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Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

March/april 2015

On the Cover:
A Cat 522B feller buncher was the most recent equipment purchase for logging contractor Mid-Boundary Contracting, which is based in the rugged B.C. Southern Interior. Read all about how the new Cat buncher is performing for Mid-Boundary in this issue of Logging and Sawmilling Journa. (Photo of Cat 522B buncher courtesy of Mid-Boundary Contracting)

The clock is ticking on the Softwood Lumber Agreement
There is a united front on the part of Canada’s lumber producing provinces for extending the Softwood Lumber Agreement, but the U.S. government—and the U.S. lumber industry—have yet to say where they stand, even though the agreement expires this October.

Upping lumber recovery at Lakeview
Tolko Industries’ Lakeview Lumber Division in Williams Lake, B.C., has recently seen some significant upgrades that are already delivering results in lumber productivity and recovery.

Safety in B.C.’s logging industry: a work in progress
Safety has always been a priority for logging contractor Reid Hedlund, of Mid-Boundary Contracting—who is also chair of the Interior Logging Association—and though the industry has seen success at reducing the number of accidents, it continues to take ongoing effort, he notes.

Top Lumber Producers – Who’s on Top?
Logging and Sawmilling Journal’s annual listing of Canada’s Top Lumber Producers, produced in co-operation with industry consultants, International WOOD MARKETS Group.

Canada North Resources Expo
Visitors to the upcoming Canada North Resources Expo, being held in Prince George, B.C. May 29 -30, will enjoy an extensive range of displays, an excavator rodeo, sawmill and wood processing equipment demos—and perhaps even a grapple skidder show.

Upgrades bring efficiency—and green power
Alberta’s Manning Diversified Forest Products has invested $30 million in sawmill upgrades, new equipment that delivers higher production and more efficiency—and green power.

Cat—through and through
B.C.’s Kineshanko Logging recently celebrated its 40th year in logging, and all through that time their equipment has only been one colour: Cat yellow.

Careful logging in Algonquin Park
A careful approach to logging by contractors such as Jessup Bros. Forest Products is yielding jobs, good quality timber and an ample wood supply from Ontario’s well-known Algonquin Provincial Park—timber that also helps to sustain jobs at local sawmills.

Focus on Filing
The upcoming B.C. Saw Filer’s Association conference in Kamloops, B.C., features a solid line-up of speakers—and the opportunity to see the latest in saw filing equipment from equipment manufacturers.

Plywood going up - literally
B.C.’s Thompson River Veneer Products Ltd is benefiting from the general upturn in the economy, and sees demand for its plywood growing with building codes now allowing an increase in wood structure heights.

The Edge
Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions and FPInnovations.

The Last Word
Tony Kryzanowski says a lack of joint ventures may be stunting the growth of the forest industry.

 

 

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Safety has always been a priority for logging contractor Reid Hedlund, of Mid-Boundary Contracting

Safety in B.C.’s logging industry: a work in progress

Safety has always been a priority for logging contractor Reid Hedlund, of Mid-Boundary Contracting—who is also chair of the Interior Logging Association—and though the industry has seen success at reducing the number of accidents, it continues to take ongoing effort, he notes.

By Paul MacDonald

As chair of B.C.’s Interior Logging Association (ILA), and as co-owner of Midway, B.C.-based logging contractor Mid-Boundary Contracting, safety in the forest industry has always been a high priority for Reid Hedlund.

Further adding to his advocacy role for industry safety, Hedlund is also a member of the Board of Directors of the BC Forest Safety Council.

Safety has always been a priority for logging contractor Reid Hedlund, of Mid-Boundary ContractingSafety has always been a priority for Midway, B.C.-based logging contractor Reid Hedlund (above), of Mid-Boundary Contracting, who is also chair of B.C.’s Interior Logging Association (ILA), and a member of the Board of Directors of the BC Forest Safety Council.

The industry’s safety record has improved significantly since the BCSFC was set up, after some disastrous years in the forest industry. In 2004, some 43 people were killed in the industry; there were 10 fatalities in the industry in 2013.

Hedlund said his involvement with the council has raised his awareness of safety personally, and with the ILA.

“That really opened my eyes because we look at things on a more provincial level to see where the fatalities and major injuries are happening, and talk to people who have lost a co-worker—there’s no doubt the biggest impact is when someone gets hurt in a logging operation or, much worse, if there is a fatality.

“That made me more aware of what we were dealing with, and brought it back home, not just to my company, but for the operating area we work in, and the southern interior.”

Hedlund says they have been fortunate in the Boundary region of B.C., where Mid-Boundary operates, in that the number of logging accidents has been low. But one accident, and one injury, is still one too many, and the industry and the ILA are working hard to keep safety front and centre with all logging operations. The last thing they want is to become complacent about a good safety record. “It takes ongoing effort—including at the company I’m involved with, Mid-Boundary Contracting,” he says.

