Porter Press Extra: Flavell Logging

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer


Going big on the machine front is not only good for productivity but it’s also a sound move in terms of future-proofing the fleet

Ray Flavell of Flavell Logging attests to this theory, with his new Hyundai R480LC-9 doing the hard yards in the remote and rugged forests of the East Coast.

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The big Hyundai R480LC-9 is working alongside Ray’s Madill 123 swing yarder

Getting into the bush to check out Ray Flavell’s Hyundai R480LC-9 crawler excavator is no easy feat. The path into this particular pine forest is a well-trod one—we pass logging truck after logging truck plying the sinewy gravel ribbon that Tauwhareparae Road eventually becomes—but it’s a long way from anywhere.

Well, it’s a long way from anywhere that isn’t Tolaga Bay on the rugged East Coast of the North Island anyway.

I’m in the good company of Porter Equipment’s Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, and Taupo territory manager, Roger Pedersen, whose work truck is better suited to tackling the serrated gravel access road than any rented wheels I’d have at my disposal otherwise. It’s a lengthy haul into the forest to see Ray’s operation, but the views and the machines on hand make the trip more than worthwhile.

Biggest in the fleet

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The R480LC-9 is one of the largest in Hyundai’s extensive excavator model line

Sporting a processing head, the big Hyundai R480LC-9 is working alongside Ray’s Madill 123 swing yarder and a Hyundai R290LC-9 tasked with stacking logs on one of the few bits of flat land to be seen up here in the steep hill country of the East Coast.

Roger says this is probably one of the larger excavators fitted with a processing head in the forestry game that he’s seen, and his territory covers a lot of forestry ground. He’s also been helping Ray with machinery requirements for 15 years and counts him as a very loyal customer.

"Yeah, I’ve been buying these machines for a while. That’s actually my 25th Hyundai," confirms Ray.

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Roger says the new Hyundai is probably one of the larger excavators fitted with a processing head in the forestry game that he’s seen

"I’ve been buying them for many years because they do really well, and they’re cost-effective to run. Forestry is a tough business on gear, so you need something that’s going to go and go and not cost you a lot of money to run. And the service Porters gives its customers can’t be beat either."

The Hyundai R480LC-9 sits towards the upper end of the Korean manufacturer’s extensive crawler excavator model line. The 48-tonne machine is powered by a Tier III compliant, six-cylinder turbodiesel and offers plenty of lifting capability, thanks to a clever hydraulic system, which offers differing modes depending on what the task at hand is. The machine is manufactured using low-stress, high strength steel, welded to form a stronger, more durable upper and lower frame.

PFS Engineering’s APC (All Purpose Cabin) provides the operator with more glass area and less blind spots to work around—important when processing logs at the top of a big drop-off and with other machines in close proximity.

30 years and counting

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The 48-tonne machine offers plenty of lifting capability

Ray says he has been a Porter Equipment customer for around 30 years now. Starting out in Taupo, he moved Flavell Logging to the East Coast a few years back.

"I’ve got a ground crew of 12 here and there’s plenty of work," says Ray. "I’ll probably be in here for another five or six years, so it’s worth the investment to get good machinery that is going to last.

"We’ve gone for a big machine because that means we’ll get a decent 15,000 hours out of it. If I had a smaller machine on the job, working a lot harder day-to-day, that might actually cut down on the life of the machine over the course of its time on my fleet.

"So, I’d rather have a big machine working at, say, 70% of its capacity, rather than a smaller machine working at 90% of its capacity. I think it just makes the investment you have to make at the start a bit easier to handle over the life of the machine."

Game changer

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The new machine is the company’s 25th Hyundai purchase

Ray is already thinking of the next phase for Flavell Logging, acknowledging that he has had a great run but is planning for the next generation of logger.

"My Madill swing yarder is being operated by Aaron Wallis who is buying into the company," Ray explains.

"I like to help guys get going in business, as long as they, in turn, help someone else in the same way. I had some good advice way back when I started in the forest, and so I like to do the same. I’m lucky that I have some good guys on our crews; they’re not always easy to find, unfortunately."

Next year, Ray takes delivery of a brand-new Madill 124 swing yarder. The first of its kind to be delivered to a customer in New Zealand, the new machine features an innovative touchscreen-based operating system that Madill believes will be something of a game changer for the industry.

"I’m really looking forward to seeing that out here," concludes Ray. "Porters have been great with advice and assistance as we went through the research and purchase process for that new machine. There is a lot of interest from both Porters here and Madill over in Canada in getting that machine on-site, so it will be good to see it when it arrives in March 2020."

Looks like Deals On Wheels might be making a return visit to the rugged East Coast in the months ahead then. I can’t wait.

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