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October 2005  - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

 

EAST COAST LOGGING

Meeting the grade

A Hyundai carrier/ Hornet processor combination and Ponsse Bison forwarder help ensure New Brunswick logging contractor Glen Davis is able to meet and surpass the quality requirements of forest company Bowater.

By George Fullerton

 

There was a time when every student in New Brunswick schools learned that Boiestown was the geographic centre of the province. This village has a long and remarkable history based on forestry and sawmilling, and the world-famous Atlantic salmon fishery of the Southwest Miramichi River, which snakes through the community.

Today, the river still runs with Atlantic salmon and continues to attract sports fishers from around the world. But forest management is still one of the region’s key employers, although the major sawmill has been reduced to a planer and kiln drying facility. Boiestown’s illustrious, forestry, fishing, sawmilling and cultural heritage is kept alive through the community-run Central New Brunswick Woodsmen’s Museum.

Glen Davis has lived his whole life (fifty-something) in Boiestown, growing up witnessing the farming, guiding, and winter-in-the-woods cycle of the community. His forestry career started with helping his father peel pulp wood, proceeding from there to move on up the family “woods work” ladder. He then did cable skidder and forwarder contracting for a variety of regional operations and, most recently, with a series of mechanical processors working on Bowater’s Canadian Forest Products Division’s 93,000-hectare freehold tract north of Boiestown.

Seven years ago, Davis was contract forwarding for J D Irving Doaktown District and running a Hood slasher on a variety of operations. He was looking for an opportunity to move into mechanical harvesting when the opening came up with Bowater.

He bought a Hyundai/Hornet processor set-up and went to work handling trail side, buncher cut hardwood. Davis found the move to processing to his liking, and after three years moved into a new Hyundai/Target and this May bought his third Hyundai/Hornet processor set-up.

“The Hornet is a proven machine for our big hardwoods. You will hear about fellas that say they have a processor that will work in hardwoods, and they might do just fine in soft maple, poplar and white birch, but when they come up to our rock maple and rough yellow birch, not too many of those processors are up to that challenge. You need a rugged, heavy machine and lots of limbing power in these woods.”

Glen Davis’s shiny new Hyundai 290 and Hornet processing head (left) on Bowater operations near Fullerton Deadwater, north of Boiestown, New Brunswick.

In addition to the new Hyundai/Hornet processor, Davis still runs the Hood slasher and is in the process of selling his fouryear- old Ponsse Bison forwarder to his son Clay. “Clay has been working with me for eleven years and he is a very good operator and likes working in the woods,” says Davis. “Selling him the forwarder will give him the opportunity to learn more about business management and build his business skills. If you are going to be a success in contracting, you have to be sharp about business. He has already taken the initiative to take on some small contracts with other companies— when he gets caught up with the processor on Bowater operations—and he does well juggling his responsibilities.”

Davis operates his processor on double 10-hour shifts with operators Mark O’Donnell and Jamie Price. Davis typically handles the servicing between shifts and on weekends. This past summer, however, his nephew Chad Davis (who was off from college) was hired to handle the maintenance and the back-up operator’s slot. This gave Davis the opportunity to do some important things he has wanted to do, which included some salmon fishing on the Miramichi and trout fishing with his grandkids.

Davis also owns a Wood-Mizer portable sawmill and hires an operator to do custom milling around Boiestown. In addition to custom sawing, he is also looking at a deal to saw hemlock timbers for Bowater, to be used in bridge construction.

Both Glen and Clay Davis consider the Bison 6WD to be the “Cadillac” of forwarders. “It rates very high for reliability and performance, and has the best operator comfort,” says Clay.

Glen points out that the Bison fits the Bowater operation very well, primarily with its manoeuverability. “We could get the larger capacity 8WD, but the 6WD can go places that the 8WD would not. We work on a lot of rough slopes where you need to be able manoeuver around pretty carefully to get the wood hauled. Even though it has a little less capacity, I believe it gets more wood hauled than an
8WD.”

With four years of double shifting on the Ponsse, neither Clay nor Glen is in any hurry to trade the forwarder. Glen Davis says that operating the processor and forwarder as a team provides some significant advantages for a contractor.

Glen Davis (above, left) with operator Mark O’Donnell (centre) and Bowater harvest layout technician John Carson in front of the Hornet processing head. “The Hornet is a proven machine for our big hardwoods,” says Davis.

“When you are contracting both phases, the processor operator is able to put up the wood so that the forwarder operation can run smoothly and efficiently, and therefore operate more profitably. If the forwarder phase is separate, the processor might be doing a good processing job, but it could leave the wood so that it is a tough job for the forwarder, and production really suffers.”

