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Iron Inventor

Roger Sigouin, the inventor of the bottom-to- top stroke delimber, is back putting his experience and expertise to work. The result: the new Forespro stroke and telescopic boom delimber.

By Tony Kryzanowski
Copyright 1998. Contact publisher for permission to use.

Imagine for a moment how exciting it would be to meet a famous inventor like Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison or the Wright Brothers. In the forest industry, that's how it feels meeting Roger Sigouin, who invented the bottom-to-top stroke delimber. Unfortunately, as with many great inventors, this mastermind did not fully profit from his stroke of genius.

Roger and Jean Sigouin

Roger Sigouin (left) and son Jean Sigouin of Forespro. Having pioneered the bottom-to-to stroke delimber, the Sigouins began custom building delimbers again in 1994 under the Forespro name.

Sigouin, a resident of Amos, Quebec, made the innovation available to the forest industry in the mid-1970s, yet he saw his own business eventually fold. Now his son, Jean Sigouin, hopes to change all that with the introduction of the Forespro stroke and telescopic-boom delimber.

Most truly great inventions can withstand the test of time, which is definitely the case for the Roger Sigouin delimber. At the urging of long-time customers, the Sigouins began custom-building delimbers again in 1994 under the name Forespro.

"Right now, our order book is filled to the beginning of the year 2000," says Jean Sigouin. "We're strongly contemplating the idea of going into a bigger facility to try to keep up with the demand, because it has cone crazy." They are also hoping to cut manufacturing time on the delimbers from eight weeks to four, thus opening up extra production capacity to fill the growing demand.

The father-and-son team continues to operate from Amos, Quebec, where, as a harvesting contractor in the mid-1970s, Roger custom-designed and built the first bottom-to-top stroke delimber for his own personal use. At the time, a Kockums delimber was available, but it delimbed trees from top to bottom. Sigouin was the first to reverse that process.

"The idea originally was not to build delimbers on a commercial basis," explains Jean Sigouin. "It was to build our own machine for our own use. He (Roger) liked the first one, so he built a second. Then the mills started to realize that they were getting profits out of that because the wood was easier to load, and they were getting better-quality wood in the mill yard."

Other harvesting contractors soon realized the advantages offered by the Sigouin invention, and demanded their own as well. Thus, Roger's specialized delimber was born; the Sigouins moved into a larger shop and began manufacturing delimbers on a commercial basis.

Business was good until 1983, when the industry suffered a severe downturn. In order to survive, they agreed to sell their patents to Denis Equipment. As part of the agreement, they continued to manufacture delimber parts for the one-piece boom machine.

"By 1990, the contract was over with Denis Equipment, and things got slow again," says Sigouin. "We kept building parts, and built a few machines for local use, but then it got so slow that we closed down the whole shop in 1992."

For the next two years, they moved back to their small shop and supplied spare parts, delimbing arms, repairing cylinders, and pins and bushings for their own custom-built machines, as well as for the Denis delimbers. During that time, their long-time customers continued to encourage them to return to manufacturing delimbers.

Finally in 1994, Jean decided to make the move back into manufacturing delimbers because of continued demands from one persistent customer. That year, they only built one customized machine.

"He knew what he wanted and he wanted a Roger delimber," says Jean, reflecting on his customer's demands. "So he came to us, and we built one for him." The next year, they built three one-piece stroke delimbers. The first few units featured fixed delimbing arms, but then the Sigouins introduced a major innovation to the delimber market.

"We realized that we would be better off with independent delimbing arms, particularly for multi-stemming," says Jean. "We tried it, liked it and have stayed with it ever since."

Two major influences have helped shape the design of the new Forespro delimber. The first is the collective experience shared with Sigouin by his old-time customers, whom he asked how the machines could be improved. Their suggestions resulted in a more heavy-duty unit, with beefed-up pins, bushings and chain. "We just put a little more meat into the thing," says Jean.

The second influence was their 20-years of experience repairing delimbers and making spare parts.

"One of our main advantages here is that we also repair older machines," says Jean. "We bring the older machines in and it shows us their weak points. We just fixed our weak points until we didn't have any more weak points. We saw where older machines would crack from wear and tear after 15,000, 18,000 and 20,000 hours."

Another obvious difference from other delimbers on the market is that the Forespro has four cables instead of two.

So far, their impact on the market has been rather limited. But that's all about to change, since they're about to make a big splash with the introduction of their telescopic-boom delimber, which has captured more than 90 per cent of the local market.

"What really hit the red button and made our order book fill up so fast was our coming out with a telescopic delimber," says Jean. "Now we are going to be working on the total capacity of the market. Even though the telescopic-boom market is fairly new to us, we have been repairing and fixing telescopic machines for more than 12 years, so we know their strong points and their weak points. It really was a piece of cake for us to turn around and build our own machine."

It's very possible, he says, that in 10 years the product will grow in popularity to secure a place in both the national and international markets.

"It's headed in that direction, even if originally we didn't want it to," says Sigouin. "We're being caught by the wave, and whether we want it or not, that's where we are headed."

Right now, the specialized Segouin delimber is available through Quadco in central and eastern Canada. It's available through Pacfor in the west, as well as through other equipment dealers.

While delimbers are currently their main product, Jean Sigouin says they have a number of other product ideas on the drawing board with the intent of expanding their equipment line. It's just a matter of finding the time to take those ideas from the research and development stage into commercial production.

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