May June 2005




Consistency Brings in the Jobs

Quality equipment and employees keep Allen Brothers Forest Management running year round

By Barbara Coyner

A birds-eye view of the Hancock tree farm — one of Allen Brother’s long time customers.

Les Allen loves consistency. He likes equipment that consistently gets the job done, loyal crewmembers who consistently keep those production numbers up, and companies that consistently rehire him as a contractor. As he says, small details are the most important part of his type of business. From the secretary to the rigging crew, all are trained to be consistent. In the ever-changing world that loggers now endure, Allen knows such steadiness is hard to come by, but he figures he has a few things going his way.

One is selecting new equipment to fit the job description. “We don’t do major repairs ourselves,” says the 56-yearold Arlington, Wash. logging contractor, who is now celebrating his 30th year in business. “We’re production oriented and try to keep new equipment under our operators. I’m not in favor of old equipment because it won’t withstand the rigors of working where we work. We’ve got to have dependability. We’re very consistent loggers. We can tell you how many logs we’ll cut in a day and when the job will be done, within a day or two. That’s how steady we are.” Allen’s steadiness is buttressed by a tried-and-true system that utilizes equipment components in a sure-fire formula.

One of the newest ingredients in that successful formula is a John Deere 2554 log loader, developed by the Deere Hitachi Specialty Products division, and sold by Pape Machinery in Kent (the unit was the 750th machine to roll off the assembly line at Langley, BC). Allen bought the 2554 after purchasing a similar John Deere 3554, complete with a Jewell grapple, at the start of 2004. Both machines are improvised from Deere’s basic forestry excavator model, which can be adapted to a number of functions, depending on the logger’s needs.


“This is a better forestry machine for us at this time,” says Allen who works with a crew of seven, after the original Allen brothers’ partnership reconfigured some years ago. “It has excellent field capacity with a 269-gallon fuel tank, and it has a comfortable cab that’s durable and easy to see out of. It has good lifting power, and with the dual-swing motors, it has excellent swing torque. It does a very nice job and it’s rugged. 

Rob Allen operates the 2554 John Deere log loader, the newest addition to the fleet.

Allen is one of eight loggers serving on a national advisory board for John Deere, so he’s in the research and development pipeline. He’s been a Caterpillar fan for a number of years, as well, at one time doing on-the-job R&D on the D-5 high-track Cat and the 227 feller-buncher. The Cat connections even took him to Indonesia, so he’s no rookie when it comes to testing out new concepts and innovative equipment. So far, he gives a thumbs-up to the new John Deere machines. Part of the favorable review is that the equipment handles the topography Allen deals with around both Mount Rainier and Snoqualmie Pass. “The machines have a tremendous amount of travel power and can work with 35 to 40 percent slopes, which is pretty impressive,” he says. “We work pretty rugged terrain and where we find ourselves on a plateau, we shovel log. In the ravines we use cable logging.” Working four months of the year for the Campbell Group, Allen and his crew help manage a 130,000-acre tree farm near Mount Rainier. Then they switch gears to cut on a sustained yield basis for Hancock Forest Management, which oversees a 100,000-acre tree farm near Snoqualmie.

Les Allen handles the John Deere 3354. Behind him is a Diamond 210 yarder, painted yellow match the team.

The tree farms, previously in Weyerhaeuser portfolios, have been well cared for, with Allen’s crew logging hemlock and fir stands. There are also new opportunities coming along with Washington Department of Natural Resources (WA-DNR) now that the sustainable harvest plan has been approved for the west side of Washington. Allen was already dabbling in small-diameter logging concepts over ten years ago, making him more than ready to join the action on logging overgrown Northwest area forests. The goal, as always, is for the company to leverage equipment for maximum advantage.

Bruce Sheryl on the Cat 330 processor with a Keto 804 head.

While the enterprise doesn’t necessarily have to grow bigger, the workload has to remain consistent. “I try to utilize all my equipment, and look for combination sales that let me do that,” Allen says. “Our foresters tell us not to change a thing because there will be years and years of this kind of work.” Aside from a couple of new Deere machines in the equipment stable, Allen runs several other productive units as well. Son Robbie, the main man on the 2554, works in tandem with a Cat 330 with a Keto 804 head. “It’s a state-of-the-art head with a four-knife processor that delimbs two ways,” says Allen of the equipment. “It’s efficient and really accurate on measurements. We’ve had four Keto harvesters over the years.” On 80 percent of the company’s terrain, Allen presses a model 830 Tigercat feller-buncher into service, teaming it up with a new bar saw head that is out on the job as an experiment from Pierce Manufacturing. The 31-inch head was again an R&D opportunity for Allen’s outfit, based on the company’s reputation for putting equipment to the test with ingenuity and honesty.

The Allen team at work on the Hancock tree farm, including Ralph Huether on a Tigercat feller buncher.

Referring to a 12-year-old system that ably tackles steep slope logging, Allen explains that the sites are laid out with the cable line run out to the middle of the unit, as the Tigercat falls trees 300 feet out on either side of the sky line. The John Deere 3554 then comes along to swing the logs underneath the line, with two choker setters fastening Johnson electric chokers to the logs. The logs are finally relayed up to the landing via a Diamond 210 swing yarder utilizing a Maki Manufacturing carriage. For Allen, it’s a sweet system. Advantage number one is that the equipment interfaces extremely well, with the electric chokers making a man at the landing unnecessary.

Although the company does own some logging trucks, it contacts with others as well.

Thanks to the electronics aspect, the yarder operator offloads the logs from his cab. And that leads to advantage number two: a safer landing. That computes into a reduction in insurance premiums for L&I, with only two people on the ground. The three-man team gets the job done without a hitch, just the way Allen likes it. These days, Allen’s crew includes son Robbie, who got some previous seasoning in timber with Weyerhaeuser. Son Jerry, on board with the company in the past, left logging for the construction trade. Meanwhile, with wife Marjorie working at a nearby mill, this is one family that knows all aspects of the wood products trade. Allen even serves as a member of the Washington Contract Loggers Association insurance company board, expanding his expertise into insurance and safety issues.

Gazing into his crystal ball, Allen feels his mix of people and equipment is just right to take on some of the upcoming jobs soon to be offered through WA-DNR. As he travels the woods to scout new opportunities, he admits that he likes mastering the competitive edge. He also thrives on new equipment potential. But then, as a past drag-racing addict with a few records to his credit, he knows that the prize awaits the person ready for the challenges and willing to do the work.


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This page was last updated on Thursday, August 11, 2005