Alberta logging contractor Corey StonemanBIGGER—and better

Alberta logging contractor Corey Stoneman finds that when it comes to choosing equipment for the stump-side processing he does for Spray Lakes Sawmills in the eastern slopes of the Rockies, bigger is definitely better.

By Tony Kryzanowski

When it comes to managing the business of logging, not much gets past Corey Stoneman, owner of Calgary, Alberta-based, Quinex Contracting—he brings years of experience, personally working in the saddle of every piece of logging equipment.

A business administration and accounting grad from Thunder Bay’s Lakehead University, Corey has seen his share of stormy waters to know what it takes to succeed—and has managed to grow into a full-fledged stump-to-roadside contractor along the way.

Corey Stoneman (at right, standing), the owner of Quinex Contracting, has 20 years’ experience operating every piece of logging equipment,  and he’s grown into a full-fledged, stump-to-roadside contractor, with the help of feller buncher sub-contractor Jason Johnson (in the cabof his Tigercat LX830 tilter feller buncher).

Quinex Contracting is one of Spray Lakes Sawmills’ (SLS) three main contractors, harvesting about 130,000 cubic metres annually. The sawmill is located in Cochrane, Alberta. Corey feels fortunate to be able to drive out daily to his cutblocks, typically located within an hour of Calgary, on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

Corey had no background in logging, but became interested in the business through his wife, Inger, whom he met at Lakehead University, and his father-in-law, Roland Nilsson, who had considerable logging experience in British Columbia. Nilsson owned Kompis Contracting as well as Cypress Creek Logging, based in Gold River on Vancouver Island.

Corey and Inger established Quinex Contracting almost 20 years ago, in 1997. Inger helps out in the business with bookkeeping and managing the safety paperwork.

Alberta logging contractor Corey Stoneman

Since Quinex Contracting processes at the stump, they needed a sturdy carrier to travel from  bunch to bunch and a head with a reputation for multi-stemming. So they chose the combination  of a Tigercat H855C carrier with a Southstar 500 processing head.

“I used to work in downtown Vancouver, and I really didn’t like it, so I decided to give logging a try because of my father-in-law,” says Corey. Although he was new to logging, he was raised on a farm, which prepared him for the workload required with this type of venture.

He started as a forwarder operator for his father-in-law, working for Weldwood in Williams Lake, B.C., then purchased his first machine, a John Deere 1270 harvester, and worked for several years as a sub-contractor. Later, he took a contract working as a processor sub-contractor for Roper Ventures. They had a contract with SLS in Cochrane. At that time, Inger transferred to a freight forwarding job in Calgary. When one of SLS’s contractors retired, Corey worked there until the downturn in 2008.

SLS reduced its log harvest that year, leaving Corey and Roper Ventures without work. To keep his equipment working and to make the payments, Corey took on thinning, firebreak, and highway construction clearing contracts in Banff National Park. In 2012, when the forest industry picked up again and SLS was looking for contractors, Corey earned a regular logging contract with them. One of the advantages he had was his familiarity with their unique logging method. He started with a contract for only 25,000 cubic metres. That progressed to 70,000 cubic metres, and is now up to 130,000 cubic metres. Quinex Contracting has nine employees and their log diet is mainly spruce and pine, measuring from 6” to 30” at the butt.

Corey is like an industry barometer: if he isn’t making money, nobody’s making money. That’s because he keeps close tabs on the profit and loss column, and sets realistic expectations.

“I’ve made mistakes like everybody else, but I’m pretty good at knowing what my production numbers are and what I have to do to make things work,” he says. “A lot of guys seem to get themselves into trouble when they buy a piece of equipment with a production level in mind that just isn’t possible. It shouldn’t be based on your best day—but on what you can realistically average, day in and day out, for the season.”

Alberta logging contractor Corey Stoneman

Because of the debris field that a skidder must navigate with the style of logging conducted by Quinex Contracting, they purchased a powerful, heavy, six-wheel, Tigercat 635E skidder to get the job done efficiently.

SLS uses a unique logging method of mechanical felling, at-the-stump processing, tree length decking, and in-the-block branch retention.

The reason Quinex Contracting logs this way is because SLS conducts intricate merchandizing of their logs at the front end of their sawmill, directing logs based on diameter, length and quality to one of their various product tracks, as they produce both dimension lumber and treated lumber in various dimensions.

Typically, loggers would salivate at the prospect of tree length logging because it usually is a faster, simpler method. The catch with the SLS method, however, is their desire to maintain branches in the cutblock instead of at roadside—strong environmental scrutiny of logging activities in this part of the country makes slash pile burning highly unpopular. Corey says logging close to Calgary, with over a million people is a challenge.

“A lot of people are really focused on what we do out here,” he says.

