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Productive timber team
Nova Scotia’s John Nutter has built a solid production team with his new logging operation, and that extends to his equipment: a Cat TK711 carrier with PE-44 head and a Cat TK758 forwarder.

By George Fullerton

The equipment deal from Atlantic Cat set John Nutter up with a Cat TK711 carrier with a 228 horsepower C9 Tier II engine, with a PE-44 harvesting head. The PE 44 has a maximum cut capacity of 25.5 inches.

Dedication, integrity and hard work are the elements that help build a productive team and solid business relationships. John Nutter has relied on these basic fundamentals and added experience and business savvy to start a brand new contracting operation with a new employer and some very new equipment and technologies.

 The seeds for Nutter’s new operation were planted when he was contacted by Bowater Mersey Paper in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, to hire on as a mechanical harvesting contractor in Western Nova Scotia. Nutter’s contracting career began with J D Irving, working as a silviculture contractor, including running a pre-commercial thinning crew. Nutter got a taste for mechanical harvesting when he was invited by Irving to purchase a Valmet 901 thinning harvester to work in the Weymouth, Nova Scotia district.

 Nutter admits that adapting to mechanical harvesting represented a sharp learning curve. But he adds that he learned a lot about mechanical harvesting, business management and technical forestry. Nutter worked with the Valmet for five years, until 2005, when he moved to contract forwarding with Irving, running a Rottne for the next two years.

After his business relationship with Irving ended, Nutter was looking for a new business opportunity when the call came from Bowater Mersey. Nutter says that he was a bit apprehensive about getting back into mechanical harvesting. But after a few meetings with Bowater Mersey staff, he felt confident that he could be successful with the package that they provided their contractors.

Once the decision was made to join Bowater Mersey, Nutter began looking for harvesting equipment. After looking over the dealers and their offerings, he decided to go with Atlantic Cat and their Cat/TK line. “When I was working with the Valmet, Atlantic Cat was very supportive and provided excellent parts, service and technical support. Because I knew the people at Atlantic Cat, and how they do business, it provided me with a good level of confidence.”

After three months of meetings and negotiations, Nutter and Atlantic Cat put together an agreement to purchase a Cat TK711 carrier with PE-44 head and a Cat TK758 forwarder.

Robert Oxenham, manager of operations with Bowater Mersey, says that from his initial meetings, he was impressed with the level of business and financial astuteness that Nutter possessed. “The process of starting up a new harvest contracting business operation is very challenging,” says Oxenham.

“Unforeseen expenses that occur in the start-up period can often make the business vulnerable. We had little experience with Cat forestry equipment, and I admit we had apprehensions at first. We helped John put his business proposal on paper and brought to his attention some issues that would benefit the start-up phase.

The PE 44 head is designed for harvesting mixed stands of hardwood and softwood. Its two feed wheels are powered by a 780cc Poclain MS08 motor, which provide a feed force that exceeds 5,000 pounds.

“I was happy to see that Atlantic Cat came to the table with John in a bigger way than I had ever seen before with equipment deals. I have to say Bowater Mersey was not disappointed with the commitment that Atlantic Cat brought to the deal.”

 The equipment deal set Nutter up with a 2006 Cat TK711 carrier with a 228 horsepower C9 Tier II engine along with the IQAN machine control system. The 711 weighs in at 52,000 pounds with a tractive force of 67,000 pounds. Both the engine and the operator cab on the 711 are isolation mounted, which aids in reducing noise levels in the roomy operator cab. A “clam shell” service door, hydraulically operated, provides unimpeded engine and component access. The 711 came with a D-6 equivalent undercarriage which provides 30-inch ground clearance.

 Nutter’s harvester was delivered with a PE-44 harvesting head. The PE 44 has a maximum cut capacity of 25.5 inches and is designed for harvesting mixed stands of hardwood and softwood.

 The two feed wheels on the PE44 are powered by 780cc Poclain MS08 motors, which provide a feed force that exceeds 5,000 pounds. There are four delimbing arms and one fixed top knife. The pressure in the delimbing arms is automatically adjusted according to tree diameter. Nutter’s TK758 start-up went without any significant issues. The only issue with the forwarder was to send the skid pans away for reinforcement.

John Nutter and Christina Oliver, the day shift operator on the forwarder. Oliver had a background that included operating farm equipment and she took up the invitation to try out Nutter’s new forwarder.

“In this terrain, the skidpans get a lot of contact with boulders, and we were aware of this and had planned for an upgrade,” explains Nutter. Western Nova Scotia has a notoriously rugged landscape, peppered with granite boulders, which poses challenges to any equipment, either on tracks or wheels.

 Nutter’s day shift forwarder operator, Christina Oliver, became acquainted with John’s wife while they were attending Community College in Digby, Nova Scotia. Oliver had a background that included operating farm equipment and she took up the invitation to try out Nutter’s new forwarder.

 “Christina is a good operator. She understands the mechanical issues with the forwarder and she is conscientious about greasing and maintenance. She is not afraid to pitch in with repairs on either machine.

 “Christina also takes a lot of interest in our environmental and safety certification. She is constantly aware of our workplace and makes the extra effort to tidy up tools and the containers that go astray around the service trailer, while some of the rest of us might not be so particularly tidy.”

 The forwarder works five days a week and additional evening shifts as required to keep the wood cleaned up. Harvester operator Dwight Ford runs the harvester five days a week, with the shift running from 6 am to 4 pm. Nutter employs two more harvester operators, each working three days per week, with a crossover shift on Wednesdays when one will operate the forwarder. The night shift runs from 4 pm to 4 am.

Nutter says that while the rough terrain creates major challenges for the operation, his crew can meet the target production of 700 tonnes per week. He adds that the contractor-employer relationship with Bowater Mersey is very positive. “Bowater personnel treat us with a good deal of respect—they appreciate our input and ideas and they react positively to our concerns. That kind of positive relationship allows us to work together productively.”

Robert Oxenham explains: “We work specifically toward developing contractors and their employees. We take the philosophy that we will achieve better results working with and treating contractors and their employees as equals.

“Our woodlands staff makes a point of giving credit to contractors and their workers for high performance. When the Quality Management Institute carried out an audit on our forestry operations, they came back to us with comments pointing out the high level of knowledge and commitment to environmental and safety issues that John’s crew displayed. We made a point to share that with the Nutter crew. If you want to build your organization, you have to take advantage of sharing those positive messages and recognizing the contractor’s commitment.”

Western Nova Scotia has a notoriously rugged landscape, peppered with granite boulders, which poses challenges to any equipment, either on tracks or wheels. So the skid pans on the TK forwarder had to be reinforced.

Oxenham adds that Bowater Mersey has traditionally sponsored an annual contractor banquet, inviting all their contractors and their staff. Bowater presents awards to top achievers in a variety of performance categories. “In addition to the award of a cash bonus, the contractors also embrace the reward of recognition of their peer contractors in attendance at the banquet.”

Nutter remarks that forestry in Western Nova Scotia is facing serious challenges, along with the rest of the country. He says that despite the tough times in the industry, he is confident that it will see a recovery. He is convinced that with a committed crew, a positive business relationship with his employer and high quality equipment and dealer support, they are in a position to benefit when the recovery arrives.