When Hedlund started in the industry in 1981, the move was already well underway towards mechanical harvesting, and there have been definite safety benefits over the years since from the shift. Some handfalling is still done now in the region, but it is in specific special situation areas. Virtually all of the harvesting is now done by machine.

Though it is focused around the Midway and Grand Forks area of the B.C. southern interior now, Mid-Boundary has also worked further afield, in the Okanagan, towards Cranbook to the east and Williams Lake in the north. Most of the logging work it does now is for forest company, Interfor, and Interfor’s Grand Forks sawmill, 50 kilometres from Midway.

Interfor has taken over many of the operations of Pope & Talbot, which had a long-established major presence in the Boundary region. Pope & Talbot went bankrupt in 2007, after being in business for 150 years.

Safety has always been a priority for logging contractor Reid Hedlund, of Mid-Boundary ContractingMid-Boundary Contracting keeps very detailed equipment records. When it came to making the transition to SAFE certification a number of years ago, they were pretty much already there in terms of having the information on the maintenance of their equipment required by the SAFE program.

Virtually all of Mid-Boundary Contracting work was for Pope & Talbot, so it’s no surprise that P & T going under left the logging company in a very difficult spot—and Hedlund, and partner Joe Baiton, have had to do some substantial re-structuring in the years since. They’ve had the difficult task of figuring out the way forward for the company.

Presently, part of that lies in seeking more harvesting work, to make better use of the equipment they now have.

“We have four feller bunchers, but are really running the equivalent of 1.5 machines because that is all we need at this point with the logging we are doing,” says Hedlund. One of their bunchers is new, while the other three are older machines. The older machines help fill in, when needed, and are a good fit when they are doing right-of-way work.

They are currently running one side in the work they do for Interfor, with a buncher, skidder, hoe-chucker, loader and associated roadbuilding equipment.

“We are trying to do more logging while the opportunity is there, and looking to get geared back up,” says Hedlund. The opportunity may lie in doing more work for Interfor, and perhaps doing timber sale work, which the company has done in the past.

Historically, Mid-Boundary has worked with several types of equipment, including Cat and Tigercat. The outfit had the first Tigercat 630 skidder in B.C. and the first Tigercat 830 leveling buncher. “We helped Tigercat with the levelling mechanism on the 830, and we still have that machine,” says Hedlund.

The most recent purchase for Mid-Boundary was a Cat 522B buncher. “We have the second one off the production line, and it’s doing a phenomenal job for us,” says Hedlund. “We’ve been getting strong support with the Cat dealer, Finning, and their service department.”

The 522B, a zero tail swing machine, is designed for medium to high production clearcut and or select cut on rough terrain. The machine performs in a variety of small through larger tree size applications. The 522B model is a leveling machine, and is powered by a Cat C9 ACERT 303 hp engine, which delivers a good amount of power on steep terrain, such as the ground Mid-Boundary often works in. Cat says the machine’s unique boom design provides industry leading lift capacity throughout full reach range, a benefit in large timber.

Mid-Boundary also have a Cat 322C loader, a Cat 320B excavator, a Cat 545 skidder, and three Cat D8 machines.

Hedlund notes that Mid-Boundary is being very careful and selective about the equipment purchases they make—and for the time being, is holding on to older equipment, and working that, whenever possible.

The downturn, and Pope & Talbot going out of business, has made them take a hard look at where they were, and where they want to be in the future, he says.

“The downturn has made us more aware of how much we want to invest in equipment—do we want to subject ourselves and the company to the risk that we had before?

Safety has always been a priority for logging contractor Reid Hedlund, of Mid-Boundary ContractingLike all logging operations, Mid-Boundary has to deal with unpredictable weather and difficult ground conditions, but with a solid equipment lineup and experienced operators, they strive to have their logging operation be a well-running, safe, log delivery machine.

“In other parts of the province, contractors had their cuts reduced during the downturn. But when Pope & Talbot went under, we no longer had any work—period.”

They carried on as best they could, doing timber sales work, and selling logs to the the Zellstoff pulp mill in Castlegar, which had been supplied with chips from the Pope & Talbot mills, which were shut down.

“But basically we went from 28 loads a day to eight loads a day. Trying to do that with a skeleton-size crew was a challenge.”

Not to minimize the struggle that Mid-Boundary has gone through, and the challenges it continues to face, but these days they are focusing on the present, and the future—and making that work.

“We’re working to build things back up, and make sure we have good equipment out there for our guys, and meet all the safety standards,” says Hedlund.

He notes that new equipment, such as their Cat 522B, has the latest in safety features, and is tops when it comes to ergonomics and operator comfort.

Mid-Boundary operates its own trucks—they have five trucks, four Kenworths and one Peterbilt—and would like to increase their truck hauling. But like the rest of the industry, they’re finding it difficult to get good drivers.

