Rob Frost learned his trade literally from the ground up, but now he feels that he is on the leading edge of tree care technology.
Frost's business, KutTech LLC, is based in the greater Boston area and now serves an expanding region with specialized services in urban forestry and land clearing. Frost's grandfather led the family into the tree care industry in 1969, following a stint in the Navy, and his father followed suit through the 1980s and ‘90s. Frost started alongside his relatives before he was in his teens. At that time, the Frosts were operating with dump trucks, bucket trucks and cranes, climbing and felling trees providing traditional tree care services for homeowners and businesses.
"I literally started at the bottom," Frost said. "I was dragging branches and learning how to climb when I was about 10 years old. Pretty soon, I was running bucket trucks and cranes and the bigger all-terrain cranes and land clearing equipment. I came up while a lot of the old-school guys were still around. I saw how hard they had to work. As the newer equipment came around, we were able to appreciate it more."
A "Purpose-Built" Future
More recently, another tree care business recruited Frost to operate its newest piece of equipment: a purpose-built Sennebogen718 tree handler. At that moment, Frost saw his future.
"Previously, I was doing a lot of land-clearing and right-of-way work. But I found that I like doing the roadside work and that's where the 718 came in."
Frost recently purchased a 718 of his own and KutTech has been taking on a steady stream of projects ever since.
The 718 is a 21-ton rubber-tired machine with a high-rise Maxcab operator station, equipped with a hydraulic tree saw and grapple attached to its 43 ft. (13 m) telescoping boom. With a lifting capacity of up to 3,700 lbs. (1,700 kg), its powerful hydraulics are fine-tuned for delicate tree surgery while its elevated cab affords the operator an unobstructed view into the work zone. The agility of the 718 system makes cuts fast and efficient, while its grapple serves to hold branches, clear the cut wood and stack logs or brush — all while keeping operators a safe distance from any hazard on the job.
"The first time I saw a 718 working, I could see how it's so good at its job with the right operator and in the right conditions," Frost said. "I'm mostly focused on subcontracting. I can meet the needs that are outside the traditional work for most tree care companies. The machine is a good investment for anyone who does heavy projects on a regular basis; but if you don't, I'm here to take it on for you. The guys that only see one or two of these jobs in a year can still say yes to whatever job comes along — that's when they call KutTech to come out and get it done. It allows them to be that full-service supplier to their customers that they can count on."
Speed + Versatility = Production
According to Frost, it's the speed of the 718 in a full range of tree care tasks that lets the machine pay its way for both KutTech and his customers.
"That's my favorite part — that's where the production comes into play. You can be the best operator in the world, but if that machine isn't engineered and built properly, you're not going to be getting anywhere."
The time-savings Frost can achieve with the 718 can vary widely, depending on the application, but he estimates that it will complete projects at least five times faster, on average, compared to traditional crews and equipment. On a specific project, the 718 will outpace the old ways by 10 times or even 12 times the speed, he said.
"When my father saw how the 718 works, he said, ‘You'll be finishing jobs in a couple hours that used to take me two days.'"
Frost noted that the 718's fast cycle times are rooted in the engineering of Sennebogen's line of material handlers.
"It's made for lifting and loading, from ground to sky or sky to ground, whether it's unloading barges or filling rail cars. That's where it gets its speed. It's the same basic motions when it's dismantling trees, putting branches into piles or loading logs and brush."
That versatility of the 718 also is an important part the machine's effectiveness, he said.
"You can get a certain piece of equipment that will cut the trees, but can't move them; or get one that can load the wood but not cut it. The 718 is good on both ends."
With one piece of equipment, users can cut and place the wood then, once it's on the ground, they can stack it or process it out: cut the logs to size, pile the brush, feed it to a chipper or load it into trucks, all without leaving the cab.
Out of Harm's Way
Frost has refined his skills with the 718 to a point that even Sennebogencalls on him periodically to run the machine at its demonstration events. There, the Sennebogenteam is eager to highlight the safety advantages of the 718. It's a feature that Frost appreciates every day on the job.
"People often get hurt in this job because of mistakes made by inexperienced and even experienced guys who put themselves in bad situations, sometimes without even realizing it. If you can keep those guys out of harm's way, that's the most important part. The less people around, the safer it is.
"With the 718, I can do so much with the machine myself, I'm not being distracted by what the guy beside me might be doing, whether he's in a blind spot, or under the tree where I can't see him. I'm just thinking about what the machine's doing and what the tree's doing. The cab's camera system gives me almost a 360degree view. Sennebogendefinitely did the right thing putting those cameras on as standard for the sides and back. It does help out."
He said the new enlarged Maxcab with E Series Sennebogenequipment is a good step forward too.
"They made some great improvements to the E Series cab, with more space and comfort features. I'm a bigger guy, 6 ft. 1 in., and I have plenty of legroom. I get a comfortable suspension chair to work in all day, Bluetooth and AM/FM radio. This is my office space and it works."
Unique Work With a Unique Machine
While Frost is impressed with the 718's capabilities, he still values the knowledge and skills he developed as a third-generation tree care professional.
"I've known good operators that have run heavy equipment for 30 years, but they want no part of this job," he said. "You need the tree handling background. Working with trees is very unique. Every tree is different and its branches are different throughout the tree. You need to know what this tree is going to do, how it's going to turn, while you deal with different variables, different species and different weights; high voltage power lines, and operating over houses or over traffic. This 718 is a very special machine in the right hands. But your knowledge of trees is equally important."
For more information, visit www.sennebogen-na.com.