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Sept 2004 - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal

QUEBEC LOGGING

Strong equipment support

Being a consistent woodsupplier, and making strong and progressive equipment investments, has resulted in more than 25 years of successful operations for Quebec contractor G Papineau’s logging operations.

By Roy Ostling

It’s all in the family at logging contractor G Papineau: company founder and president Ghislain Papineau (right) with sons Gino (centre) and Hugo, beside their Liebherr A-924 loader.

It’s a hot day in mid-July, and at the base camp for G Papineau Ltée’s logging operations, anticipation is the operative word. In the sprawling yard located on the Quebec side of the upper Ottawa River in Rapides des Joachim, 10 Western Star and Kenworth trucks wait in rows on one side with logging trailers lined up on the other. In the company’s 10,000 square-foot service garage, mechanics are working on a delimber, overhauling a gravel truck, and installing new tires on a trailer.

Roughly 50 per cent of the logs harvested by G Papineau are hardwoods, 25 per cent is white and red pine, and the remainder is spruce, balsam and fir. Faced with increasing challenges getting cutters and skidder owner-operators, the company has invested in feller bunchers and now has three Timbco bunchers.

Meanwhile, company founder and president Ghislain Papineau and his son Gino are hunkered down in their office, finalizing the details of their logging contract with a representative from Commonwealth Plywood. “Usually we start logging in the first week of July and we want to get going as soon as possible so we can deliver on our contract,” says Gino, who acts as the company’s administrator, while brother Hugo looks after bush operations. They’re waiting as the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources approves modifications to the methods their company must follow when it starts selective cutting on some 4,000 hectares of forest in the area between Temiscaming, Pontiac and La Verendrye Park.

The timber area and its 200,000 cubic metre annual cut is part of a 25-year Timber Supply and Forest Management Agreement between Commonwealth Plywood and the government of Quebec. While Commonwealth Plywood holds title to the wood, it pays Papineau Ltée to build roads, harvest according to Ministry of Natural Resources specifications, and transport the logs to the Rapides St Joachim base camp.

There, they are sorted and cut to length using one of the company’s four slashers. Roughly 50 per cent of the logs are hardwoods, including red maple, sugar maple, oak, beech, birch and poplar, 25 per cent is white and red pine, and the remainder is spruce, balsam, and fir. Hardwood and pine go to Commonwealth’s sawmill adjacent to the Papineau operation. Spruce, balsam, and poplar goes to Louisiana-Pacific’s Maniwaki, Quebec sawmill. Plywood quality hardwood logs go to Commonwealth’s plywood operation in St Therese, Quebec. Papineau has conducted contract logging for Commonwealth for the past 27 years, and there’s a simple reason for that successful long-term relationship according to Ghislain and Gino. “We deliver on the contract. They don’t have to wait on us. They have the wood in their yard as soon as possible. Some contractors start and have difficulty completing on time.”

 “The Liebherr A-924 works very well in the bush,” says Hugo Papineau. “The Liebherr’s elevating cab and 40-foot boom is long enough that it can stay on the road with the truck, reach over its cab and load the truck.”

Ghislain, 63, began working as a cutter in 1955 and started G Papineau Ltée in 1969 with a loader and two skidders. Since then, the family-owned business has invested more than $15 million in equipment and added 200 employees to its payroll. Due to the logging methods prescribed in deciduous and mixed forests, where individual trees are marked for harvesting, the company still relies mainly on chainsaw falling. During the July to February operating season, Papineau brings in workers from as far away as the Gaspé and New Brunswick and hires up to 35 teams, each composed of a cable skidder and owner-operator, and a faller.

The company operates one shift except in the spring, when a night shift is sometimes added to reduce the number of trucks on the road and get hardwood logs in to avoid staining. But with increasing difficulties in getting sufficient cutters and skidder owner-operators, Papineau bought its first feller buncher, a Timbco T450C Hydro buncher, four years ago and added a T455C and a T425-D two years ago. The bunchers are equipped with a 22-inch Quadco, a 22-inch GN Roy, and a 20-inch Koehring hot saw head. Gino says that roughly 20 per cent of its logging is done using the feller bunchers.

