By Jim Stirling
Nurturing contacts and business relationships are at the core of success for most forest industry companies. It’s a proven way to help get things done when they need to get done. A good contact in the right place hones the competitive edge.
Contacts and business relationships within the context of a logging contractor are no different. Nowadays, the manufacturers of log harvesting machines and equipment all put quality products out into the marketplace. They’re well built—if expensive—and come with backing and support to varying degrees.
Some loggers cast a wide net and trawl deep when it comes time to part with hard-earned cash on a new machine like a feller buncher or harvester. They prowl the major dealerships, critically assessing not just each machine’s capabilities and costs in the context of their requirements, but what the dealership will deliver after the sale to ensure its productivity and availability out in the real world.
Another group of loggers take a different approach. When it’s time for them to upgrade equipment, they know ahead of time which dealer they’re going to visit because, often as not, they’ve dealt with them for years, know and appreciate the products and understand they can negotiate a satisfactory deal with them relatively easily. This kind of logger has maintained and nurtured a business relationship with that specific logging machine manufacturer—and the dealership that represents it and backs up its product line.
Not that long ago, the manufacturers of log harvesting equipment simply introduced to all markets their latest offering of a feller buncher, a skidder or a log loader. It was more of a “here it is, take it or leave it”, one size fits all mentality. Today that attitude has changed, probably because it had to. The consumer—the logger—is more insistent that a given piece of log harvesting equipment can do the job required under the duress of the logging conditions he daily encounters. The manufacturers got the “customized” message and began fostering a more “what-can-we-do-for-you” approach to business. The category of logger they understandably approached were the loyal customer group of purchasers. In the world and lexicon of business management wonks, this group of loggers qualify as ‘super consumers’.
From a marketing perspective, super consumers can be super valuable to a logging equipment manufacturers’ marquee and its dealership network.
Super consumers not only buy that manufacturers’ equipment, they also tend to buy a lot of it. Frequently, all the key production machines in the loggers’ equipment fleet are painted the same colour and are supported by the same dealer. The super consumer has the entrenched attitude that “this equipment will get the job done for me”, according to the business management experts. The super consumer’s enthusiasm for the product can be contagious and subtly influence their peer group, goes the belief.
A more demonstrable benefit for the super consumer logger is contributing his ideas and insights into improving his favourite product. The more progressive manufacturers and dealership personnel will encourage such source-based problem solving with their super consumers.
It’s not unusual these days for a logger’s recommended improvement to a machine’s design or effectiveness to be incorporated into his next purchase. He can sometimes see it happen on the factory floor.
This level of customization within the relationship simply reinforces the bond. The loggers appreciate being taken seriously and the equipment manufacturer benefits from practical improvements to his product line.
Log harvesting equipment manufacturers will tell you they’re perpetually looking at ways to improve their products and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity. But a buncher operator, for example, who spends 10 hours a day, five days a week in the machine is going to develop a different attitude toward the machine and its performance than an engineer in a distant office. It’s precisely that type of perspective that can lead to valuable improvements—some subtle, some less so—in machine design and function. They’re valuable to the logger, because their suggestion was heeded, and valuable to the manufacturer/dealer team for an enhanced reputation that can translate into an improved market share.
The logging contractor super consumer also helps the manufacturer maintain focus on their core business. There’s a tendency in this info-saturated world to become sidetracked and bedazzled by ‘Big Data’.
One of the challenges for the logging equipment manufacturing fraternity and their dealers is to identify the younger loggers who are most likely to become tomorrow’s super consumer. The aging population in general is equally evident in the log harvesting sector fraternity.
The dealerships can come in particularly handy in this regard. Area managers know their clients and the general composition of the regional log harvesting community. Some large companies in other industries reportedly take this ferreting out of future super consumers most seriously and almost subversively. For example, some resort to studying and monitoring social media activity, Twitter postings and letters of complaint indicating a connection to a given product.
Just another little tidbit of encouragement to log harvesting equipment manufacturers out to identify the next wave of super consumers. A different industry, granted, but MIT’s Sloan School of Management found about 80 per cent of breakthroughs in scientific instruments came from ‘lead users’ not the manufacturers.
On the Cover:
Simple, clean and efficient were the guiding principles for B.C. logger Gregory Jacob when he began his examination of available steep slope log harvesting methods. He was able to get exactly that, and the key new machine in Gregory’s steep slope arsenal is a wheeled John Deere 1910E cut to length forwarder with a Haas winch. Read all about it on page 10 (Cover photo by Jim Stirling).
Spotlight - Finding your future employees
A new Forestry Machine Operator Training program being offered by the Canadian Woodlands Forum and several other organizations could be part of the answer to the challenge of finding, and training, equipment operators—and be a model for elsewhere in Canada.
Lo-Bar tackles high ground
B.C.’s Lo-Bar Transport has a new steep slope system involving a wheeled John Deere 1910E cut to length forwarder with a Haas winch which provides easier access to timber across a broader cross section of steep and challenging terrains.
Up in smoke—not
A new sawmill came on stream this spring in the B.C. Interior—thanks to the co-operation of three forest industry parties—and the end result is that wood fibre that would have been piled and literally gone up in polluting smoke will now be converted to viable wood products.
Combining the efforts—and tenures—of First Nations
The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council in the B.C. Interior is looking at ways that scattered First Nations communities with small tenures can work together, and scale up the opportunities and benefits from the forest resource.
Going Dutch on sawmill
Two companies have joined forces on a new specialty sawmill that is taking Sitka Spruce in northwestern B.C.—known for growing tall and straight, with long fibres and tight ring counts—to produce high end product for a reman plant in Holland.
Canada North Resources Expo Official Show Guide
Extensive show coverage including CNRE stories, exhibitor list, floor plan … and more!
Forest fire fighting—with drones!
Drones are proving to be very useful tools in business, and a B.C. firm is now exploring their practical applications in the working forest, notably in wildfire control and prevention, an increasing area of concern considering extreme weather patterns.
Planer ups production
The planer mill at Tolko’s Armstrong, B.C., sawmill is seeing positive bottom-line results from an upgrade that has allowed the planer operation to greatly increase its production—with the kicker that more of that production is higher grade lumber.
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, Alberta Innovates and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
The Last Word
Super logging equipment consumers are super valuable to logging equipment manufacturers—and dealers, says Jim Stirling.