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JMG Fillion is proud to own the very first Tigercat 25-tonne 1085B forwarder ever built. BTB followed up with the Fillion family in northern Quebec to see how the new machine was working out for them.

– Samantha Paul, marketing

JMG Fillion is a family owned and operated business working in the snowy hills of northern Lac-St-Jean, Quebec, about a four hour drive north of Quebec City. Owner Martin Fillion has been working in the woods since he was sixteen-years-old. His sons, Maxime (28), Nicolas (22) and Pierre-Vincent (24) are part owners and integral to the business. Maxime and Pierre-Vincent operate the Tigercat H855C track harvester. Nicolas used to run a Tigercat 1075B but now runs the new 1085B forwarder. Martin explains, “Since the boys were ten-years-old they have been coming into the woods to help me, they have always loved it. They each started working for the business when they turned eighteen.”

The 1085B forwarder with the Tigercat F195T85 crane, Tigercat FG43 grapple and low-wide bunk working in tough snowy terrain.

The 1085B forwarder with the Tigercat F195T85 crane, Tigercat FG43 grapple and low-wide bunk.

Martin has been working in the woods for over 30 years and loves being able to spend each day working with his family. Not only do they spend each workday together, but they also used to spend their weekends together racing snowmobiles and travelling to competitions.

The family operation

JMG Fillion is employed by Resolute Forest Products paper mill in Dolbeau, Quebec and is cutting mostly black spruce, also known as black gold. Black spruce takes over 100 years to grow, making the fibre very strong and valuable. The daily intake of the Resolute mill is approximately 2 000 m³ (1,760 ton). JMG finds that it can harvest an average of 266 m³ of wood per hectare (95 tons per acre). JMG contributes approximately 3 000 m³ (2,640 ton) per week to the mill and estimates it will cut a total of 120 000 m³ (106,000 ton) this year.

The Fillion family in front of their 1085B forwarder.

The Fillion family in front of their 1085B forwarder. (L-R) Pierre-Vincent, Maxime, Nicolas and Martin.

Resolute paper mill has strict regulations that apply to the contract loggers. A foreman comes around to check if they are following environmental regulations and safety protocols. JMG crew members must wear anti-cut gloves, hard hat, glasses and steel toed boots at all times while on site. Any time they need to service a machine, such as replace a chain or refuel, they must lock it out. Every near miss – an unplanned event that did not result in serious injury but had the potential to do so – has to be documented for the mill’s employee risk analysis.

JMG runs a two-shift operation for approximately ten months of the year. They only shut down for four to six weeks in the spring depending on the weather and one to two weeks over Christmas. There are seven crew members in total with three machines – one day shift, one night shift and one day shift mechanic – allowing the company to operate 24 hours per day. The boys are always competing with one another. The harvesters are trying to get ahead of the forwarder and the forwarder is trying to keep up with the harvesters. With two harvesters feeding one forwarder, they need the biggest, most productive forwarder available. That is one of the main reasons why they purchased the first 1085B they could get their hands on from Tigercat dealer, Wajax Equipment in St. Felicien, Quebec.

Tigercat H855C track harvester laying wood for the 1085B forwarder.

Tigercat H855C track harvester laying wood for the 1085B forwarder.

Their unique jobsite requires the forwarder to travel over 800 metres (875 yds) from the road in very hilly terrain with over a metre (4 ft) of snow in the winter. Martin strongly believes the company can have two harvesters feeding a single forwarder, as long as that one forwarder is extremely durable and reliable. The cost for a second forwarder would not only include the upfront machine costs, but also the costs for two trained operators, ongoing maintenance and transport from jobsite to jobsite. With the 1085B, JMG is able to run its operation with no bottlenecks with just one forwarder.

Increased productivity – Tigercat crane and grapple

JMG’s 25-tonne 1085B forwarder includes the new Tigercat F195T85 crane, Tigercat FG43 grapple and Tigercat’s innovative new low-wide bunk system. After nine months in the woods, Nicolas and the night shift operator, Philippe Gauthier, have put 2,800 hours on the machine with Nicolas commenting, “I really like the bigger crane and the capacity of the big crane. It is very easy to handle. The higher lift capacity makes it easier to move and actually makes it feel lighter than the Loglift crane we used to have on the 1075B.” Nicolas was able to lift approximately 1,8 m³ (2.4 ton) of heavy birch with the new crane and grapple with no problems at all.

