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Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

June/July 2015

On the Cover:
British Columbia has been slammed with forest fires this summer, with more than 200 wildfires burning around B.C. in mid-July. For an update on the current wildfire situation, please go to Logging and Sawmilling Journal’s website at (Photo of helicopter working on a controlled burn at the Cisco Rd. forest fire near Lytton, B.C. courtesy of BC Wildfire Service).

B.C. sawmill explosion, fire ruled accidental
A coroner’s jury has ruled the explosion and fire at the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George, B.C. in 2012 as accidental, and it made a number of recommendations to help prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.

Business-minded logging
Long-time coastal logging contractor Ted Arkell of Dyer Logging has found the challenges of logging have changed over three decades in the business, with a need to be far more business-minded to make a return on your equipment investment these days.

A Re-start for Rough and Ready Lumber
A significant investment in the small log line at Oregon’s Rough and Ready Lumber has resulted in better aligning production to the local log supply—and delivered solid economic benefits to a hard-hit part of the state, with the re-started sawmill.

Successful move into log hauling for Valley Carriers
A long-established, family-owned B.C. trucking firm, Valley Pulp & Sawdust Carriers, has recently expanded into log hauling, and is finding their already established trucking base—and their focus on their customers—gives them an edge in this competitive business.

Building operator loyalty
Alberta logging contractor Ted Freake finds that when it comes to the people who run his equipment, it pays to take the time to train operators—sometimes from scratch—with the goal of building loyalty and long term employee relationships.

Avoiding logging equipment fires
Nate Burton, Technical & Safety Services Manager of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, on the top five causes of forest equipment fires, and how operators can avoid them.

Returning to logging
The ongoing recovery has seen some contractors returning to the forest industry—New Brunswick’s Greg Davis and Wade Regan have now returned to the industry, and moved from a chainsaw/cable skidder operation to mechanical harvesting and a harvester/forwarder set-up, to better ensure their success.

DEMO show is on the way
Planning for the largest live equipment logging show in North America next year—DEMO 2016, to be held at the UBC Research Forest near Vancouver—is well underway, with recent planning meetings firming up the details for DEMO.

Canada North Resources Expo: another winning show
The Canada North Resources Expo, held in Prince George, B.C. at the end of May, was a huge success, thanks to features like a 30 per cent boost in outdoor exhibition space and the show hosting the first Northern B.C. Safety Conference.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions and FPInnovations.

The Last Word
Given the changes that have occurred in the Canadian forest industry—and what’s to come—Tony Kryzanowski says it’s time for the Canadian forest industry to refresh its research and development priorities.


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Alberta logging contractor Ted Freake Building operator loyalty

Alberta logging contractor Ted Freake finds that when it comes to the people who run his equipment, it pays to take the time to train operators — sometimes from scratch — with the goal of building loyalty and long term employee relationships.

By Tony Kryzanowski

When Canadians think of Newfoundland, they often imagine fishermen living in picturesque coastal villages. But veteran logger Ted Freake grew up in one of the few inland communities on the island and rather than codfish oil, he has sawdust in his veins.

With employees, it’s all about attitude, says Alberta logger, Ted Freake (above, left). Recently, he implemented an approach of hiring lesser experienced operators, and has had great success. Processor operators Tamara Clarke, and Rodney Kornelsen (above) are thankful for the opportunity.

The owner of Triple F Logging, Freake moved to Alberta over 30 years ago after continuing a family tradition of cutting his teeth at the end of a chainsaw in Newfoundland’s forest industry. However, he developed serious back problems and thought he’d try employment in Alberta’s oilpatch instead.

“I told my dad when I was getting on the airplane in Newfoundland and coming to Alberta that I would never work in forestry again, and he just laughed,” says Freake. “Years later, I asked him why he laughed, and he told me that people just have to do what they are born to do.”

What really helped Freake return and flourish in the forest industry was its evolution toward mechanized logging. While he started in Alberta by operating a chainsaw working with a line skidder, Freake was at the forefront of the arrival of feller bunchers, skidders and processing heads to the Canadian industry. He operated equipment for a number of contractors before he became an owner-operator in 1998. At that time, he purchased and operated a Timberjack 618 feller buncher and the province’s first Tigercat skidder. Today, Freake owns a completely mechanized stump-to-dump logging operation, with the log haul aspect contracted out, based in Whitecourt, about 180 kilometres northwest of Edmonton

Freake has found his niche. He says he typically wakes up at 4 a.m. to head out to the bush after knocking off at 10 p.m. the night before, keeping that schedule seven days a week during the busy nine-month logging season, with the occasional day and weekend off. During the three-month seasonal break-up, he is pulling wrenches in his yard with a few of his experienced employees, preparing his equipment for the trip back to the bush.

Alberta logging contractor Ted Freake Triple F Logging harvests 100,000 cubic metres of softwood annually for West Fraser Timber, supplying primarily their Blue Ridge Lumber sawmill with mostly tree length logs. The incidental aspen hardwood logs in Freake’s cutblocks are shipped tree length to Millar Western’s pulp mill in Whitecourt. About 10 per cent of his softwood harvest is cut-to-length wood from smaller diameter logs. The diameter of the logs can vary, but this year, Freake is pleased that the average diameter has been from 6” to 18”.

The softwood consists primarily of spruce and lodgepole pine, with some mountain pine beetle wood typically part of the mix. Triple F Logging is part of the forest industry’s—and the province’s—aggressive beetle control plan. The goal is to harvest areas showing beetle infestation as a means of controlling its population and diminishing its ability to take flight and infect larger areas, while recovering timber that is still merchantable. So far, Triple F Logging has not been required to sort out beetle infected wood. Freake leaves the sorting up to the sawmill when it comes to issues like bluestain lumber.

