burns 29 per cent less than the 966G—a significant improvement. And not only do we want to save money,” Mike adds, “but with fossil fuels being what they are, we want to be as green as we can be.”

Brian Mulvihill, forest products manager at Finning, praises Canfor’s willingness to look ahead. “There is an eight per cent premium on this machine versus the conventional one. But if you look at the fuel savings and reduced maintenance, those two things alone will eat up the price difference.”

“The technology on the equipment today is unbelievable.”

Canfor reliably tracked fuel efficiency and up-time with Product Link, a remote-monitoring system that provides detailed information about a machine’s performance, including its location to its fuel consumption. This information is displayed in a web-based application called VisionLink, where complex data is displayed as easy-to-read graphics and charts on any web-enabled device.

“We expect high-usage of our equipment and VisionLink plays a major part in monitoring our equipment’s performance. It’s a standard order on new equipment and is added to anything that’s rebuilt,” says Mike.

Jason, who tracks 80 pieces of equipment in Canfor’s fleet with VisionLink, says Finning is doing it right: “The technology on the equipment today is unbelievable. You’ve got fault codes at your fingertips, and you can set up the system to email or text you when there’s an alert. This is one way we’ve been able to reduce Canfor’s idle time.”

Mike says the one hitch with the technology is that it’s cell- and satellite-dependent, “so if you’re out of cell range, it doesn’t work so good.” For sites with intermittent cell coverage, Mike explains, Finning sends a mechanic to do a manual download of the data on the machine. But, Mike counters, “as cell coverage gets bigger and better, this becomes less of a problem.”

As Brian sees it, Canfor’s approach to managing its fleet is spot-on: “Finning’s customers are in a very competitive environment. Those who are willing to invest in technology and pay a bit of a premium up front? They’re the ones who are going to win.”

Five tips for building a high-performance fleet from Canfor’s general manager of capital and preventative maintenance, Mike Grimm.

  • Understand the warranty: “Get into the details. Don’t assume anything.”
  • Review your options: “Really go over them – handrails, fenders, steps, lights. Have your machine built so that when it gets dropped off, it goes to work, not to the shop. Make sure your machine meets your specific needs.”
  • Know what the gauge should read: “Make sure you review fuel guarantees.”
  • Don’t tread lightly: “Get the right tires for your application. Tires are expensive, and it can be like buying a car. Sometimes the machine doesn’t come with the best tires for your application.”
  • Tackle new technology: “Sometimes you just gotta take the plunge. Buy the system, and get the training. You’ll have a lot of questions once you use it. Make sure your Finning resources are available, and review your questions with them.”