By Paul MacDonald
The dryland sort at Shoal Island—just off the east coast of southern Vancouver Island—is one heck of a big log sorting machine. And helping to make that machine operate efficiently and effectively are the employees and equipment of Haka Enterprises, which runs the sort for forest company TimberWest on a contract basis.
Running a dryland sort on Vancouver Island is one thing—but TimberWest and Haka are actually operating the sort on a small island, just off the coast of Vancouver Island, about 50 kilometres south of Nanaimo. Shoal Island is 18 acres of land connected to Vancouver Island via a roadway which handles up 120 truckloads of logs a day.
The dryland sort itself processes upwards of 5,000 cubic metres of logs every working day. The sort will handle a million cubic metres of logs this year.
And Shoal Island is truly living up to its name as a sort: depending on markets, they could be doing upwards of 180 log sorts, though most recently they were doing about 120 sorts.
And overlaying all this, Haka follows some very stringent safety and environmental guidelines and regulations. And they do a good job of that—so much so that Haka has received an environmental leadership award from TimberWest.
For those not familiar with the company, TimberWest is Western Canada’s largest private timber and land management company, with more than 325,000 hectares of private land on Vancouver Island. It runs contract harvesting operations and markets a lot of logs from those lands, all of which has to be scaled and sorted.
That’s where industry veterans Ted LeRoy and Marty Koers of Haka Enterprises enter the picture, with the Shoal Island sort, one of several sorts TimberWest has on the island.
“We’re running a lot of hydraulic equipment at the sort,” explains LeRoy. “And we are surrounded by water, and tide water at that. So we need to have a good maintenance program for that equipment—and a good action plan if we have an incident.”
The fact that Shoal Island is surrounded by Sansum Narrows, part of the Georgia Strait, means that the clock ticks that much faster on taking action when there is an incident vs. a landlocked log sort. For example, if you have a log sort that is inland, there is zero danger of any oil getting into the ocean, though an incident is still serious, of course, and must be handled accordingly.
“There really is no forgiveness with the water right there,” says Koers. “It’s all about having the right procedures in place to respond to any situation.”
Key to that is strict adherence to a professional and well-planned maintenance program, so that the chance of any mishap is minimized from the get-go.
TimberWest also has its own safety program that not only applies to company operations, but to contractors, too, such as Haka Enterprises. “We follow what TimberWest is looking for overall in safety and apply it to the part of the wood handling program that we oversee, the dryland sort,” explains LeRoy.
They run a dozen pieces of equipment at the sort, from wheel loaders to log loaders to log stackers. And it all runs on diesel—and hoses are the arteries of the equipment, through which hundreds of litres of hydraulic oil are pumped, under high pressure.
If there is an equipment-related fluid spill in the sort, they have immediate access to a bark/wood debris pile; wheel loaders will quickly gather that material and build a berm completely around the piece of affected equipment. “It’s much faster and more efficient than trying to put a boom around a machine,” says LeRoy. Aiding in building the berm is a firm foundation—the entire dryland sort is paved. The berm material is treated, after the incident.
Being extremely careful and having high standards for equipment maintenance, Haka very rarely has spills—but when they do, preparation and training pays off.
A major hose blew on one of the butt n’ top loaders recently, and the loader was surrounded and contained by berm material in a flat five minutes. It was, as LeRoy says, a “bad weather day”, raining heavily.
“We had to move quickly because the oil can get carried by the rainwater. We did not have a lot of time to control it.” But it was handled quickly and efficiently.
The blown hose had kind of a ripple effect, that carried over to their maintenance side. To address the chance of that particular hose blowing on another machine, they checked and replaced similar hoses on the other loaders. It’s part of an extensive maintenance program that the sort has in place for all their equipment.
Equipment maintenance is approached on a broad basis, rather than things being done piecemeal, says LeRoy. “You don’t want to be just waiting for the next hose to fail. You want to do the maintenance, and do it right.” And that includes preventative maintenance.
As far as he is concerned, there is zero room for “haywire maintenance”. “That is not acceptable,” he says.
If they have any serious issues with a piece of equipment, they also have a 1,860 gallon Profab Manufacturing fire tank on the sort.
As with all TimberWest operations, company and contract, safety is a huge priority. And that can work hand-in-hand with environmental management. In addition to discussing safety at regular meetings, sort employees are also encouraged to bring up any environmental concerns. Employees know they can talk about issues—and the issues will be dealt with, says LeRoy. “We don’t want them to hide anything or think that something is just going to go away on its own—we want to deal with it.”
