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July August 2005  - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

 

CONTRACTOR PROFILE

The Right Stuff -
in equipment and people

Long time BC coastal Logger W D Moore Logging is facing some challenging times due to reduce cuts but the outfit is working hard to combat that with the right logging equipment and people.

By Paul MacDonald

When it comes to West Coast logging, you really can’t get any more west coast than mid-sized logging contractor W D Moore Logging.

The company is based in Winter Harbour (or as company patriarch Bill Moore used to call it—tongue-in-cheek— “Downtown Winter Harbour”) on the far northwestern edge of Vancouver Island.

Winter Harbour, with its handful of residents, is said to be closer to Japan and China than any other North American settlement.

Bill Moore, a larger than life figure in BC logging, oversaw Moore Logging operations for some 55 years (his father, Albert, started the logging company in 1928 with a float camp in Quatsino Sound, after moving west from Thunder Bay, Ontario).

In his long and colourful logging career, Moore advocated a variety of causes, from forest safety to the need for a vibrant and independent contract logging sector in the BC forest industry and the important place unions have in the forestry workplace. He expressed his comments in his well-read columns in BC Lumberman magazine for more than 15 years (the columns are posted on the Internet at www.tomorrowslogger.com). Moore, who was also well known for his loggers’ poetry and love of jazz music, passed away four years ago at the age of 78.

Graham Lasure (above) of W D Moore Logging: looking for new business opportunities in logging.

The company’s commitment to West Coast logging remains strong, however, in the hands of Moore’s stepson, Graham Lasure. While other members of the family— including Bill’s son, Patrick Moore, who was co-founder of Greenpeace and now works as an environmental consultant— all spent time working in the family business, Lasure chose to stay with it and now manages the operation.

While Lasure has invested carefully in some updated equipment for the company over the last few years, these are still challenging times for mid-sized contractors like Moore Logging. Like the industry tendency towards bigger sawmills, there has been a pronounced trend towards mega logging contractors on the BC Coast. Added to that is the provincial government’s Forest Revitalization Plan. A key part of the plan is a clawback of timber from the major forest companies, and in turn, from the contractors who do the logging for these forest companies.

Moore Logging also had to deal with the restructuring of the licensee, Western Forest Products, over the last several years, which added another level of uncertainty.

At this point, Moore Logging has about 85,000 cubic metres a year in contracted wood—down from an historical high of 150,000 cubic metres. That can make it tough when you are talking about the equipment investments necessary to handle large West Coast timber. “Grapple yarders are over a million dollars now, so you want to keep them busy, and it can be hard to do that with 85,000 cubic metres of cut,” says
Lasure.

There is currently much discussion in the industry over the“right size” of a contracting operation—the size at which it can be the most efficient and achieve critical mass. “Some people think that efficiency begins at over 200,000 cubic metres a year, but I don’t necessarily agree with that,” notes Lasure. “I believe that with the right mix of crew and machinery, it is possible to be efficient with around 120,000 cubic metres.” That level of harvesting essentially allows a grapple yarder, hoe chucker, log loader and a few trucks to remain busy and provide full-time employment throughout the year.

Lasure notes that the success of a logging contractor lies with the employees. “We involve the crew in all of our planning, regularly make camp improvements, and have yearly appreciation parties to bring the crew and their families together with ours. I believe this has allowed us to attract and retain such a skilled and dedicated crew, most with long-term seniority and even a few second-generation employees.

“With our operation, what makes us efficient is the crew. The woods foreman and myself are out there every day, and together we know exactly what is going on at all times.”

Lasure and woods foreman Daniel Gachter believe in a flat management style and rely on their employees to be flexible and help make operating decisions. “All of our guys are skilled at—and regularly perform—two or three different jobs, sometimes in one day. It makes their work more interesting and enjoyable, and helps to make us more efficient,” he says. “We only have one mechanic, so if something breaks down, the
operators will often repair it themselves, or if the equipment is down for a while, they help out in the shop with the mechanic.”

The past year proved to be pretty reasonable for Moore Logging, with Western Forest Products sending 130,000 cubic metres of work its way. Western was at the end of a five-year cut, and faced the prospect of losing the timber if they did not harvest it, hence the busy year.

But now, with the prospect of Moore Logging potentially losing part of its Bill 13 cut due to the province’s revitalization plan, Lasure is looking about for new business opportunities.“We have to find some more wood and timber sales are currently the only real potential for that.”

They will also be seeking possible joint ventures with local First Nations groups, who will have large volumes of timber come their way under the revitalization plan.