They have some good long-term employees on the trucking side, but they’ve also lost some people to the oil patch and the mines, and the bigger paycheques they can offer, notes Hedlund. “Some of them have come back, though,” he added.

He noted that Mid-Boundary faces other challenges, too, since it is based in the village of Midway, vs. being located in a larger centre, like Kelowna or Kamloops. The village of Midway, though it is located in the beautiful Kettle Valley on the scenic Crowsnest Highway, is still a smaller centre.

Hedlund says that safety drives their selection of employees, both in the bush and with logging truck drivers. “You don’t want people rolling in and out of your crew all the time, with operators and truck drivers. A bad driver can put all the other drivers, and others in your operation, at risk.” Having local road knowledge, or developing that local knowledge, is key, he says, such as knowing when to take it easier on a section of logging road when it starts to rain.

And, Hedlund adds, not every trucker can drive a logging truck safely.

He mentions one recent resume he received from a driver. From a quick glance, it looked like the driver might be a good candidate—the resume said he had a lot of driving experience, including “mountain driving experience”.

“But it turned out he had zero experience in the woods. For the forest industry, driving the Coquihalla Highway is not the same as having experience mountain driving, hauling logs.”

For the time being, even though they’d like to do more hauling, Mid-Boundary is going to work on keeping their current fleet of trucks fully staffed, and busy. The last thing they’d want is to make the investment in additional trucks, and not be able to find good drivers. “We don’t want to be making payments on a nice, shiny truck that is just sitting in the yard,” says Hedlund.

Ramping things up on the logging side would allow them to run operations more efficiently. “Running multiple logging crews would help to even things out—at times, you might be in a poor production site in one side, but the other sides are doing fine. The lows and the peaks wouldn’t be as sharp, and it would be easier to manage,” he says.

Or if you have multiple crews, one might be shut down by fire in the summer months, but other crews, in other locations, could still operate.

“If you’ve got a diverse logging operation, it’s easier to manage crews, equipment, cash flows—your unit costs for running the whole operation come down.”

They have fixed costs, such as running a shop, and those bills have to be paid regardless of how many sides or crews they are working.

“Those fixed costs are there, whether you are running five loads a day—or 25 loads a day,” says Hedlund.

Due to their location, Mid-Boundary does most of its own mechanical work. The dealer locations, whether they are in Penticton, Vernon, Kelowna or in the other direction, Castlegar, are some ways away.

They keep very detailed equipment records. When it came to making the transition to SAFE certification a number of years ago, they were pretty much already there in terms of having the information on the maintenance of their equipment, required by the SAFE program.

They have two service trucks, and one full time serviceman in the woods to keep things happening out there.

They rely on their equipment operators to give the serviceman a head’s up on when something might be going on with a piece of equipment, so repair time can be scheduled, rather than a breakdown occurring.

“That can be a huge benefit. With the bunching, skidding and processing, if you are doing hot logging and there is a break in that production chain due to a machine being down, it gets expensive and it has a direct impact on cash flow,” says Hedlund.

Even though, like all logging operations, they have to deal with unpredictable weather and difficult ground conditions, they strive to have their logging operation be a well-running, safe, log delivery machine.

Going forward, Mid-Boundary will be making further equipment investments to keep that happening, though the investments may not be as regular as they were in the past.

Coming up is the transition to short log trucking, from the long log trucking they currently are doing for Interfor. “We’re looking at significant investment to do that,” says Hedlund. “But we have to make sure there is a return on the equipment investment we are making.”

The Interior Logging Association, which Hedlund chairs, helps independent logger members make their case for fair rates with the forest companies.

In the past, negotiating rates might have consisted of a contractor going in to the company, and simply saying they were not making enough money.

Saying ‘I need more money’ is no longer a good way to negotiate a better logging rate, says Hedlund.

Loggers need to look at their operations in a hard, business-like way. “Rather than looking at did they make money at the end of the year, it’s looking at the specific operations that are making money, why they are making money, and expanding those operations,” he explains.

With computers, it is more easier than ever to figure out equipment costing, what blocks a contractor made money on, and which ones they didn’t—and why.

Some contractors, and more in the future, are going to be well armed with information on the details of why they need a rate increase.

“It would be good to be able to print out report information for every block, whether it is 2,000 metres or 20,000
metres, to know what the phase costs were and what the unit costs are.

“Loggers are now more business
oriented,” adds Hedlund. If anything, they now have the equivalent of MBAs from the school of hard knocks, and surviving the worst industry downturn since the depression.

And though they may be independent loggers, there is now more information sharing going on, through associations such as the ILA. “Independent loggers are independent loggers for a reason—they tend not to want to share information. But that is changing, and we are starting to share information about financials, costs and safety.

“Just as the forest companies expect to get a reasonable return on their investment in their sawmills, they need to fully understand that logging contractors need to have a reasonable return on their investment in logging equipment, too,” says Hedlund. “And that investment is significant.”