When it came time to buy a new feller buncher, Mike Heiss didn’t bother shopping around. His company, H&H Land Clearing, has owned a Komatsu 430 for more than a decade and has been very satisfied with it and the service he gets from Columbus Equipment Company. So to him, it made sense to buy another one, this time opting for the new XT430L-5.
“We really liked the 430, so we decided to upgrade but stay with the reliability of a Komatsu,” he said. “We’re the first guys in on a project. Uptime and being able to produce are important to us. We have to get the trees out of the way so everyone else can do their work.”
In the decade since his previous feller buncher was manufactured, Komatsu made several changes and upgrades to the machines. Heiss and his operators like the changes.
“The biggest difference is that the cab has been moved to the left,” he noted. “The Dash-5 is very similar to the new Komatsu excavators,” so it’s easier for operators to switch between the two kinds of machines. H&H also owns multiple Komatsu excavators.
“The new XT430 is fast, powerful and aggressive,” he added. The Dash-5 machines are designed so that operators can travel and operate the swing, arm and tool simultaneously. Travel speed also increased by 25%. “Everyone is looking to get something done a little faster, and you don’t realize old machines are slow until you get a new one,” Heiss said.
"While some companies reserve their feller buncher for large acreage, we believe in using the XT430 as much as possible. It's safer to cut with machines than to hand-cut."
Mike Heiss; Owner, H&H Land Clearing
Operators like the ability to adjust the control settings to their individual preference. Other benefits of the new machine include a standard lighting package with 13 LED lights to illuminate nighttime operations. “The lighting definitely make things easy when days are short and the lights are on. We can get a good day’s work in even when it’s dark.”
There’s also good access to the engine compartment, making it easier for H&H mechanics to service the machine.
“While some companies reserve their feller buncher for large acreage, we believe in using the XT430 as much as possible. We will take the feller buncher to any job you’ve got. It’s safer to cut with machines than to hand-cut, so we’ll take it to a house lot. We use chainsaws on less than 5% of trees. We find using the machine is a safer and more efficient way of cutting trees,” said Heiss.
Middlefield, Ohio-based H&H handles a variety of jobs, mostly in the Cleveland area, clearing everything from ODOT projects and 100-acre commercial sites to single house lots. They take the timber and produce logs for the lumber market and mulch for big suppliers like Scotts Corp. and Kurtz Brothers.
“We’re in the land-clearing business, and wood products and mulch are a by-product. Our main focus is land clearing,” Heiss said. Still, the company produces over 100,000 yards of mulch annually, although Heiss doesn’t sweat about volume. “What we do every day has so many variables, we can’t focus on a specific number goal” for mulch production.
Heiss entered the land clearing business in the 1990s, when “there was always a house lot that needed to be cleared.” Having come “from the dirt side,” he didn’t know much about logging and learned on the job. At first, he cut all the trees by hand, building the company through long hours and hard work.
As Heiss began to acquire more machinery to expand his company, he turned to Columbus Equipment Company. In fact, he was the company’s first customer for the new Terex CBI line of grinders, added in the fall of 2021. “We’ve run a 765-horsepower Petersen and a 1,050-horsepower Morbark,” said Heiss. “The time it takes us to process a load (100 yards) with the CBI is almost 50% less—8 minutes versus 15 minutes—and the fuel cost is close to 40% lower—8 gallons versus 13 gallons, and chunk wood is no problem. The 6800CT is a great machine. It delivers a high-quality product, at an impressive rate of production … and at a reduced cost overall. It’s been a real game-changer for us.”
Heiss has always found the dealership to be dependable and helpful, which is why he bought the new Komatsu XT430 without ever examining the competition. “I like doing business with Columbus Equipment Company. Their service is good, and their attention to customers is the best. They will get you the service and help you need,” Heiss said, adding that he owns brands from other dealerships and “the service is not there.”
Material Processing Division sales rep Bob Stewart “is one of the best salesmen I’ve ever worked with. He knows his product like he’s a mechanic, not a salesman. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.
He can get in there and help out,” Heiss commented.
“One of the reasons I stick to Columbus Equipment Company is that both Bob and Todd [Hornak, sales rep from the Richfield branch] go the extra mile. They help me get done what I need to do.”
As Heiss noted, nothing gets done on a construction site until his crews clear the trees, so he needs reliable equipment. In his experience, Komatsu and Columbus Equipment Company have been solid partners who’ve helped him uphold a proven reputation for dependability.