Brothers run tight operation

Partners for nearly 30 years, the Paradis brothers (from left): Ray, John and Will.

The history of Alberta’s Paradis Brothers Logging essentially covers the evolution of logging from manual to mechanical methods. It’s also the rather unique story of a company that learned its business management style in the rollercoaster oil and gas log salvage sector before diversifying into forestry.

The influences of salvage logging are seen everywhere in their forestry operations, from their low equipment debt load to the fact that they skid to roadside, then delimb, sort and deck individual skidder loads with a delimber to minimize fibre breakage. This contrasts with the common practice of driving the skidder over other skid loads at roadside to stack the trees higher, and then delimbing.

The company also operates more equipment in the cutblock over shorter hours to achieve the same volume that other contractors attain by operating fewer pieces of equipment around the clock. A low equipment debt load makes this possible.

Employees generally work nine to 10 hours a day, five days a week, meaning they are home with their families every night, compared with many other logging contractors who need to operate 2_ hours a day, seven days a week to pay their bank loans. With such reasonable hours, the company has practically no staff turnover, even during a time when the logging industry is losing many experienced employees to high paying jobs in the booming oil patch.

The Paradis brothers started in the business by buying their father’s sawmill in 1975, and purchasing their first C7 Tree Farmer line skidder in 1977. Ray Paradis ran the skidder, while brothers and business partners John and Will did the hand falling.

By 1980, they had shut down the sawmill, and focused on the growing demand for salvage logging in the oil patch. They invested in three, used Tree Farmer line skidders and employed up to 18 hand fallers, salvaging timber in the oilfield and also logging for a local logging contractor, Henry Schuurman.

In 1988, they purchased a new John Deere 6_8 grapple skidder and their first delimber.

“We wanted to find an easier and more productive way to log,” says Ray Paradis. “We could also see that we would get squeezed out if we didn’t make the move to mechanical because there were mechanical logging companies already established and moving our way.”

In the early 1990s, Paradis Brothers Logging purchased a new Timberjack 618 feller buncher. It gave the company a complete mechanical logging set-up and it was a highly productive and low maintenance unit. A Timberjack 618 feller buncher that was purchased in 1995 is still part of their fleet.

Today, the company harvests about 200,000 cubic metres annually for West Fraser Timber and a few other smaller sawmill operators in west-central Alberta, with the average log diameter being 12 inches. Yet, that still only represents about _0 per cent of the company’s total income. Oilfield salvage logging continues to make up the lion’s share of their revenue.

Their equipment fleet is impressive, with the main focus on equipment brands that do the best job in certain types of applications—except for a strong preference for John Deere grapple skidders and Risley Lim-mit delimber attachments.

Speaking with the brothers at their headquarters near the town of Caroline, it’s obvious that this is the type of logging company that someone should use as a template to write a “how to” textbook on surviving and succeeding in the logging business. It might read something like this:

Chapter One – Successful Business Management

One of the major challenges many logging companies in Canada face today is avoiding management burnout. Owners can be so directly involved in the day-to-day management of their companies that by the time vacation rolls around, it isn’t a vacation—it’s medical leave or time spent in marriage counseling. Yet, a more intensive investigation shows that successful business owners share the workload. The Paradis brothers have been partners in their family business for nearly 30 years, and still get along well. The major reason is that they share the duties.

“The job went from our back to our head,” says Ray Paradis. “It used to be hard on the back and easy on the mind. Now it’s harder on the mind and easier on the back.”

The paperwork, particularly related to safety regulations, has become so demanding that smaller operators are leaving the business and new loggers are finding it very difficult to get started. There’s no getting around the paperwork either, as many customers won’t allow a logger on the jobsite without having the proper safety training and documentation in place.

“The work is done the same way,” says Ray. “There just has to be so much more documentation.”

To help manage all aspects of the business, Paradis Brothers Logging has hired an exceptional office manager, Angela Evans, who handles many of the fine details of day-to-day business management, such as booking work, payroll, accounts receivables and payables, and reception. This allows the brothers to focus on field operations and equipment maintenance.

There are no foremen on the jobsite. The delimber operator and the skidder operator work as a team, often driving out to the jobsite and returning in the same vehicle. The owners do the supervisory work themselves and have a high expectation of excellence among their 25 employees. If the business is successful at the end of each year, employees receive a bonus. That’s because employees can make or break a company, says Ray.

