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TimberWest November/December 2013

Sept/October 2014

ON THE COVER
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
expanded

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

DEPARTMENTS

Tech review - Brushcutters & Mulchers

In the News

Association News

Machinery Row

 

 

 

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Pleines Logging

Keep on Thinning

Pleines Logging focuses on contract cut-to-length

By Clayton Petree

Pleines Logging Inc., headquartered in Forks, Wash., focuses primarily on contract cut-to-length thinning in northwest Washington. But that wasn’t always the case.

Pleines LoggingLeft, Fred Pleines and on the right, operator Joe Burwash.

Current owner Fred Pleines began his logging career by helping his father Fred Sr. harvest in the late 1960s and early 70s. When Fred’s father passed away in 1975, Fred Junior’s mother Beatrice asked Fred to finish the job on his own. Beatrice did not want to own and run the logging operation, so she transferred her interest in the company to Fred Jr., helping him continue working under the Pleines Logging name.

Fred ran Pleines Logging for another decade, working a number of smaller jobs. By 1985, he was working bigger, long-term jobs for Pope & Talbot under the guidance of Milt Philbrook. Working on bigger jobs for Pope & Talbot, and later an Asian export operation named Golden Springs, provided good consistent work for a number of years.

The Move to Cut-to-Length

One day, Fred saw an opportunity — to bid on a 2,500-acre DNR thinning job called “Little Tree.” He decided then to go all in on thinning. It was around 1990, and Timberjack (well known today) had just released cut-to-length thinning equipment in the U.S. market. Ahead of his time, Fred decided to purchase equipment from the new company.

“The first year on the Little Tree job just about put us under,” says Fred. “We had to learn how to operate cut-to-length efficiently, and the new equipment sometimes caused lengthy delays for parts.”

Once he and his men perfected their corridor layout, and the there was a larger parts supply in the U.S., things got better. Pleines purchased a second harvester in 1992. When the Little Tree job wrapped up, Pleines continued thinning work for another 10 years, covering about 10,000 acres of DNR lands.

Pleines LoggingThe 1210 Timberjack forwarder at work. Fred says the challenge isn’t finding quality equipment, but qualified help.

Still Thinning

Today, Pleines works one side and employs five people. He runs both a Timberjack 1270D with a 762c harvester head and a 1270E John Deere with a Waratah 480c head, along with a 1210 Timberjack forwarder and a 225 Cat log loader. For other duties, Fred says his firm uses a 315 Cat excavator, 416 backhoe, 12G grader, and their trusty 1982 GMC shop truck which, according to Fred, “Just keeps on running.”

When asked how Pleines Logging has been successful for so long, Fred blames the longevity on his crew. “I handpicked them, and they have had a big hand in Pleines Logging’s long-term success.”

He also credits a successful operation to having a good attitude and a well-stocked shop and shop truck. Pleines makes sure everything is organized and in top running shape, which allows them to hit their deadlines with very low damage rates.

Pleines is also willing to travel away from the Forks area, depending on the job, and he can work with the customer to meet their various needs, such as recovering biomass material. Another key factor to the company’s success is his long-term relationship with Barry Swanson trucking. Fred says they would have their own trucks but it’s difficult to find drivers; by contracting, they can focus on thinning instead of human resource management.

Tough Assignments

Fred says the most difficult job his firm has ever tackled was on the Pysht Tree Farm, a fir and spruce plot that had been neglected and infected with weevil eggs, causing the spruce trees to grow multiple tops, having limbs all the way from top to bottom. The stunted, 30-foot trees turned out to be unusable for saw logs but were usable for pulpwood. Although time consuming, they clear cut the diseased spruce and thinned the fir so that it could grow into a healthy forest again.

Luckily, most jobs are not that tough, and Fred believes there’s a good future for thinning-only operations like his because of the positive effect thinning has on growth rates and forest health. He plans to continue to provide quality, on-time work and perhaps improve efficiency through several equipment upgrades such as the Cat 574 forwarder they are in the process of purchasing.

“The biggest challenge is finding qualified help when I need it,” he says. “Other challenges include the tremendous increases in fuel and parts costs we’ve seen in recent years.”

It’s been many years since the Little Tree job, but Pleines and his specialized logging firm intend on thinning for many more years to come. Fred intends to continue to refine their process and upgrade their equipment so they can survive—and even thrive—in today’s competitive market.