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The 415 hp from the MAN engine with 9 l displacement, coupled with the low-speed concept, are optimal for chipper use.

Mathias Schneider, Contracting company Schneider, Sainbach - 900 Vario

The 415 hp from the MAN engine with 9 l displacement, coupled with the low-speed concept, are optimal for chipper use.

Around wood chips

The professional production and marketing of wood chips is not a business for the sidelines. Mathias Schneider is one of the contractors who has adapted perfectly to it. He knows that efficiency counts in this business. Since mid-2020, his chipper has been powered by a Fendt 942 Vario. I'm on the road in southern Germany - about 25 km northeast of Augsburg, to be precise. That's where the Schneider contracting company is based in Sainbach. I park my car on a meticulously tidy company site and am greeted warmly by LU Mathias Schneider, his wife Anna and his employee Josef Müller. Since 1998, the contracting company has already been involved in woodchip services. "From the beginning, we have produced wood chips with the tractor-chipper team. This concept suits us best," explains Mathias Schneider, adding, "We are on the road a lot in the field and in the forest. The access roads are often not suitable for trucks. But with the tractor-trailer combination, I can always get to the job site - no matter what time of year it is. After all, we also have to get out in the winter when the roads are covered in snow."

Wide range of customers

His clientele consists of forestry operations, farms, municipalities, private customers, sawmills, and cogeneration plants, for which wood chips are produced and proportionally transported by truck or tractor-trailer combination. In addition, he supplies several cogeneration plants with wood chips - partly in cooperation with colleagues. For some major customers, he has to process logs into small wood at regular intervals: "Here, we can run on power - in other words, our tractor team stands on the spot and chops one log after the other directly onto a large pile for 16 to 18 h." For smaller jobs for private customers, he tries to plan day trips for the chipper team, always with the goal of minimizing unproductive road travel if possible. The chipper must be retooled to match the required chip sizes.

"We can change the screens to produce fine chips for the private plants and coarse ones for the cogeneration plants. We check all our equipment every evening. That is, the chipper - including replacement of wear and spare parts - and also our tractor, which runs under full load a lot during the day. We don't turn off the lights in our workshop until the machines are completely ready for the next day. In the morning, we want to chop, not screw. The service effort and costs that a chipper of this power class causes should definitely not be underestimated. This must be priced in and passed on to the customer. Otherwise, you can't earn any money with this technology," the contractor notes critically. The wear of the chipper knives depends largely on the material to be chopped. In clean logs, the knives remain sharp for a long time - sandy material, on the other hand, accelerates wear on knives and counter-blades enormously. "If we see that there are too many stones or foreign bodies in the chipping material, we leave it. No customer will pay us for expensive damage to the chipper," says Mathias Schneider. Private customers are billed by the hour. With major customers, on the other hand, annual contracts are usually negotiated, and in the case of supply contracts, invoicing is based on atrotons - absolutely dry.

Fast to the job site: chipper and tractor are licensed for 60 km/h - LU Schneider wants to keep the unproductive time on the road as short as possible.

Quickly to the point of use

After introducing the company, Mathias Schneider wants to show me what he means by efficient wood chip production. While his employee sits down in the cab of the Fendt tractor and starts the engine, he gets into the truck. I drive behind the two of them in the passenger car. During the ten-minute drive, I am particularly struck by the speed of the tractor with the attached chipper: A 60 km/h sign is stuck on the back - my speedometer shows 67 km/h at the top. Obviously, Mathias Schneider appreciates the possibility of getting from A to B quickly with the tractor. "That's exactly how it is," he explains as he parks his truck at the edge of a forest next to a pile of summit and branch goods, adding, "The 60 km/h tractor suits us very well, because our truck is only allowed to drive 60 on the country road. So we arrive at our work sites at the same time. In addition, our operating radius around our company site is about 70 km. We can reach any point within this radius within a maximum of 1.5 hours with our machines and start work. I do not get paid for the time on the road. That's why I want to keep it as short as possible."

During our conversation, employee Josef Müller has already prepared the chipper and "unfolded" it so that work can begin. He skilfully maneuvers the branches, which can be up to 25 cm thick, into the chipper's infeed with the crane. All movements are very smooth. "Feeding a chipper is a subject in itself. To work efficiently, the chipper has to be filled continuously. You have to learn how to do that, and it takes a while to get it flowing. We want to run the tractor's engine in compression as much as possible. That saves fuel and protects the material," explains the contractor.