Chapter Two – Successful Equipment Fleet Management

The experience and knowledge the Paradis brothers bring to the business is really the key to their success. It’s evident that they know more about logging equipment than about 90 per cent of the sales representatives out there, yet they are respectful of all equipment dealers. A visit to the field reveals equipment from Tigercat, Komatsu, John Deere, Hyundai, Madill, Caterpillar, Hitachi and Link-Belt.

“Being that we’ve been at it since we were young, we can kind of look at a machine and tell if it’s built well,” says Ray. “We go for durability, longevity, service support, price, and reputation.”

The company has learned to expect the unexpected, having established itself as a salvage logger for the oil and gas industry long before taking on a logging contract. They have learned that a sudden change in the price of oil and gas can send the phone ringing off the hook or it can fall silent for weeks on end. So the company has kept its debt load to a minimum, while building up the size of its fleet. It still has units in the yard on standby that were purchased in the early 1990s.

“The business has only grown on demand,” says Ray. “We started small, but were forced to grow bigger over the years.”

Because the owners have learned how to survive in the unpredictable oilfield salvage sector, making the transition to longer term contract logging for the forest industry has been an uncomplicated process, except for negotiating rates. With oil and gas, equipment is charged out by the hour, while forestry contracts are negotiated annually. Overall, however, Paradis says the equipment is bringing in about the same amount of income, regardless of where it is working.

The Paradis brothers have a strong preference for Risley’s Lim-mit delimbers, but use a variety of carriers, including this John Deere 2054 (above).

The company has three Tigercat feller bunchers. It’s newest 860B is equipped with an efficient reach (ER) boom, and high rotation 5702 head.

“It’s really fast, efficient and strong,” says Ray. “The ER boom just floats out—the operators find it hard to switch back after using the high rotation head, and as far as we are concerned, it’s the toughest head out there. The 860B is also fuel efficient, and there are no heating issues with the hydraulics.” He adds that the 8_5B Tigercat feller buncher in the company’s fleet has over 6,000 hours and is still “a tight machine.”

Paradis Brothers Logging also has a Valmet 5_0T tilting feller buncher because it often has to work on slopes up to 60 per cent. Equipped with a high rotation Gilbert Tech head, Ray says it has delivered good performance after _,600 hours, and dealer Coneco Equipment has done a good job with service support.

Will Paradis’ sons, Scott and Chris, work as sub-contractors to the company, operating under the name of Bushman Contracting. They have purchased a 2200B Madill feller buncher. “That’s really been a good machine,” says Ray. “It’s probably got the best boom and stick geometry of all the feller bunchers out there.”

“Being that we’ve been at it since we were young, we can kind of look at a machine and tell if it’s built well. We go for durability, longevity, service support, price, and reputation.”

For delimbers, Paradis Brothers Logging operates a variety of carriers, including John Deere, Caterpillar, Hitachi, Komatsu, and Link-Belt. Bushman Contracting has just purchased a Hyundai 210 carrier for its delimber. All but one of the carriers is equipped with Lim-mit 2000 delimbers. “We’ve chosen the Limmit because they have been the most reliable boom delimber for us, with the lowest maintenance and highest production,” says Ray.

The Paradis brothers skid the wood to roadside, then delimb, sort and deck individual skidder loads with a delimber to minimize breakage.

The company’s first grapple skidder was a John Deere and so far, Paradis Brothers Logging has stayed with that brand. It has seven 7_8 John Deere skidders and four 6_8 John Deere skidders. “We’ve opted for the 7_8 because they’re not that much heavier, but they are more powerful and pack a bigger load,” says Ray. “They’re also smoother to operate.

They cost a bit more, but they are well worth it from a production standpoint.”

Due to steep ground conditions, the company has purchased a Hyundai 210 carrier with a Rotobec powerclam to assist its skidders with retrieving logs harvested from steep ground. It also has an older Timbco 820 clambunk forwarder to assist in log retrieval in steep ground conditions.

And a final tip for surviving in the logging business might be:

Successful Crises Management

The threat of a mountain pine beetle attack on Alberta’s lodgepole pine forest is putting a new spin on the forestry side of the business. Loggers are being asked to harvest mature pine growth in an attempt to counteract a major beetle attack. It’s a scenario that Ray says will actually benefit the business because it will situate the company’s logging operations in stands with larger diameter trees. He expects excellent daily production as long as the beetle prevention strategy is in place.

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