Mobility is key in landclearing effort theft of grinder from jobsite leads to change in approach to processing.

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Courtesy of Morbark, LLC

One of the oldest adages around says that everything happens for a reason. And although it is hard to accept at the time, an unfortunate event can often turn out to be the proverbial blessing in disguise. Such apparently has been the case for Sunshine Land Design, which, since the theft of one of its main pieces of grinding equipment, has moved to a track-mounted horizontal grinder, dramatically improving the material processing facet of its operation. The company is seeing the benefits of that new approach proven out in a sizeable - and challenging - Vero Beach land clearing project.

Broad Range of Expertise
Sunshine Land Design is a Stuart, Florida-based firm which, according to company owner and president Tim Taylor, specializes in a broad range of services for commercial and municipal customers on Florida's Treasure Coast - from Melbourne in the north, to the southern part of Martin County near Jupiter.

'We offer everything from land clearing to landscaping to utility contracting to underground utility work, with a customer base that includes private contractors as well as municipalities, counties, the State of Florida, and work for Florida's DOT.'

Taylor says they are currently doing the land clearing phase of a 131-acre, 250-home residential development project in Vero Beach called 'Woodfield at Vero Beach.' On that particular project, his firm is doing only the land clearing, but in other instances, Sunshine Land Design can take it several steps further, handling the earthwork and beyond.

Planning and Execution
The size of the Woodfield site, coupled with the density of the woods in many areas of the project, focused the firm's emphasis on logistics and equipment, according to Sunshine's Operations Manager, Billy Vaughn.

'As is generally the case, we take trees out with a track hoe and then we have another shear-equipped excavator that cuts the trees to a manageable length; they are then hauled by loader to a processing area. In terms of material density, this site has both extremes. It has 85 acres of groves on it which obviously don't require a lot of clearing. The remaining 46 acres, however, are extremely wooded and demand heavy clearing of oak, Australian pine, yellow pine, and an awful lot of sable palm. We have a fairly sizeable Clearing and Grinding division in the company - probably 20 people and roughly 17 pieces of heavy land clearing equipment - so we are easily able to meet those needs. It's getting to that point which is often the challenge.'

Vaughn says his crew generally stages a pile of wood debris every two acres, depending on the density of material on the site; the Woodfield site had no fewer than 30 such piles. 'Getting a grinder from one pile to another can be a time-consuming process which involves stopping production, making the grinder ready for the move, bringing in a truck for the move, the relocation itself, and then the new setup. We felt it really ate into our level of productivity.'

Disappearing Act
Vaughn and his crew were aware that having a machine that could more easily make its way to the staged piles would streamline the processing portion of larger projects. He says they had, in fact, seen Morbark's track-mounted Model 6600 grinders at work elsewhere and were actually considering purchasing one in the near future.

'Someone, however, apparently had other plans for us. While we were involved in some of the hurricane cleanup in Palm Beach County this past summer, we had a Morbark 1300 tub grinder and the Peterbuilt 99 tractor that hauls it, stolen right from the jobsite after hours. We went out immediately to look for it, hired a private investigator, and even went so far as to charter a plane to see if we could spot it from the air, but it was nowhere to be found. Whoever did this had their plans nailed down pretty well.'

New Directions
The theft of the tub grinder left Sunshine short a machine, forcing them to hasten the purchase of the Morbark 6600 track-mounted grinder. In retrospect, it was that move that ultimately improved the material processing facet of their operation. Today, the time-consuming process described by Vaughn has been totally streamlined to where it involves little more than moving the track hoe - with the operator remotely bringing the 6600 along - to the new pile. Vaughn says the time savings with the new approach is significant.

'There are actually a number of benefits we are seeing as a result of the 6600 being on tracks,' he says. 'Obviously, mobility is key. We've gone from a move that, depending upon conditions and equipment availability, could take two to three hours, to one that can now be made in minutes. Considering the size of this site and the number of moves needed, that alone will probably gain us a couple extra days' production over the course of the project. And we've been extremely pleased with the performance we've gotten out of the grinder. Since taking delivery, it has handled everything we've fed it - including the sable palms which are usually tough on a grinder - without missing a beat.'

A Look at the Hog
Sunshine's Model 6600 Wood Hog offers a host of features that have proven invaluable, particularly in projects in which productivity and mobility can impact that project's degree of success. Powered by a 1000 HP Caterpillar engine, the unit easily handles any green waste, logs, brush, stumps and other wood waste encountered onsite, while a Caterpillar 330L undercarriage provides a full 18 inches of ground clearance and a wide stance for accessing steep grades. To maximize throughputs, the grinder features Morbark's Iqan Feed System, a variable system that automatically adjusts feed rates, pressures and feed wheel positions, resulting in the highest possible levels of production and efficiency. The 42' diameter by 67' hammermill, equipped with heavy-duty 28' diameter rotors, is laser cut, increasing durability of the mill components while allowing more precise tolerances. A wireless radio remote control, 11-HP air compressor, electronic RPM sensor and emergency shut down system, and a full break away torque limiter were also standard features on this model when Sunshine took delivery.

Vaughn adds that the unit's mobility also allows them to process in areas which were, in the past, cumbersome: wet or extremely sandy areas, for example. 'There are areas in this part of Florida where the sand is extremely fine, like sugar, so getting a grinder into those areas was a real challenge. By not having to mobilize additional equipment for each move, we reduce the amount of wear and tear on that equipment. In addition, when the wind shifts, as it often does down here, residue from the debris sometimes blows directly into the unit's radiator causing it to plug. Now we simply reposition the grinder so wind is not a factor and, in less than a minute, the problem is solved.'

Going Horizontal in Florida
Despite the sizeable volume of debris they will have run through the grinder by project's end - in the neighborhood of 60,000 to 70,000 yards - Vaughn says they have been helped by the fact that all the processed material is remaining onsite.

'We generally take the ground up material and, depending on the quality of mulch, either send it off for subsequent use, or dispose of it,' he says. 'On this job, the contractor is using all that material onsite to create berms and other features, so we are being asked to just leave it there. That's a real plus for us.'

He adds that replacing the stolen tub grinder with the horizontal unit will probably have some long-term benefits as well.

'In this area, there are real concerns about flying debris which can occur with an improperly fed tub grinder,' he says. 'In fact, there are municipalities in Florida which won't even allow a tub grinder to operate. So the move to replace tubs with horizontal grinders has gained a lot of momentum the last couple years. Adding the Morbark Model 6600 means our fleet now consists of three horizontal grinders; we've eliminated one more variable from our bidding process.'

Clearing is expected to continue at the Vero Beach site until roughly the second week of December. The 'Woodfield at Vero Beach' development is expected to be ready for residential occupancy by late Spring, 2005.

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