In summit and branch wood, the Fendt 942 operates at around 1,500 engine revolutions per minute.

Min. 2,000 h per year

Contractors Schneider at least 2,000 h in operation, because chipping takes place almost every day. "Our industrial customers in particular are dependent on a regular supply of wood chips, as they cannot, after all, ramp up and down combined heat and power plants at will. Thus, we are well utilized throughout the year," explains the contractor, "However, 2018 was a special year for us with 2,400 h. Due to the drought in our region, the bark beetle spread massively. Significantly more wood was cut and processed than in other years," Mathias Schneider looks back. After the predecessor of the new 942 Vario had run around 10,000 h before the chipper, the replacement purchase was due this summer. "We had previously used the 939 Vario. This also ran well in front of the chipper. But the new one is even better suited to it," says Mathias Schneider, adding: "The 415 hp from the MAN engine with 9-liter displacement, coupled with the low-speed concept, are ideal for chipper use. We've already been waiting for the successor to the 900 series."

Reverse drive must be

The new tractor was ordered with a reverse-drive system. This is mandatory for Mathias Schneider: "We want a fuel-efficient standard tractor for the road. For chipper operation, however, the driver must be able to turn the seat in the cab so that he has a good view of the crane and can get off the tractor without getting tense, even after long days of work. This is only possible with a reverse drive system that also allows all the controls and displays of the tractor to be rotated. This allows the operator to move the tractor back and forth at the job site without having to constantly get off and turn the seat."

The new tractor was ordered with reverse drive equipment. This is mandatory for Mathias Schneider: "We want a fuel-efficient standard tractor for the road. For chipper operation, however, the driver must be able to turn the seat in the cab so that he has a good view of the crane and can get off the tractor without getting tense, even after long days of work. This is only possible with a reverse drive system that also allows all the controls and displays of the tractor to be rotated. This allows the operator to move the tractor back and forth at the job site without having to constantly get off and turn the seat." He bought the new 942 with an extended warranty. Service is performed by his dealer, and he can change the engine oil in his own shop according to the manufacturer's specifications. "Because of our many engine hours per year, the new 1,000-h change interval is a big advantage. However, we never exhaust it to the end and prefer to change 50 h beforehand. In our case, the engine runs at maximum power without airstream. The cooling system must therefore be optimally tuned so that the tractor does not get hot even in midsummer under dust load."

First and foremost, LU Mathias Schneider needs engine power and a reliable driveline to drive the chipper when it comes to the tractor. However, he also attaches importance to high driver comfort: "We spend a lot of time on the tractor. We need an optimal workplace that is as comfortable as possible for the driver in summer and winter. In my view, the continuously variable transmission is also an important criterion for a tractor like the one we need. We drive a lot on sloping terrain and on roads that are not particularly well surfaced. The stepless transmission is a real safety feature, as the tractor is less likely to erode or slip away when starting up. In the new Fendt 942, the automatic slip control of the all-wheel drive also comes into play here, providing additional safety." In addition, the transmission ratio of the continuously variable transmission lowers the engine speed during road travel and thus reduces diesel consumption. In conclusion, LU Mathias Schneider says with a twinkle in his eye, "The decision for the new tractor was quite easy for us. We were already allowed to extensively test a prototype in front of our chipper for the Fendt engineers in 2019. We already liked that back then."

Josef Müller

Everything in view

Josef Müller has been working at the Schneider contracting company for twelve years - and he has been driving the chipper team on the farm for just as long. "The decisive factor when using the chipper is the feeding with the crane. This has to run smoothly so that you can also achieve a high output in the end," he is convinced. When everything fits together perfectly, Josef Müller can produce up to 200 m³ of wood chips per hour with his team. "This works best with logs in fixed places, when the wood chips can be blown onto an open area and not chipped onto the truck. This would be full after 10 min at the latest and would then have to be changed." At his workplace, it is important to him that all controls are easily accessible and that the view of the implement is suitable: "Fendt has solved this well with the rear drive unit. The seat, including the controls and screen, can be turned within a minute. I have an optimal view of the work area and can work in a relaxed manner."

Source: LU Special November 2020 edition