February, 2001





Ready & Willing 

Pacific Logging Inc. thrives by reacting quickly to change. 

By Peter Hill 

Few industries have ever been hit as hard as the forest products industry was during the "timber wars" of the 1980s and '90s and then survived to thrive and grow again. It is a tribute to the spirit of competition and innovation exhibited by firms like Pacific Logging, Inc., of Marysville, Wash., that the timber industry has been able to pull through those disastrous years. The firm was founded in the early 1970s as a conventional logging operation harvesting timber in the Cascade foothills of Western Washington. 

Tom Kriegel, who has been with Pacific Logging for 20 years, oversees most of the company's day to day operations, and takes care of hiring and managing crews as well as bidding on jobs. 

Today Pacific Logging is held in joint ownership by Bob Hild, and Babe & Bonnie Giebel. Rob Hild, Bob's son, helps direct some of the company's efforts while Tom Kriegel, who has been with the company for 20 years, oversees most of the company's day to day operations, as well as managing crews and bidding on jobs. According to Rob, the company was able to sustain itself through the lean years by becoming one of the earliest firms in the Northwest to introduce mechanized logging techniques to the woods. By creating a flexible operation, Pacific Logging could successfully harvest under almost any conditions. 

The company was one of the first in the Northwest to introduce Timbco fellerbunchers to the forest and more recently the firm added Waratah harvester heads to its inventory. "Add to that the towers the firm owns," says Rob, "and the company is able to take on almost any job available in the region - whether it be clearing one acre in an urban area for a contractor or harvesting hundreds of acres of commercial forest for a timber company ." Their willingness to invest in state of the art equipment has enhanced the company's competitiveness and allowed it to look to the future with confidence. Pacific came to mechanization early in the game, well before most other West Coast firms were interested in the technology. 

A CAT 325B with a Waratah HTH620 harvester/processor works the chute under a Thunderbird tower.

The coast's timber industry had throughout the first three quarters of the 20th Century a "big tree" orientation. In the late '80s the Hilds and Giebels realized that focus was becoming outdated. Looking ahead to the future shape of the industry, they decided to move towards mechanized logging, a new technology capable of efficiently and profitably harvesting the smaller trees they knew would provide the bulk of the harvest in the post old growth era. At about the same time, as Rob relates it, an equally innovative equipment manufacturer, Timbco Hydraulics, was making its presence felt in the Midwestern and Eastern logging industry. 

It had a line of fellerbunchers designed to remove fibre from the woods without the extensive damage to residual trees older units had caused. Intrigued by the new approach, Pacific Logging's chief mechanic, Rich Gieble, and crew, flew back to Timbco's Wisconsin plant for a demonstration of the equipment. Impressed, Pacific took a big step for the time and invested in Timbco's fellerbunchers, plunging into mechanization despite the fact that Timbco hadn't yet established either distribution or service outlets in the west.

Sorting and loading is handled by a Hitachi with boom, guarding, live heel rack and grapple by Jewell Mfg.

"Despite that lack, the partnership between our two companies has been a good one" says Rob. Timbco went out of its way to make sure we had the back up we needed ." Today, Pacific Logging owns and operates two 445 Timbco fellerbunchers which it utilizes to harvest forests throughout the Pacific Northwest. Pacific has not, however, placed all of its eggs in one basket. In addition to the fellerbunchers, the company operates four towers, a TY90, a TTY70, a Diamond 80, and a TSY 255 Swing Yarder. Three Maki motorized carriages complete the package. 

Broadening the firm's scope, the latest addition to the Pacific's repertoire consists of a number of Waratah processors. They work in conjunction with the fellerbunchers and the tower equipment. According to Rich Giebel, just like the case with Timbco, Pacific Logging was one of the first outfits in the Northwest to try out the Waratah processors. The processors, he says, made an immediate difference for the firm in terms of productivity. "We've tried all kinds of other harvesting heads and models and found out none of them except the Waratah's could handle the loads and type of work we encounter here in the Pacific Northwest," Rich says. "The capability and power of the machines are just phenomenal - one of the crew just mentioned to me the other day that they were running 28 inch logs through the processors with no problems. 

An HTH620, one of Pacific Logging's four Waratah heads, keeps working in the everpresent Washington rain.

We currently have our new HTH 620 processor mounted on a 325 B CAT and that combination of power and versatility is just unbelievable ." Right now, Rich says, "Pacific Logging has four Waratah processing heads - two model 230's we got back around 1995 and 1996, the new Waratah HTH620 we just got about a month ago and a second HTH620 we have had for about one and a half years ." Rob is also a believer in the Waratah processing heads. "I really think the processors are the main thing that has allowed us to remain competitive," says Rob. "We do a lot of our tower work and tree length processing right in the landing and it's just amazing what these machines can do and produce. 

We wouldn't be where we are today without these processors - they definitely had a positive impact on our operation. It would take two or three guys at a landing to do what one of these can ." At a time when some companies have resisted change, especially in the Pacific Northwest, Pacific Logging has embraced it, especially in terms of mechanized logging equipment. That's because, Rob says, "We have to remain flexible and have to be able to do any type of job if we want to remain competitive in today's market ." We learned to do thinning with towers, thinning with processors, and in the winter, in order to keep our processors working, we went to rubber tires and chains. 

One of four Pacific Logging yarders ready to relocate to another side.

Towers and motorized carriages have allowed us to speed up operations while not tearing up the ground. This allows us to get into areas that would have been restricted in the past with all the new regulations. The spotted owl issue and now the Salmon Endangered Species setbacks are both having a big impact on our operations ." While their company is demonstrably one of the more modern of the harvesting operations on the West Coast, no one is resting on yesterday's laurels at Pacific Logging. According to Rich, the firm's representatives "...always go to the Oregon Logging Conference each year in Eugene, Oregon to check out the latest equipment and industry technical information. It's a great show to see and compare all the latest equipment on the market.

Item of note, check out the size of the person (in front of blade to left) on the picture with the machine going down hill to get a sense of size…

In addition to that, we are always trying out new things - some work and others don't ." As an example of Pacific Logging's harvesting flexibility, when interviewed by TimberWest in December, company crews were wrapping up a two month contract cut on about a 165 acre tract of State DNR land on the Hood Canal in Puget Sound. The contract called for only cutting out the fir, with half the acreage to be clear cut and the other half to be thinned. All the hemlock, alder and cedar were to be left standing. 

Chief mechanic and maintenance forman, Rich Geibel at the shop/lot.

With two of the Waratah processor's cutting fir poles on the site, Rob estimated that 25 to 30 truck loads a day had been moving out of the site, with the majority going to Boise Cascade, Longview. "Our operations can vary from one to four hundred acres," Rob said, "with about 50 percent being on state DNR land and the other 50 percent being private contract work. We work all over the state. This year we had all the work we could handle. Other years we have to go out looking for jobs - it just varies and you never know ." 

Rayco T275 tractor outfitted with a Rayco FM7260 forestry mower/muncher treats the forest floor to remove fuel load thus lessening the impact of fire. 

Being prepared for those "you never know" situations explains why Pacific Logging has succeeded in recent years while other firms have dropped by the wayside. By developing an approach that maximizes flexibility they are able to take on a wide range of jobs that other may not be able to compete for. State-of-the-art equipment and a willingness to quickly react to change have made Pacific Logging an example of what it takes to survive in the West Coast forest products industry.

 Subsoil mulching makes it look like a park.



This page was last updated on Tuesday, July 08, 2003