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.
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
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the late '80s the Hilds and Giebels realized that focus was becoming outdated.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.
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
Subsoil mulching makes it
look like a park.