Safety and a Positive Attitude
(Three generations of Hansen loggers - left to right): Judy, Garfield, their grandsons Ryan and Richard, and son Rick )
Not content to sit idle, like his equipment, he putters in his wood shop, leaving many of the management headaches to his son Rick. After being in the business nearly half a century, Hansen knows logging's ups and downs and what it takes to make a buck. "Over the years, we've learned to survive," says Garfield, who kicked off his logging career hauling logs for Potlatch Corporation. "When things get tight, you rebuild, use used parts instead of new. The 'bean counter' stays on top of purchases and tells us what we can and cannot do." The "bean counter," wife Judy, married Garfield 50 years ago, and mastered the financial picture - and the family business - from the ground up.
Confirming that the company cut has been way down this year, maybe as much as a third, she notes that road building has pretty much salvaged company profits. That gives Hansen's grandson Richard a chance to sharpen his management skills, breaking in as the Roadbuilding boss.
Eaglet carrriage safely transports the logs up through a corridor to the landing.
Garfield and Judy Hansen celebrated 50 years of marriage and nearly as many years in business
Just as Garfield initiated Rick into management over a decade ago, now Rick is bringing his son Richard into the decision-making responsibilities. Both Judy and Garfield know that passing the torch takes time and hard work. "Going into the business, they have to earn respect," Judy says, acknowledging that some of the crew members have been with the company for years and might naturally question taking orders from one of the kids. "When Rick came in, he had to work harder than they did. If you don't know how to do something, sometimes it means you go out in the middle of the night if you have to, and learn how to do it, so you can do it better."
Rick knows the routine, and praises his wife Carlene for her support in a profession that doesn't always furnish predictable hours or income. Positive and practical like his dad, Rick expresses confidence in his son, as well as the future of logging. Meanwhile, Richard admits that he tried college, lasted a semester and hankered for the woods. Rick's other son, Ryan, made up his mind right away that he would work in the woods, and liked the notion of running the processor, but not the family business. The brothers figure they can solve any sibling rivalry issues on their own, so the management transition seems to moving along. It actually might be the easiest part of the business these days.
"My biggest challenge is keeping the guys busy," says Rick of his role of chasing down contracts with big lumber companies in the area. "Our people mean a lot to me and I work fulltime jockeying to keep them working. In our business, they have to be flexible. Flexible people can do more than one thing and that's what we need." The Hansen workforce, which includes a couple of Rick's nephews and cousin Keith Schott (Keith has been with the company over 25 years and Rick considers him his right hand man), is a good mix of longtime, experienced workers and younger guys armed with a good work ethic.
Because the Hansens enjoy a reputation for consistent quality work and fair treatment, there's a team attitude, with plenty of good humor. But safety ranks right up there, too. As a matter of fact, Garfield and Rick make equipment purchases based on safety. High on the list are three Eaglet carriages, installed on the company's three Link Belt 98 line machines. Hansens got acquainted with the Eaglet when they bought out Atkinson Logging in the mid80's and acquired it with the inventory. Built by Eagle Carriage and Machine in LaGrande, Ore., the Eaglet was developed in 1991 by the father and son team of Scotty and Sam Baker.
Essentially, the skyline holds the carriage up and once it reaches the right location, the carriage is locked in place and the skid line can be pulled out. The device takes the slack out of skid lines, and saves many a logger from hernia, bad back and extreme fatigue. "The Eaglet makes us a lot more productive," Rick says. "And it's an easier day for the guys. It's still hard work, but they're not pulling as hard. In some ways, the carriage is just another man.
Previously, you had one guy pulling the slack and that just wore him out. Now the guys are a lot fresher and the carriage lets you pull in behind blind leads. It makes everything a lot safer, and in these thinning operations, you can pull line around." Clearly, Rick and Garfield stick with the Eaglet because they see a lot less injuries. The safety factor translates into more production and maneuverability, especially in riparian areas. The carriage allows them to spool line out, keep it tight and bring it back in, all with radio control. Their workers are walking commercials for the carriages.
"This is a lot easier on the guys," says line machine operator Dan Pollock, who has used the Eaglet for ten years and considers it an improvement over the earlier Maki electronic carriage with a gas-powered engine. "You can skid just about anywhere with these as long as you have lift and the right ground." Ryan Beckner, who hooks and handles landing chores with Kelly McGreal on one of Hansen's three-man yarding crews, praises the carriage, adding that "you can jockey it around trees," while Kelly claims "It's a hooker's dream."
"This is the cat's meow of logging equipment," says McGreal. "You can skid across the creek and up the other side, so debris won't get in the creek." One drawback to the Eaglet initially, according to Rick, was that it went through a lot of cable, so Dan and Garfield requested a modification, which the company now considers standard. The added rollers on the lower end outlet guide the cables in and out smoothly, rather than the cables being bent around the carriage at 90degree angles. The modification has saved plenty of cable.
In addition to the Eaglet, Rick favors his Link Belt 98 yarder, which can go out about 1400 feet, making it good equipment to tackle the company's many thinning jobs for Bennett Lumber. The Hansens also run a pair of Link Belt processors and four Komatsu excavators (Richard is especially bullish on the new 228 with zero tale swing) as part of their equipment inventory. "Our job is to take out the lame, lazy and tired," Rick explains of the company's current thinning jobs contracted through Bennett Lumber near Moscow Mountain.
Though the Year 2000 has been rough on the company, Hansen knows the challenges and newer equipment are making Hansen Logging more competitive and efficient than ever. He points to quality control measures issued by Potlatch Corporation four years ago, proudly noting that the company toted up only 511 mismanufactured logs out of 18,367 pieces sampled recently. The figures validate his workers' eye for quality; another way to keep the company's leading edge.
Yet it's not cheap to stay in the game. "We know you've got to stay up with the times. But it's amazing to think that we have $190,000 into the Link Belt, $39,000 into the Eaglet, plus all of our overhead, just to move one log to the edge of the road. If you don't have the people to produce, you can't do it. You have to have the good people first."