By George Fullerton
Remi Doucet is following a family tradition with his harvest contracting business. Both his father and grandfather were contractors, based in the Bathurst region, in northeastern New Brunswick.
Doucet graduated high school in 1994, and at the time his father was retiring from his contractor business. Doucet found a job driving truck for a contractor delivering wood to regional mills in northern New Brunswick, and in 2001, he quit driving truck and bought a forwarder and began contracting. Doucet soon added a second forwarder and picked up work on Crown lands operations.
By 2009, he was operating with a six wheel Ponsse forwarder and an eight wheel Timberjack forwarder, contract forwarding for Chaleur Sawmills in the Christmas Mountains of New Brunswick. While he had pretty good success as a forwarder contractor, Doucet decided he should have harvesting capacity as well, and in 2011 he sold a forwarder and bought a used Timberjack 608 harvester. In addition to being well used, he eventually determined the 608 had sand contamination in the hydraulic system, which resulted in endless problems.
Doucet solved the problem by trading up to a new Doosan DX225LL carrier with a new 7000 Log Max head operating with a 402 computer system, purchased from Paul Equipment in Balmoral, New Brunswick.
“I really like the Doosan for a harvester,” he says. “It is economical to buy and operate. It’s very reliable, and it fits my operation very well.”
As proof of his confidence in Doosan machines, Doucet added a second, used Doosan with a Log Max 750 head in 2014. In 2016, he upgraded the second machine with a new Log Max 7000 head which was installed at the Paul Equipment shop.
Carl Arsenault, sales manager with Paul Equipment, explained that the Doosan DX225LL is a dedicated forestry package for both harvester and loader applications.
“The DX225LL has been a highly productive forestry machine and we’ve sold upwards of 200 machines through our shop to forestry contractors in the Maritimes and eastern Quebec,” says Arsenault.
The Doosan is a 35 tonne platform, with a high and wide undercarriage, rock guards, heavy panelling on the upper house, heavy duty rollers top and bottom, along with additional forestry guarding. Tracks feature heavy-duty links with double grouser shoes and full-length track guiding guards. The machine has a 36-foot reach.
The engine is rated at 155 horsepower and features four valves per cylinder. The DX225LL is manufactured with two hydraulic pumps and a PTO adds a third hydraulic pump, if the head application requires more oil delivery.
The Electronic Power Optimizing System (EPOS) links the hydraulic system and engine control for productivity while minimizing fuel consumption.
The carrier also boasts centralized grease points, wide side access doors for cleaning the cooling system, boom pivot bushings with greasing intervals of 250 hours and large capacity engine air pre-cleaner that removes more than 99 per cent of airborne particles and extends filter cartridge service life.
“The Doosan/Log Max makes a very productive and reliable harvester,” says Doucet. “I’m not concerned operating in any forest type. It’s economical to buy and economical to operate and it produces well. I’m very comfortable working these machines.”
In 2013, Doucet purchased a 2005 Valmet 860.1. “The Valmet was a one-owner machine and it had about 35,000 hours on it, but it still works extremely well. It has been a trouble-free machine. Operators like the big cab, good visibility and the strong loader, with good reach.”
Doucet began a contract in 2014 to operate on a 10,000 acre block of forest land, near Allardville (about 25 kilometres south of Bathurst), which will be developed for blueberry production. He has a 10-year time window to harvest the standing timber, save for water course buffers. Historically, the land was once owned by Sir James Dunn, a compatriot of Lord Beaverbrook and a notable financier to the Allied Powers’ effort in World War II. Subsequently, the land became part of the Smurfit-Stone (Bathurst) paper mill lands. The woodlands were dispersed after the mill closed in 2005.
The block was harvested by the Bathurst mill operation in the 1950s/1960s and regenerated naturally, with very little follow-up silviculture. The area hosts almost the full suite of the Acadian forest species, but is dominated by relatively small diameter balsam fir.
Work is ongoing on the site. Following harvest, all logging debris and stumps will be removed and managed to populate the site with wild blueberry vines.
Doucet’s harvesters operate double shift, as does the forwarder. He hires another forwarder, owned by Richard Roy, on a contract basis to help out whenever harvesting gets ahead of his own forwarder capacity. Doucet explained that Roy is nearly fully retired, and the part-time operating seems to fit his pre-retirement lifestyle just fine.
Doucet operates a three truck fleet.
A 2016 Kenworth T800 hauling a Manac steering quad trailer, with Serco loader, is the newest in the fleet. A couple of 10-year-old heritage cab Western Stars make up the power in the fleet, with one pulling a quad (non-steering) trailer, while the second pulls a BWS B-train.
The three trucks provide more than adequate trucking capacity, and often one or more trucks are hired out to other operations. Doucet explained that having three different trailer options in his fleet allows him to assign the type of trailer that will best work in the contract job.
The operation sells wood to a number of mills. Eight- and nine-foot stud wood is sent to the Fornebu sawmill and a truck can make four trips per day. Sawlogs are directed to the Chaleur Sawmill in Belledune, which is also in the four trip per day parameter. Low grade softwood and hardwood ships to Belledune, to the Shaw Resources pellet mill and Envirem Organics biomass composting facility. Hardwood is shipped to the Arbec OSB mill in Miramichi, which is also in the four trip per day range. Any white pine sawlogs go to the J D Irving mill in Doaktown, in addition to a small amount going to a local portable mill producer.
