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Troops to timber

Industry consultant John Manz calls on more than three decades of experience-and a military background-in his message on how to stay competitive in the forest industry.

By Diane Mettler

Industry consultant John Manz says loggers have to use leading edge, site specific harvesting methods.  "Loggers have to become knows as surgeons - not as butchers - to help provide for the health of the biological entity we call a forest."

The forest industry gets in your blood. Just ask John Manz, who recently "retired" after more than three decades with industry giant Weyerhaeuser. The well-respected industry veteran continues to offer forestry players solid advice on how to stay ahead of the curve and be competitive in the much-changing global forest products industry.

Manz, who now lives in Montana and works as a consultant, started out in forestry, but took a detour along the way that placed him above the forest as a fighter pilot in the US Marine Corps. On a tour in Vietnam he flew the F8E Crusader and was well on his way to making military aviation and the Marine Corps his career.
Ironically, it was high performance aircraft that changed the course of his life. In 1967, Manz sustained serious injuries when he ejected from his RF4B Phantom II reconnaissance plane. The injuries were bad enough to require numerous surgeries and force him to give up the armed forces.

John Manz

"I didn't want to spend my life collecting disability," says Manz. As a
forestry student in college he had logged for the Brown Co in Maine and for numerous contractors around the United States. As well, he worked for the US Forest Service on the Mt Baker National Forest in Washington. After graduating from the University of Montana, he worked in the woods for Potlatch in Idaho before enlisting in the Marine Corps as an officer candidate, one quick step in front of his draft notice. "So in 1968, after my disability retirement from the Marines, I headed right back to
the woods."

Weyerhaeuser offered Manz a woods foreman position in the Pacific Northwest. He jumped at the opportunity and spent the next 32 years with Weyerhaeuser, using his military skills in his work with the timber industry.

It didn't take long for Weyerhaeuser to notice the leadership skills Manz had honed in the Marine Corps. The company decided to put them to good use and in 1972 made him logging superintendent and one year later the woodlands manager for the Oklahoma Region-managing 967,000 acres of small growth timber while producing 400 to 500 truckloads a day.
Manz doesn't regret for a second being taken away from the "big tree" logging. He says the opportunity to go south to Oklahoma was his lucky break.

"It was in an area people didn't want to be in, but small logs were the future and it was fun," says Manz. "With the help of my team, we figured out how to make small logs profitable-increasing speed and efficiency.

You had to learn how to become more efficient because you weren't going to be running into any big trees to make up the difference."
During his career at Weyerhaeuser, Manz got a taste of the global market before it was a household term. He visited over 40 countries and analyzed numerous harvesting methods and the machinery involved.

"My military background continued to give me a huge competitive advantage," says Manz. "The aviation technology they were using in the planes I flew is what they use in harvesting equipment today-high performance hydraulics, high performance computer systems and simulators for training."
With his consultant's hat on, Manz says he expects big changes in the timber industry to occur in performance requirements, rising energy costs and education.

"To continue to be competitive, I believe we will need to focus on lowering our costs without reducing our performance requirements," he says.

Manz points to Sweden as an example of how change will come about. "They did it by changing their processes. They reduced their cost base and are now competitive with the US South. I believe we need to pay significant attention to performance requirements rather than strict, prescriptive rules. Let the innovators innovate and lead us into the future.

"It's a changing, global industry," Manz adds. "Those who ignore that simple fact will have a hard time staying in business."
Nobody, however, can ignore that higher energy costs are quickly changing North American forestry. "In the past we've had big timber and low cost fuel. That was our competitive advantage, but it isn't any longer. Unfortunately, costs will continue to rise-they aren't going back down."

When Manz speaks one can almost hear the commander trying to gather his troops to battle. "We need to be doing everything to understand and build energy efficient systems. Focus on lower energy consumption in all areas. Energy won't continue to be there in abundance. Other countries have had to deal with high energy costs for years."

Again he uses Sweden as an example.
"The country has close to 400 sawmills with individual mill production equal to or greater than 50,000 sawn cubic metresper year and zero domestic reserves of gas and fuel and they manage to stay competitive. If they found an answer, so can we."
But cutting costs is not the entire answer. For companies to operate efficiently and cost effectively, education will play a major role. "With top rate employees, companies can eliminate redundant people checking on other people," says Manz.

He sees the industry already beginning to acknowledge the importance of education, noting the high profile seminars and training sessions at recent industry conferences.
"Those conferences were just a side attraction in the past. It's not the strength of the logger but his skills. The industry has to be on the leading edge, using site specific, cost effective treatments. Loggers have to become known as surgeons-not butchers-to help provide for the health of the biological entity we call a forest."
And hand in hand with education comes communication. "To be successful we must learn to deal with people," says Manz. "We all have strengths. You can't tap the knowledge of others if you don't know how to talk."

Not surprisingly, he uses the military as an example. "As a leader of troops I better check with the guy in the foxhole to make sure he has the same view as myself. We're all driving at the same ends with different methods and we can change. The challenge is how to work together. We are beginning to see activism that is long overdue in business."

Any industry is only as good as its leaders. And Manz believes great leaders are molded not born. His suggestions for creating the great leaders of tomorrow include continued study, reading, travel and learning about other cultures. As much can be learned from Kipling as from a textbook on forestry, he says.

"I can tell you that traveling to 41 countries has been a real leveller of my own ego-and you're talking to a fighter pilot," says Manz. "We need leaders who will walk with other cultures, not dominate them," Manz adds. "Domination eliminates conversation."

He also favours high touch instead of high technology. No one will argue that technology has taken the timber industry to the next level and cut down on the wear and tear of the average logger. But future leaders will need to be cautious and not let technology take the place of human contact or fall into the trap of losing touch with customers, employees and producers. "If we don't allow for the social side, we will miss real opportunities," says Manz.

He cautions about a gap between rural and urban individuals. "People who work in this industry will have to learn to leverage resources and get heard and understood," says Manz. "Urban is very dominant-rural has to become politically active and assertive. And I believe it will help us to create performance-based processes.
"To be successful we will need to be smart and shrewd and look at what our competitive advantages will be," he says. "We will also need to look at the big picture and understand it-looking at the whole process from the beginning to the end consumer and optimize it."

Not bad advice from a fighter pilot.

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