“Kudos to Blue Ridge Lumber, Millar Western and other forestry companies because we are attacking this as aggressively as we can,” says Freake. “We have to go after it because otherwise, it is going to kill our industry.”

Triple F Logging works primarily in the Swan Hills area north of Whitecourt, which can be a challenging environment because of the hilly terrain and smaller diameter logs. Recently, they have been harvesting high quality timber west of Whitecourt near Fox Creek.

One area that continues to be a constant challenge for Triple F Logging in the boom and bust environment of oil-rich Alberta is attracting and keeping operators. Freake has nine employees.

“It just seemed to me that when I got good, experienced operators, the oilfield would dangle a carrot in front of them and they were gone,” says Freake.

He recently adopted a new strategy that, so far, seems to be working well.

“My theory was to get some operators that I could train the way I wanted, I could get the quality I needed, and the production would come, which has happened,” he says. “I like to be straight with my employees and tell them right up front that they’re not going to make as much here as working in the oilpatch. But I promise that the work will be steady.”

The goal is to build loyalty and a long term relationship, and another benefit of working with greenhorns is that they don’t bring bad attitudes and bad work habits.

Alberta logging contractor Ted Freake Veteran Alberta logger Ted Freake says his LogMax XT7000 Extreme processing head (above) is called ‘extreme’ for a reason. It can handle just about any type and size of wood he can throw at it. Freake adds that his operators appreciate both the performance capabilities and comfort of his John Deere 953K feller buncher (left), one of two John Deere feller bunchers in his fleet.

Freake is also open to hiring men and women. At present, one of his processor operators is a woman originally from Vancouver Island who came to Alberta two years ago. She acquired some experience operating construction equipment in the oilpatch, but the work was hit and miss. The other processor operator is a young man from Ontario with no experience operating heavy equipment. Prior to working at Triple F Logging, he was working at a local Subway restaurant. Both now have a complete season of log processing experience under their belts, and are delivering decent production numbers, with a strong sense of appreciation for being offered the opportunity to work in forestry.

“I came to Alberta two years ago with the intention of working in the oil industry,” says Tamara Clarke. “I had a taste of operating construction equipment with the oil and gas industry, but I’ve found working in forestry much better. It is much more reliable, steady work.”

The other processor operator, Rodney Kornelsen, came to Alberta hoping to land a forestry job. He was able to find work with Triple F Logging through his father, Norm Kornelsen, who is a log truck driver working for the company. Kornelsen is much happier in the cab of his Komatsu carrier and operating his processor than working behind the counter at Subway.

Skidder operator Chris Bergseth also joined the company as a greenhorn. Bergseth says he enjoys working with the skidder, having the opportunity to learn how forest cutblocks are laid out, and being a part of the overall harvesting process. One area where Freake ensures that he has an experienced operator is on the feller buncher; operator Chuck Harris brings decades of experience to his job on both the operational and maintenance side, as well as a great attitude.

With the current downturn in the Alberta energy industry, Freake is getting regular calls from operators looking for work. But he has been burned enough in the past that he is taking a very careful approach, mindful that should the oil industry pick up again, many of these job applicants could be gone.

“I would sooner keep the people that I have that I train, and put my time and effort into them,” says Freake. All three greenhorn hires have turned out to be excellent producers and employees. Having steady operators also makes it easier for Freake to consider possibly taking on more volume.

Alberta logging contractor Ted Freake

Uptime is a high priority with Alberta logger Ted Freake, and he says his two John Deere skidders provide what he needs to maintain good production. Triple F Logging harvests 100,000 cubic metres of softwood annually for West Fraser Timber, supplying primarily their Blue Ridge Lumber sawmill with mostly tree length logs.

Triple F Logging’s equipment fleet tends to be on the heavier side. While it is a little heavier to move, Freake says this approach offers better ground stability and reduced downtime. The fleet consists of a recently purchased John Deere 953K feller buncher and a John Deere 953G feller buncher. His skidders are a John Deere 748 GIII and a John Deere 748H. For processing, he uses a Cat 320 carrier with a Waratah 620H head and a Komatsu 200PC carrier equipped with a LogMax XT7000 Extreme processing head, which he purchased last fall.

Freake’s log loader is a Komatsu 270 machine, and he has a Komatsu 65 dozer for road building.

“I wasn’t sure about the LogMax head but after having this one, I would definitely purchase a new one,” says Freake. “This unit is extreme for a reason. It does every aspen stick that I have, it does all the big wood, and with the people from LogMax, I’ve never had service dealing with any other company like that in my life. I’ve had a few little issues, but nothing that actually shut us down.”

What he likes is that if there are any issues with the processing head, LogMax sends out a technician quickly, traveling from Kamloops to service the head in Whitecourt usually within a couple of days. Processor production is very important, says Freake, to keep some distance in terms of timing between logging operations and the log haul.

Freake says that he has experience with a number of equipment brands and has come to favor John Deere and Komatsu, through dealers Brandt Tractor and SMS Equipment, respectively, because of how much his operators like using those brands of equipment, their performance, uptime, and the service he gets from the dealers.

“John Deere has come a long way with their product,” says Freake, speaking of his John Deere 953K feller buncher. “It has a high rotation head, a 24” cut, and they have opened up the throat on the head, which helps to provide extremely good production. When that unit goes to work, it chews up a lot of wood.” While it does consume a fair amount of fuel because of higher horsepower, the payback is in higher production.

In good times or bad, Freake says that Blue Ridge Lumber staff have been extremely supportive, available and communicative in helping him manage his logging operations so that consistent flow is maintained to the mill throughout the year.