Doucet targets production of 50 to 55 loads per week, to keep business profitable.
The operation runs double shift and weekends, with a total of fifteen employees. Four processor operators operate double shift through the week, Monday morning to Friday night. The weekend crew operates harvesters for three twelve-hour shifts—Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Even though that sounds like an odd shift and strange lifestyle, Doucet said the weekend operators are very happy with the schedule, pointing out that their wives also work weekends, so they have the weekdays for family and other needs/activities.
The operation also has a weekend watchman on site, who in addition to keeping an eye on the equipment, tools and fuel supply, fills in with some forwarding work.
The harvest area is well frequented by ATV and snowmobiles. Doucet shared that equipment damage and thefts are not unheard of, so the watchman operates the forwarder when the harvesters operate, and sleeps in an onsite trailer.
“If we didn’t have a watchman on site when the operators are off, the fuel and the tools and other supplies wouldn’t be here for long,” he warned.
Foreman Sylvan Roy is a relatively recent hire to the busy operation.
“Sylvan is a key part of the operation,” said Doucet. “He often starts out his day picking up parts and supplies and bringing them to the operation. Sylvan has turned out to be an amazing mechanic, as well. He learns very intricate high-tech repairs, simply by observing.”
Roy’s mechanical abilities came to light after he had been in the foreman position for a time.
“One time, we had worked on tracing a problem in a machine, and he watched me find the problem and make the repair. A short time later, he was reporting to me about a machine going down and what the problem had been. It was a fairly complicated issue, so I asked him how he got it going.
“Sylvan replied that he had fixed it himself—but I challenged him on how he knew how to make the repair, and he simply replied, ‘Well, I watched you fix the same thing once, so I just did what you had done and it worked fine.’ He has become a very valuable employee.”
Roy files chains, straightens bars and assists operators with daily maintenance and any repairs. Doucet says that with Roy assisting the operators, another set of eyes is on the machines looking for mechanical issues, and the additional person provides an important safety element to the operations.
Roy also helps out with strip layout, and daily quality control inspections. With so many operators, there is a lot of attention to the layout of harvest strips and water buffers, so that the next shift can accurately follow strips and the forwarding operation has a consistent pattern to follow.
The most recent hire has been an office manager, who handles a good deal of the day to day paperwork.
“I finally came to the realization that I could not be on the operation and keep up with all the paperwork,” explains Doucet. “My most important job is to be on the operation to supervise and deal with mechanical issues. It has been an efficient move to get a good deal of the paperwork handled by a dedicated office employee.”
Doucet says that he is well satisfied with the equipment line-up he has, and compliments his crew for their dedication and hard work. While there are many challenges every day, he has the confidence to continue to invest in his business —and plan for the future.
On the Cover:
The Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Princeton, B.C. has added two new Volvo wheel loaders, a Volvo L350F and a Volvo L150H, from B.C. Volvo dealer Great West Equipment to help manage log operations. Read about how the equipment is helping make the operation more efficient beginning on page 10. (Photo by Paul MacDonald).
Tapping into the growing bio-economy at Alberta’s Bio-Mile
A new $11 million Clean Energy Technology Centre recently opened in Alberta and among its goals is supporting greater product diversification within the forestry sector, and encouraging more participation by the industry in the bio-economy.
Volvos delivering volume
Some new Volvo wheel loaders are helping the Weyerhaeuser sawmill in Princeton, B.C. deliver efficiencies in the millyard, in feeding logs into the high production, two-line sawmill, and handling chips and hog fuel.
“Big Data” already being utilized by forest industry
Although “Big Data” has become a buzz term in business circles in recent years, the forest industry is already well on its way to using Big Data in a number of areas, from machine centres at the sawmill, to woodlands operations.
Hard work = successful sawmill
Though it requires a lot of hard work, Alberta sawmiller Colin Ruxton says that small sawmilling can pay off—and he’s proven it with both a band and circular sawmill.
Going from logger—to lumber producer
New Brunswick’s Pierre Friolet has used skills developed as a logging contractor to set up an added-value operation that produces thermally modified wood, finding customers from architects to guitar makers for the unique wood product.
Lean log handling
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Family fencing operation
B.C. specialty mill operation Nagaard Sawmill, run by brothers Darrol and Dale Nagel, has found its niche—and it’s in producing fence components from western red cedar for a growing market, with a mill that features a fair bit of home-made equipment, and lots of ingenuity.
Liking the Log Max/Doosan combo
New Brunswick harvesting contractor Remi Doucet is a fan of the Doosan/Log Max harvesting combination, and recently upgraded his equipment with a new Log Max 7000 head.
BUILDER of business relationships
B.C. logger Shane Garner says a successful harvesting contracting operation is all about business relationships, from his employees to his John Deere-heavy logging equipment fleet.
A life in logging: from horses—to Tigercats
Long time logger Alan Costain may have started with yarding horses, but these days the horsepower in Costain Lumbering is of a very different sort, with equipment such as a Tigercat 822.
The frontier community of Colville Lake, 50 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories, has acquired a new portable sawmill which will produce building materials to help address the community’s need for improved housing.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre and Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions.
The Last Word
The Fort McMurray fire of earlier this year could have ripple effect on the cost of insurance for the forest industry, says Jim Stirling.