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TimberWest November/December 2013

Sept/October 2014

Photo by Diane Mettler: Brintech Logging and the company’s two new machines — a Doosan and Hyundai

Keep on Thinning
Pleines Logging has focused on
thinning for two decades

Good Crew Makes the Company
RDL Northwest Inc. is picky
about its crew and equipment

Running on All Cylinders
While companies were struggling
through the recession Brintech

Woody Biomass Column
Be Ready with the Message

16 Seconds: The Divider
Winners and losers of the LWC

ScorpionKing Struts
Ponsse shows of the new
ScorpionKing in Rhinelander, Wisc.

Guest Columnist
Preparing Your Forestry Equipment for Winter


Tech review - Brushcutters & Mulchers

In the News

Association News

Machinery Row




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RDL Northwest Inc.A Good Crew Makes the Company

RDL Northwest Inc., Lebanon, Ore.

By Lindsay R. Mohlere

“My crew is really good. They have high expectations. So it’s tough trying to find the right guy for the job. The crew won’t tolerate someone who can’t keep up,” says Rick Dennis, president and owner of RDL Northwest Inc., as he shuffles through a thick stack of employment applications. “If someone goes to work here, they’ve got to have experience in the position. We have to keep production at a high level.”

Logan Cooley, Jessie VanNice, Rick Dennis, Mark Bowman, Jessie Powell. Not shown: Stephany Johnson, David Keutzer and David Gibbs

RDL Northwest is a shovel logging operation headquartered in Lebanon, Ore. It has nine employees, all of which have been with the company for several years.

Team with Logging in Their Blood

“We’re a little company but we’re growing,” Dennis says. “We have very low turnover, and we don’t have entry level positions. It’s hard for someone to flow right into a position. It’s not fair to them or the crew. The people that work here, they all grew up in the logging business; they’re conscientious. They pay attention to the work. They keep it top of mind.”

His responsibility, Dennis explained, starts at the top of a chain of command. “I try to keep everybody busy by keeping the general logging plan implemented,” he says. “Give the crew good tools to work with and have the job planned out…They’ll get it done.”

RDL Northwest Inc.In the Northwest steep slopes are just part of the business. Here the Cat 325 log loader makes it looks easy.

RDL Northwest rewards employees with a benefit package that includes a family standard of living wage, 100 percent employee medical, dental, life insurance, and matching 401K contributions. The company also has a bonus program that’s paid out at the end of the year. In addition, RDL Northwest has an in-house safety program administered by Dennis.

Dennis, who started RDL Northwest in 1988 as a one-man operation, applies a basic business philosophy he learned from the ground up. “The company provides decent equipment and pays a good family wage. I also try to make sure everyone goes home at night without any job-related problems. My guys are really good at what they do.”

Dennis also believes you’ve got to let your people experience the work. “It’s a learning process. When you’re at things for a long time, you already know what’s going to happen before it does. At some point you’ve got to let people stand up and fall down a little bit. That’s how you learn.”

RDL Northwest Inc.RDL normally has machines on a 5-year cycle. New to the fleet is the 2014 Link-Belt 240 X2 log loader.

There’s No Time for Downtime

Dennis admits one of the difficult parts of his job is keeping everybody busy and productive.

RDL’s shovel logging side relies on newer equipment to get the job done while contracting out most of its maintenance work. Machines are replaced or repurposed on a five-year cycle or 10,000 to 12,000 hours of service. Currently, RDL utilizes a 2011 CAT 527 Grapple Skidder, a 2013 CAT 325 log loader, a 2014 Link-Belt 240 X2 log loader, and a 2009 Hitachi 240 log loader.

Processing is handled by a reconditioned 2006 Link-Belt 290, a 2007 Kobelco 290, and a 2005 Link-Belt 240 all with 622 Waratah processors. Also used is a 240 Link-Belt with a Pierce Pacific stroker/delimber. A small, but handy, agricultural Mitsubishi 200 articulating front-end loader finishes out the company stable.

If the timber business continues to grow, RDL will consider adding a yarder side to its arsenal.

The company does its own hauling with three Peterbilts. Other haulers are contracted as needed. RDL’s oldest truck, a 2004 Pete, is being reconstructed to a mule train configuration, giving the company added versatility to handle short log hauling. A fire truck and two tanker trucks are also on site during fire season. Cutting is contracted out to C & C Timber Operations out of Sweet Home, Ore. RDL also contracts with an on-site watchman. “It saves on our insurance and adds peace of mind,” Dennis says.

Dennis also emphasized preventative maintenance is an absolute necessity to keep production at a high level. “Uptime is really important to my crew. You don’t have control over a machine when it’s broken down. You’ve got control when it’s up and running. If a machine worked when it was new, it should still work now,” he said.

RDL Northwest Inc.RDL primarily works for large timber companies like Cascade Timber Consulting, but will sometimes take the smaller, private jobs.

From Humble Family Beginnings to Sole Proprietor

Like his crew, Rick Dennis grew up in the logging business. In the late 40s, Rick’s dad ventured out to Oregon from Wisconsin at the urging of his brother Ray who said there was money to be made in the logging business out in the Northwest. “Those were the days when you’d move a tree into a saw mill and then hauled the boards to town. My dad and Uncle Ray, made a go of it,” Dennis says with a chuckle. “Probably made twelve cents a day, up from ten cents in Wisconsin.”

Dennis’ first job came about when his dad had babysitting duties while his mom worked at the local hospital. Armed with a tape measure and a small hatchet, Rick marked all the logs that came into the landing. He measured out the logs and marked them with a little chop. His older brother Gary would then come along and buck the logs.

During high school, Dennis ran ground machinery on the landings. After high school, he went to college while working full time.

Through the late 70s and 80s, Dennis worked with his older brother at what would become Shell Lake Logging Inc. “It grew into a pretty big operation,” Dennis says. “We ran a cutting side, two yarder sides, and a tractor side.”

When his brother passed away in 1987, Dennis ventured out on his own. “I didn’t have anything,” he says. “I started over from scratch. That was 1988.”

Shortly thereafter, Dennis bought a self-loading log truck and began hauling logs for other contractors. He also did odd jobs liking hauling loads — whatever it took. He even loaded short logs destined to become 2 x 4s into the back of his pickup truck. The business grew, and Dennis rented an old 850 CASE and worked farmer patches and such.

About a year later, his operation had grown into a small logging company. Dennis decided to move up and bought a newer 850 because he liked what he could do with the one he had rented. “I’d take small jobs, big jobs, whatever I could get. I’d accumulate better equipment when I could afford it. My goal was to log for a large land owner,” Dennis says.

RDL Northwest Inc.Big Jobs to Full-Meal Deal

Nowadays, most of RDL’s contracts are with larger timber operations like Cascade Timber Consulting Inc., but he still isn’t one to sit back and wait for something to happen. One of the few North West logging contractors with a viable website that helps promote his business and capabilities, RDL Northwest will take on smaller jobs, private jobs, and occasionally a “full-meal deal.”

The company will do the marketing, contract the cutting, log it off, and reforest. Start to finish. “We don’t do a full deal very often. Pretty time consuming on my end. A lot more goes into it than running around in a pickup.”

Over the years RDL Northwest has weathered the turbulent dips and slams the logging business has experienced and come out a strong contender. Dennis does admit he’s had some help along the way. “I couldn’t have done it without help from some other people. There’s the insurance man that got me insurance when no one else would touch it. And the banker that helped with the loans. I’ve kept with the same people for many years.”

But the real key to RDL’s success is very simple, “I’ve got a great crew…and we work at it.”