In addition to supplementing the cutter/skidder teams Papineau can’t hire, the machines are much safer than manual cutting and—with their tilt and turn cabs—can operate easily on steep slopes. The main problem in using feller bunchers in Papineau’s logging operation is the difficulty in finding skilled operators. “There’s a lot of people who want to try that machine,” says Gino, “but if you want to be productive, you have to know the technique and have a lot of experience.” Papineau uses three rail-type delimbers for delimbing softwood trees at its logging sites—Denharco DT3500 delimbers on a John Deere, Samsung and a Case carrier. Hardwood species are manually delimbed at logging sites with a chainsaw.

For log loading the company uses two Prentice ATL 625s with 38-foot booms, which they bought in 2002. Two years earlier, Papineau acquired a Liebherr A-944 excavator, used for road construction and a Liebherr A-924 wheeled loader. The Liebherr A-924 is outfitted with a 40-foot boom and grapple for log loading applications. It features a six-way seat with joysticks integrated into adjustable seat consoles, shock-absorbing suspension, and has a hydraulic cab elevation system that enables the operator to raise the cab to achieve maximum visibility. Hugo Papineau, 32, who has worked in the family business since age 15, says the Liebherr A-924 loader was one of the best investments the company has made.

He knows the logging business having started at age 13 working with his uncle, and then buying his own Kenworth truck and 48-foot log trailer. “The Liebherr A-924 works very well in the bush,” he explains. “At first the drivers didn’t want to use this machine. But now they all prefer it because when you work with a standard machine, sometimes with a tight logging road you have to jackknife the truck and trailer to load it.

The Liebherr’s elevating cab and 40-foot boom is long enough to stay on the road with the truck, reach over its cab and load the log.” Asked about the biggest changes he’s seen in the bush operations side of the business over the past 20 years, Hugo points to the increasing number of regulations the company must follow. For example, the same regulations limiting driving hours to 13 hours per day on public roads now apply to hauling in the bush. He also points to new forestry laws that were enacted in 1995.

One recent change to prevent illegal logging is that each loader operating in the woods must have a GPS unit attached to it. “Each load has to have the exact position by latitude and longitude that the wood comes from in the cutting area and be included on the scaling form.” Another regulation affecting logging includes limits on the impacts that logging machines can have on the forest floor. While selective cutting has its advantages, including faster regeneration of trees and removal of diseased wood, it is time consuming and expensive. Hugo adds that requirements to roadbuilding have also changed, requiring that wherever the company installs culverts it must ensure that grasses are planted in a 20-metre area on each side to stop erosion.

Gino Papineau, 34, started working for the family operation after graduating with a business administration degree from university and operating his own snowmobile sales company. “I closed the store and came here because we had too much work,” he says. Gino, a self-professed “Macintosh addict,” developed the company’s Apple-based computer system using Filemaker. “I started small with just the parts inventory and now all the maintenance and accounting databases are on FileMaker. It’s a relational database that lets you create your own forms and layout and it’s very easy to work with.” In addition to its delimbers, feller bunchers, loaders, and excavators, Papineau owns four modified Hood slashers, four Timberjack skidders, 20 logging trucks, 41 log trailers, and 15 gravel trucks and supplies its cutters with bars, chains and other parts for their saws.

And with 12 full-time mechanics on site during the winter season, preventative maintenance and a well-stocked parts inventory are critical to keeping the operation going. “Everything is on computer with the scheduled maintenance and all operations. If a driver comes and says he has a problem, we put it on the computer, make a work order and give it to the mechanic. He gives that back to us and says that it has either been repaired or new parts are required.” Looking ahead, the Papineaus are optimistic—but realistic—about the future of the logging business and forestry in Quebec.

They make their decisions about future investments in the company as a team and have learned to cope with the stress of operating under a contract that must be renewed each year. While Papineau’s business isn’t growing, it is stable, and Ghislain and Gino aren’t out looking for more contracts. “It’s stable because we cut the amount of wood that Commonwealth receives from the provincial government and it’s always the same thing,” says Gino and, Hugo and Ghislain agree. “We haven’t tried to get more contracts from other sawmills because we have a lot of work and I don’t think we could find the time for more.”

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