“We’ve talked with them a bit, and are going to continue to move that forward, but it’s not very straightforward,” says Lasure. “It’s probably going to take a couple of years for First Nations and BC Timber Sales to get their wood fully on-line, and for things to settle out.” BC Timber Sales is an independent organization within the BC Ministry of Forests, created to develop Crown timber for auction.

In recent years, along with updating to detailed computerized costing and machinery maintenance programs, they have been adding steadily to their equipment line-up, with a mix of some new equipment and used equipment, the latter mostly picked up at auction.

The equipment line-up includes: a Madill 124 grapple yarder with shotgun package; a Cat 235 backspar hoe; an American 7230 super snorkel/line loader; Kobelco SK400 log loader; and a Madill 3800C hoe chucker/log loader equipped with a Log Max 12000 processing head.

They build from six to 10 kilometres of road a year, and on that side they have: a Finning M32 tank drill; two Pacific conventional gravel trucks; a Cat D4 spread cat; a Cat 14G grader; and a SK400 road builder. They also have a Kobelco SK370 road builder also equipped for hoe chucking with a quickchange grapple. All the hydraulic grapples are built by T-Mar.“Essentially, we had to recapitalize the company on the equipment side in the last few years,” Lasure explains. “We weren’t in the best of shape during the mid to late 1990s, and our machinery was getting pretty run down.”

At one point, due to contractual disagreements, they had sold off part of their contracts, the falling and hauling, leaving them only the yarding, loading, and road building. The falling and hauling contracts were bought back by Lasure in 2002 as it really wasn’t efficient to have the various functions split up. They were doing the yarding and the loading, but the falling and hauling was being done quite separately, without a lot of co-ordination. “It made sense to purchase it all back.” With this move, they returned to being a stump-to-dump contractor for Western Forest Products.

The newest piece of equipment for Moore Logging is the Log-Max 12000 head mounted on the Madill 3800 carrier. “I saw the LogMax 12000 in action and thought it would be the best head for us,” explains Lasure. This marks Moore Logging’s first venture into mechanized logging, which may sound surprising, but a lot of its cut is still in large old growth wood, much of which does not lend itself to processing.

Among the most recent equipment additions to W D Moore Logging is a Log-Max 12000 processing head, mounted on a Madill 3800 carrier.

Moore Logging received help from LogMax during the rampup period for the head, and also brought in operator Jeff Erickson, who uses a LogMax 12000 head on a Madill HT 2250B carrier for D & D Logging of Powell River, BC. The hands-on help sure paid off.

“After Jeff came in, production almost doubled,” says Lasure.“The head still can’t do a lot of our wood because we have so much old growth, and it alsofaces challenges on the steep slopes which are loose soil. But right now I’m totally happy with the work it has been doing, and it will allow us to be more efficient while better utilizing our 3800.”

Lasure figures they have enough suitable wood to fall and/or process 20,000-30,000 cubic metres with the LogMax/ Madill each year, and have loading and chucking work to keep the Madill busy for the rest of the year. The switch between processing head and grapple now takes about six hours, though they are working to reduce that.

For Moore Logging, average tree size is about a 36-inch diameter, with a lot of old growth cedar.

“But we get a mix of wood,” explains Lasure. “A stand could range from small hemlock right to eight- to ten-foot diameter cedars, so it is impossible to go for all mechanized equipment. We are always going to have a need for big machinery on the North Island.”

In general, Moore Logging has tried to break out of the box of doing things the same old way. “We’re trying new things for us, such as full length falling and yarding.

Once we have it yarded, we have to process it before loading, but it seems to be working, and we’re learning something every step of the way. It has its own costs and we have to see if it all balances out, but I am positive it’s going to work.”

And in one way, they are going back to the future, in that they are often using a carriage on the grapple yarder. “It works well as the crew can change to either system in less than ten minutes, often using both systems on a single yarding road.”

Among the most recent equipment additions to W D Moore Logging is a Log-Max 12000 processing head, mounted on a Madill 3800 carrier.

On the hauling side, Moore Logging has three Pacific P16 log trucks, two Kenworth 850 log trucks, a Hayes HDX log truck and two Willock low-beds. All the trucks are off-highway with a mix of 50/50 automatic/standard transmissions. They are doing what they can to keep fuel costs under control in an era of spiraling prices. They re-engined one of the P-16s a year ago, installing a Detroit- Diesel series 60 engine. They originally expected a four year payback on that investment, but it will now pay off in significantly less time than that with higher fuel prices.

“It’s a great investment. If I knew that we were going to log steadily for three or four years, I would change over all of our logging truck engines. But with the uncertainty,
we can’t do that.” They are hoping some of that uncertainty to end sooner rather than later, when they know what their cut will be.

Lasure would like nothing better than to see a clearer path for the company that
he manages, and to help sustain the future of “Downtown Winter Harbour.”

 

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