Nicolas also comments on the Tigercat grapple, “I love its design. It makes it very easy to fill and overfill. We usually load eighteen grapples at 1,5 cubic metres [1.3 ton] of sixteen-foot black spruce making up to 27 cubic metres [24 ton] per load.” Tigercat district manager, Yannick Lapointe, timed Nicolas unloading a full bunk of sixteen-foot logs and it took approximately three minutes forty-five seconds.

Improved visibility with low-wide

By angling the load down toward the front of the bunk and reducing the gate height, the low-wide bunk reduces the chance of contact with the crane and provides maximum load capacity without the need for a vertical slider. The low-wide bunk system expands up to 7,5 m² (81 ft²).

Visibility is much better out the back with the gate being lower. When loaded, the operator can easily see the logs at the top of the gate and the logs being loaded all the way to the back, which greatly increases loading speed. The low-wide bunk gives the ability to load more wood while keeping the centre of gravity lower for increased stability, which makes a big difference on steep hills, rough terrain and deep snow. Martin sums it up. “The bigger grapple with the more powerful Tigercat crane and bigger, more stable bunk makes for much better productivity.”

100% Tigercat drivetrain

The 1085B excels in severe duty applications and long distance forwarding and is especially well matched to steep slopes. The machine is equipped with a full Tigercat drivetrain including transmission, differential and bogie components which greatly improve tractive effort and working travel speed. Tigercat expects high reliability and long life from the drivetrain components in tough applications like this one.

Tigercat’s unique WideRange™ transmission is well proven in extreme applications. WideRange allows quick working travel speeds coupled with tractive effort sufficient to carry twenty tonne (22 ton) loads up 60% slopes. This simple, reliable transmission solution has a built-in roading gear and gives the ability to manoeuvre on steep slopes like no other machine on the market.

Fully loaded 1085B forwarder heading down the hilly, snowy terrain to unload at the landing.

Fully loaded 1085B forwarder heading down the hilly, snowy terrain to unload at the landing.

“The speed is great on this machine. It is at least 1 to 1,5 kilometres per hour [0.6 – 0.9 mph] faster than the 1075B and there is a lot more tractive effort. The forwarder can now go anywhere the H855C track harvester goes, which was not always the case,” claims Nicolas.

Their 1085B machine is equipped with the new Tigercat designed and manufactured ROB17 bogie. The bogie has the largest gear train on the market, making it more durable than any competing forwarder bogie system. The 1085 bogie has evolved from the bogies found on the Tigercat 615E and 635E skidders, which are well proven in severe-duty applications, and have been for many years. Tigercat’s bogie stops limit the load placed on the slew and help distribute the weight evenly on the bogies as they travel over tough terrain.

“You can really feel the engine horsepower going to the wheels. Half loaded or fully loaded the machine feels fast. When it is fully loaded it can easily climb a 25 degree slope in four feet of snow,” claims Nicolas. “Fuel economy is similar to the 1075 but we are getting a lot more wood. Cost per tonne is lower and we haul 25% more wood.”

Superior support

Not only is JMG Fillion impressed with Tigercat’s engineering advancements, but also with the support provided by Tigercat district manager, Yannick Lapointe and Tigercat dealer, Wajax St. Felicien, that Martin has been working with for over twenty years. “The support we get from Yannick and Jean-François [Wajax St. Felicien sales specialist] is fantastic,” says Maxime.

JMG Fillion is very pleased with the productivity of the 1085B forwarder and the family agrees that Tigercat truly cares about its customers. “I am impressed with the way Tigercat listened to our needs. We made some comments to Tigercat product manager, Jon Cooper, and now we can see those changes in the new model,” states Martin. “The 1085B has a bigger crane, more tractive effort, faster travel speed loaded and unloaded and a bigger bunk with improved operator visibility. All of this is a huge advantage to us.”

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