The 20 employees of the sort are constantly on the lookout for any possible issues, as they carry out their jobs over the course of the day.
“The guys who work on the water, for example, will get on the radio about a deadhead or a loose boomstick,” says Koers. “The log probably belongs to the sort, but regardless, we’re going to take action, and get it out of the water. Deadheads are a hazard to us—and to everybody on the water.”
Some of the crew have been with Ted LeRoy and his predecessor company for decades. “But there are a lot of new guys out there, and they are right on board with what we are doing,” he says. “They have good peers in the guys who have been on the sort for a long time.”
Veteran employees set the benchmark for what is expected, both in terms of safety and the environment. One employee has worked at the sort for 40 years—and at 67-years-old, still loves going to work every day.
As part of the TimberWest program, a KPMG environmental audit is done annually of the sort, with a re-certification audit done every three years. This is in addition to an audit done by TimberWest itself.
In addition to the daily observations by employees, Haka Enterprises does a monthly environmental review, having developed its own extensive check-off list.
“We’ll check everything on the sort, from the sediment traps through to the safety/first aid room,” says Koers. He has a good sense of what TimberWest is looking for, and the company’s environmental and safety culture. Before joining Haka, Koers worked for TimberWest.
Though much of the work that is done at the sort has remained the same over the years, there were some major changes implemented about 18 months ago. The main TimberWest office on site, where the log scalers work, was moved off the foreshore, and is now at the entrance to the sort.
“TimberWest put in six log tip bunks where the office was before, to move the wood into the water,” explained Koers. “We have a whole different flow of wood now. It was a big adjustment, but it’s helped us to move the wood faster.” Some 60 per cent of the wood coming into the sort now goes to these new tip bunks.
TimberWest worked with Haka Enterprises on making the changes, to make sure they were a good fit. The tip bunks were manufactured by PACIFIC Industrial & Marine Ltd., from nearby Duncan.
The changes mean the sort can also handle more wood, says LeRoy. “We were doing 80 to 90 truckloads of logs a day before.” They now regularly handle 120 loads a day, and have taken in as many as 153 loads in a single day.
The changes also help them to deal with the sometimes uneven flow of logging trucks at the sort; they could have 10 or 20 trucks arriving at the sort within a short period of time.
“Sometimes we’ll get a lot of trucks at one time—they are coming from multiple contractors, from different areas of the south island,” notes LeRoy. It’s Haka’s job to work with that flow of wood effectively, and efficiently.
Their equipment line-up has grown over the last while to handle that flow.
“We picked up a couple of Cat wheel loaders a year or two ago, and a Madill butt n’ top loader,” says LeRoy. He prefers purchasing used, late model machinery, as part of an effort to steer clear of the problems that technology can bring with brand new equipment. For example, his newest wheel loader is a 2012 machine. They want to be able to focus on production with their equipment, rather than technological problems.
Haka also standardizes equipment. “We don’t have six different types of wheel loaders out in the sort—we have Cat wheel loaders,” says Koers. They also have Madill loaders and Wagner stackers, who are represented by dealers Great West Equipment and Finning. Finning also provides parts support for their Cat equipment. The Cat equipment includes a couple of forklifts, too.
That means that they can standardize their parts inventory, to a large extent. “That way, the mechanics can focus on one brand, and know what might need work, and what the work will involve. And they are all around the same age of machine.
“That’s just the way I like to do things,” says LeRoy. “I don’t want one of this and one of that. Someone can try to sell me a piece of equipment that costs less, but I’m not really interested. Eventually, I find that if you go the cheaper way, when the machine goes down, you pay more for parts or you get less for resale.”
They are currently operating three Wagner log stackers (2 L-120s and an L-100), three Madill 2850C butt ‘n top log loaders, six Cat 966 wheel loaders and two converted forklifts for bundle trucks.
They use a 60-ton Mantle crane onsite for dewatering logs. To help with lighting the sort in the early and late hours of the day, they have two portable light plants built by ProFab Manufacturing.
LeRoy has had pretty good luck picking up used equipment at auction, although the market has tightened up recently. Most recently, he bought a couple of bucket loaders out of the Alberta oil patch. “They had very low hours and we shipped them out here and converted them to wheel loaders. If you get equipment at the right price, you can bring them in and put some money into them.
“But there has to be a good foundation there, with the machine,” he added. “You don’t want to be buying something, and it turns out to be a problem, and you end up putting too much money into it.”
To keep things flowing at the sort, Haka has a spare piece of equipment for every phase of work. “So if we have a wheel loader or stacker go down, we have something to replace it pretty much immediately.”