Bowater operations do some full tree and roadside processing, but Glen points out that in woods processing, the Hornet is the best way to ensure best utilization, and to capture a high degree of saw and veneer and specialty log production. “In today’s market where logs make the premium and pulpwood goes shopping for a place that will take it, merchandizing logs is extremely important for Bowater.”

Bowater’s pulp wood production is sold to Domtar in Woodland, Maine, high grade saw logs go to Groupe Savoie in St Quentin, NB, Felix Huard in Quebec and the JD Irving mill at Clair, NB. Veneer and specialty (birdseye) logs go to independent buyers.

Davis purchased his processors from ALPA Equipment in Balmoral, NB. He says that the Cummins-powered Hyundais have proven very reliable and that their forestry packages are robust and dependable. ALPA installed the welldesigned forestry guard package. “It has very good lighting, almost as good as daylight,” Davis chuckles, “and it has good grab handle placement and good walkways.”

Glen says that the Hornet head is the same well-tested design as his previous unit, with about an extra thousand pounds dedicated to heavier framing and reinforcement.

The new Hornet processor proved very reliable, right from the get-go. “There were no surprises,” says Glen Davis.

Equipment operators are paid a straight hourly wage, with a bonus system. “I’ve tried paying operators on their production, but found that it was just too hard on the equipment. I pay them a good rate and I expect them to take care of the equipment. When we have good performance and good production, we all share the bonus.” The goal is to process 1,000 cubic metres per week.

The new processor proved very reliable, right from the get-go. “There were no surprises, just a few small start-up problems. ALPA delivered and we went right to work. I am very happy with my relationship with ALPA and with the support they provide. They are a call away if there is a problem, and will work with the operator or myself to find and fix a problem. If it turns into a major problem, I know that a mechanic is only a few hours away.”

Mike Glynn, forestry superintendent with Bowater, comments that Glen is one of their most conscientious contractors, pointing out that he is committed to doing quality work. “You only have to explain it to Glen once, and you can be assured that that is what they will do,” says Glynn. “Both he and Clay are very good contractors, they do their work correctly and operate their businesses very well. Clay and his operator Steven Norrad are among the best forwarder operators we have, they are just excellent operators.”

In good quality tolerant hardwood stands, Bowater will do either selection and/or strip cut harvest. In low quality stands dominated by diseased beech, the prescription is clear cut and plant, with a maximum 50-hectare block size. In the past couple of years, harvest layout has moved to GPS layout. “GPS allows us to follow stand boundaries, whereas the compass layout tended to result in rectangular blocks. GPS allows us to stick much closer to a stand-by-stand management strategy,” explains Glynn.

“Glen consistently gets high marks on wood quality checks. Bowater has multiple markets, so it is important that we meet a variety of specs. It is too late if a truck is in the mill yard and a quality issue appears. We maintain high standards and it is never an issue with Glen.

“We have an incentive plan for contractors that achieve greater than 93 per cent on their quality checks. It is very, very seldom that Glen does not achieve the incentive,” says Glynn.

Bowater maintains a very high environmental standard on its operations. The company operates a high profile sports fishing camp at the Rocky Brook stream. Bowater is also involved in a watershed study with the University of New Brunswick and Nexfor, and employs a biologist, Stephanie Ratelle. Ratelle conducts fish and water quality studies on Bowater limits, and sets up silt boxes on streams to measure turbidity and transfer-in streams. Her duties include scrutinizing road building and forestry operations. Glynn hinted that Ratelle is not at all sympathetic towards foresters with excuses for poor operations standards or water quality problems.

Contractors working on operations have bought into the environmental strategy. “If an operator gets into a site where they are concerned that they might run the risk of contravening environmental regulations, they simply back off and call Bowater supervisors to scrutinize the situation and come up with an alternative plan for operating, or just get out of the risky area altogether. We would much rather have a forester take a closer look than go ahead and work, and end up in a big mess,” says Glynn.

“We have a very good long-term relationship with our contractors, which allows them to maintain good operators with low turnover. When you develop that level of rapport, you can get the message through to the operators, and they understand and support the environmental strategy. But when there is a high turnover of contractors and operators, it is hard to get the message across and get buy-in at all levels.”

Glen Davis embraces Bowater’s attention to high water quality standards. “We realize that water quality is as much a part of their bread and butter as forestry is, and we need to work together with biologists and fisheries in order to maintain the salmon. They are as much a part of the Miramichi as the trees are.”

 


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