Having tried various methods, including taking branches back to the cutblock from roadside with skidder grapples and scattering them, SLS has deemed that processing at the stump and leaving the branches in the block is the most efficient slash management method, with the highest natural regeneration response from the cones. But this is where this logging method becomes very tricky, requiring the feller buncher to stack felled logs a certain way, the same going for the processor, so that the skidder can efficiently drag the tree length logs to roadside with minimal slash resistance and log breakage.

“Stump-side processing is really hard on equipment,” says Corey. “It’s tough on skidders. Sticks and debris get jammed up and break things constantly. That’s one of our biggest operating challenges.”

This has definitely influenced the robust nature of his equipment fleet.

“My view is that bigger is better,” says Corey. “I run one older and one brand new Tigercat, six-wheel, 635E skidder just for the adverse pulling. A couple of years ago, I had a Tigercat 630 and it just couldn’t pull the adverse skids that we have sometimes—plus we also have long skids.”

Their skids can be as long as 800 metres, which takes its toll on production if not managed well. In that case, they try to grapple as many logs as possible on each drag. It requires a lot of power to pull through all the debris.

Alberta logging contractor Corey Stoneman

Quinex Contracting contracts out bunching services to Jason Johnson, who has a Tigercat LX830 tilter feller buncher (above right). Johnson says what he likes about the Tigercat LX830 tilter is that it has a closed loop system on the hydraulics, which provides power to several functions at one time.

Corey says the adverse logging conditions is also why he has selected two Tigercat 855C processor carriers, which are equipped with Southstar 500 processing heads, to replace a couple of carriers from competing brands. They couldn’t navigate around the stumps as well as these Tigercat carriers. Having a purpose-built carrier versus a converted carrier has really made a productivity difference in moving from bunch to bunch in the block.

“The Tigercat 855C is a lot of money, and for roadside processing it is probably overkill,” says Corey. “But for what we are doing, it has the dual swing motors, the track power and the swing power to get around and be productive.”

He selected the Southstar processing head because he appreciated their multi-stemming capabilities.

“We’ve got a dog’s breakfast for our wood diet,” says Corey. “The wood we are in now is probably three trees to the cubic metre and we can be as bad as six. So to help out with production when we hit the small wood, that’s why I went with my first Southstar, to be able to have that multi-stemming function.”

That goal has delivered mixed results, but the heads have proven reliable, which is why he purchased a second head.

For log decking, Corey has selected a Cat 325C carrier. Rounding out his fleet is a Hitachi backhoe, Cat D7R dozer, and Volvo grader.

Uptime is a major consideration when Corey purchases equipment, and other than hose replacement, he has only lost one shift because of mechanical breakdown with his Tigercat processor carriers in a year-and-a-half. Also, because Tigercat equipment is manufactured in Canada, the exchange rate has made a difference in the price of equipment.

The terrain where Quinex Contracting logs is largely clay base, with anywhere from flat to 45 per cent adverse slope.

“It’s not as tough as Vancouver Island or southeastern B.C., but it’s definitely not flat by any stretch of the imagination,” says Corey.

One astute business decision Corey has made is giving a trusted past employee the opportunity to contract his feller bunching services to Quinex Contracting. Jason Johnson worked for Corey for over a decade, and Corey promised that he would take him back as an owner/operator once he was able to secure a contract with SLS.

Johnson has purchased a Tigercat LX830 tilter feller buncher. The advantage, of course, of sub-contracting out certain logging functions is that Corey avoids having to finance the purchase of those pieces of equipment and they aren’t on his payroll. The downside is that a sub-contractor can seek greener pastures, but given his long term relationship with Jason, Corey says he feels comfortable with his decision. But he keeps a model TK feller buncher in his fleet as a back-up unit.

Johnson says he has been logging for 23 years, starting out in B.C. when he was 18 years old. He has been providing Quinex Contracting with feller buncher services since 2012. Johnson says what he likes about the Tigercat LX830 tilter is that it has a closed loop system on the hydraulics, which provides power to several functions at one time. He chose the tilter model because it allows him to work level when felling on a slope, which he finds is easier on the operator and results in less fatigue. Johnson says he is also able to swing faster than with a flat bottomed feller buncher. The Tigercat LX830 has proven very reliable in this application, with no major downtime after 9300 hours.

Corey says he appreciates dedicated sub-contractors like Johnson, as well as his reliable and hardworking crew who are willing to work the long hours demanded by the industry. They have meant a 
lot to the success of his business.

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
February 2017

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Bigger—and better
Alberta logging contractor Corey Stoneman finds that when it comes to choosing equipment for the stump-side processing he does for Spray Lakes Sawmills in the eastern slopes of the Rockies, bigger is definitely better.

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The Last Word
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