The Haka operation also focuses on having a good supply of parts, to keep the operation moving along. Some of it is used. For example, they have a spare set of differentials for their loaders.
“We had to scrap one of the loaders we had, and rather than sell it, we took all the good components out, rebuilt them, and now we have them available to use,” explains Koers.
“So if a differential goes, it’s a matter of changing eight bolts and a drive line, and the machine is going again.”
With their Wagner stackers, they just replaced the main hydraulic cylinders on two machines. “So we took the old ones out, rebuilt them, and they are now back on the shelf, ready for us to use.”
LeRoy believes the spare parts they have on hand represents a solid investment. “I’ve always felt that spare parts are kind of like your insurance package.”
They also always have spare tires on hand for equipment. “I don’t want to have to wait until I need some, and I’m desperate, and have to pay a high price,” says LeRoy. “I’ll buy the tires when I can get the price I want—and if we have to sit on them for a while, well, that’s OK.”
LeRoy likens the dryland sort to being like a NASCAR race; they want to be able to fix equipment safely and properly, but quickly, and get it back in operation. Just because they have a machine down, that does not mean the flow of logging trucks into the yard slows down—it continues, as usual.
And just like NASCAR values its drivers, Haka values its employees—they have little in the way of turnover.
“It’s a good place to work, and they go home every night,” says LeRoy. “They are not sitting in a pick-up and pounding two hours over a gravel road to get to work.” For some employees, who live in the nearby community of Crofton, their commute to work can be five minutes. The dryland sort runs on a 12-hour split shift basis, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Whatever shift an employee is working, Haka wants conditions to be as safe as possible. They recently started installing SCAN-LINK Armour Safety System proximity alarms in their mobile equipment.
“All of the crew have RFID tags stickered into their hard hats, so if a machine is backing up and someone is within 20 feet of a machine, an alarm will go off,” explains Koers. “It’s helpful because the alarm goes off both in the operator’s cab and outside, so the guy on the ground knows he’s too close to a machine.”
Three machines were equipped with proximity alarms as a trial earlier this year, and it has worked out well, so all of the equipment will be equipped with alarms by the end of the year.
With the sort being so busy, they can have a fair number of people out in the sort at any one time. There could be upwards of 35 people out there, from equipment operators to scalers to TimberWest people. All of them have to check in before going on the sort.
Anyone working on the water is equipped with man overboard alarms, which set off an alarm in the shop.
Both LeRoy and Koers says it’s great to be able to ride the technology wave, and make use of such sophisticated electronic devices on the safety side. But there is still that very important people element.
“We have a good crew here, that works together, and that means a lot,” says LeRoy. “Everyone is looking out for everyone else, especially on the safety side, and for anything related to the environment.”
On the Cover:
Tom Fisher Logging conducts selective harvesting in a forest that consists of several high-value wood species, which provides him with the opportunity to tap into a variety of markets for his wood products. Fisher very ably maintains good relations with inquisitive local cottage owners about the sound of logging equipment and resource road traffic as they enjoy their lake properties. (Cover shot of a Tigercat 822C feller buncher with a 22” hotsaw head by Tony Kryzanowski)
A win-win forest management plan
The First Nations-owned Agoke Development Corporation is working on a forest management plan that could revolutionize the economic structure of forest management in northwestern Ontario—and deliver benefits to First Nations communities and the forest industry.
Managing all the moving parts
Veteran Ontario logger Tom Fisher has plenty of experience at managing the many moving parts—including keeping local cottage owners in the know—that are involved in harvesting high value hardwood forests.
Bright future for fiberboard operation
With a steady source of residual wood supply from mill operations in the region, the MDF plant in Pembroke, Ontario is looking forward to a positive future under its new ownership, Roseburg Forest Products.
Taking their logging to a whole new level
Ontario’s Henry Petkau had modest goals when he started Henry’s Trucking—but with his son, Bob, joining the operation, they have now expanded, and added new Southstar processing equipment that has taken timber production to a whole new level.
Getting higher OSB production at High Prairie
With a $50 million capital investment, forest company Tolko Industries has re-opened and boosted the production capacity at its re-commissioned High Prairie oriented strand board plant in Alberta by 40 per cent.
Sorting it all out—log-wise
The Shoal Island logging sort in B.C. truly lives up to its name, doing upwards of up to 180 log sorts, but doing it all with the environment in mind.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from Alberta Innovates, Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and FPInnovations.
The Last Word
Tony Kryzanowski says the Forest Machinery Connectivity project is a good investment in “What If” science.