By Allison Grettenberg
For nearly 200 years, the logging industry has played a vital role in Washington. Approximately half of the state is covered in forests, with 21 million acres of forested land available, according to the Washington State Department of Commerce. That’s what keeps local chippers like John Glacken, owner of DaPaul Chip LLC in Tumwater, Washington, staying busy.
“The logging industry has certainly changed over the years, but the amount of production our company has seen is steadily increasing,” John says. “On average, we are processing 50 to 60 loads of timber each day. We are one of the smaller chipping companies in the area, but we have some great customers who keep us in business.”
While chipping has certainly paid off for John, he had no interest in the business when he graduated from high school.
“It’s funny to think how I got my start in the chipping industry,” John says. “I had grown up around the industry, but I wasn’t interested in being a logger. But a friend of mine called me up in 1987 and mentioned DaPaul Chip had a job opening. He said if I wasn’t there the next day that I wasn’t going to get the job. So I applied and was shoveling bark the next day. I ended up really enjoying what I was doing.”
A few years later, John made the transition from shoveling bark to running equipment. Then in 1996, John became general manager. Eight years later, when the previous owner decided he wanted to retire, he offered the company to John.
“I quickly jumped at the opportunity to buy the company,” John says. “I ended up loving what I did — it just felt like home to me. I still love to show up for work every day.”
John believes the company’s success can be boiled down to two things: key people and adaptability. Additionally, good customers have been loyal to DaPaul Chip. “I can’t imagine having better customers,” John says. “They’re real people, working to make a living, wanting us to make a living, and being fair. They treat us unbelievably well. I’ve been lucky to have that group of customers.”
Chipping Away to Meet Demand
DaPaul Chip was founded in 1985. It is a full-service mill that specializes in chipping as well as sorting and loading for a variety of local customers, including Nippon Paper, Millwood Timber, Defiance Forest Products, and Green Diamond Resources.
“Each of our customers harvests their own timber and then delivers the logs to us,” John says. “We scale the logs, debark them, and then sort them by species, size, and end use based on our customers’ specifications. They decide if they want the wood to be chipped or cut to a specified length.”
To keep up with the influx of businesses and customization, John decided to grow his heavy equipment fleet.
“Shortly after I bought the company, a sales specialist at Cascade Trader stopped by the mill and introduced the Doosan equipment brand to me,” John says. “I thought there was no way I was going to purchase a machine from a brand I had never heard of.”
After calling a few local Doosan equipment owners, John changed his mind.
“Each person I called said they had good luck with the brand,” John says. “I trusted their opinion, so I decided to demo a DX300LL log loader and a DL400 wheel loader. Within a week, I had bought the two machines.”
Today, John has four Doosan machines that he uses year-round paired with Nicholson debarkers and Morbark chippers. Three of his machines operate 10 hours a day at the Tumwater mill. A DX300LL log loader sorts and loads logs, while a DL400 wheel loader cleans up wood chips around the yard. John’s newest machine, a DL420-5 wheel loader, primarily loads trucks with processed wood chips. His fourth machine, a DX225LL log loader, unloads timber at the company’s satellite yard in Dayton, Washington.
“The reliability, ease of use, and fuel savings are like no other,” John says. “My crew is able to get wood processed and trucks loaded in very little time, which our customers really appreciate. The machines have really boosted our business.”
John says each operator is responsible for his own machine. “At the end of each day, they fuel up their machine and complete a walk-around to make sure it’s in good shape. When I need parts, I call up Jim Wark at Cascade Trader. There have been times a part needed to be rebuilt, and my dealership has brought a loaner to me. They’ve made life easy for us.”
DaPaul Chip has succeeded over the years, but not without its fair share of challenges — including overcoming the burning of its primary mill in 2016.
“I showed up on the jobsite the morning of the fire and saw my crew standing shoulder to shoulder with tears in their eyes,” John says. “The entire south end of our mill was burnt to the ground. It was an unfortunate accident — luckily no one was hurt — but it was a big blow to us.”
John’s team didn’t stand around for long. Everyone got to work cleaning up and tearing the remaining mill down once the insurance company had filed its claim. “Something as devastating as this really made me look at everything we were doing as a company and our processes,” John says. “It was a big learning curve, but we hung in there.”
The entire rebuild took six months; however, that didn’t stop DaPaul Chip from continuing to serve its customers.
“Instead of closing up shop for six months, we did what we could maintenance-wise while taking care of our customers,” John says. “It really shows how we came together as a company. I don’t have family that works here, but the individuals who work at Dapaul Chip are my family.
“We do things together, and we look out for one another. It’s not a punch-in, punch-out kind of place. My guys are here an hour early hanging out and drinking coffee, and most of them stay an hour later talking about what they did during the day. It’s really a family.”
John knows that life doesn’t always go according to plan. But over the years, he has found out that even the slightest change can lead to a profitable and rewarding career.
“When I was younger, I swore I’d never be a logger,” John says. “I learned to really enjoy logging. It’s not easy, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
ON THE COVER
Overhead image of DaPaul Chip using at Doosan DX300LL at its site in Tumwater, Wash.
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