Team Approach to Timber Harvesting

by | Dec 18, 2023 | 2023, Harvesting, Logging & Sawmilling Journal, November/December

“I tell our crew we are like a hockey team,” says New Brunswick logging contractor Sean Storey.

“We don’t score goals or fill contracts as individuals—we all work together as a team to meet our collective goals, providing top notch service to our business partners, and go home safely at the end of our shifts and come back for the next game or shift inspired to work productively and as a team.

“I am so very fortunate to have such a great team,” says Storey. “I am convinced I have the best team of workers.”

Sean manages S&S Logging along with his wife, Sandra, from their home base in Storeytown, across the Miramichi River from the Village of Doaktown.

Sean and Sandra Storey. Sean is quick to share that Sandra has been an irreplaceable part of the S&S Logging business. “Sandra is absolutely critical to our business,” he says. “She manages all the business side, and I focus on keeping the crew and machines operating.”

S&S Logging works on Crown Licenses 7 (J.D. Irving), 3 (Interfor) and 8 (AV Nackawic). The operation supplies logs to 13 major mills across the province.
S&S Logging also contracts some private land stumpage and cumulatively produces around 500,000 cubic metres of wood annually.

Storey started his forestry career working as a teenager on his father’s contracting operation. He bought his first skidder, a Cat 518 in 1987, establishing S&S Logging as a harvest contractor. Through the years, Storey has worked with a wide variety of harvesting equipment.

Those years of experience have convinced Storey that his favorite and most productive harvester is the Tigercat 855 tracked harvester, equipped with the Log Max 7000 series harvester head.

S&S Logging’s equipment stable currently includes ten Tigercat 855 carriers with Log Max 7000C or XT heads—and just to test his harvester head options, a new Tigercat 855 delivered in June 2023 sports a Tigercat 570 harvester head. Two additional 855 units have been ordered for 2023 delivery with Log Max heads.

“Currently, I am witnessing a high demand for harvesting capacity” explains Storey. “I feel confident that our operation can handle the growth.”

The S&S Logging fleet is rounded out with an Tigercat 855 feller buncher with a Tigercat 5702 head, three 25-tonne Tigercat 1085 forwarders and two 18-tonne Ponsse Buffalo King forwarders. On some J.D. Irving operations, forwarding is handled by other contractors.

“We keep our 855 machines until they have about 20,000 hours on them. That is the sweet spot, I figure,” says Storey. “They still have lots of life in them and their resale value is still good.”

Sean is quick to share that his wife, Sandra, has been an irreplaceable part of the S&S Logging business since they were married. “Sandra is absolutely critical to our business. She manages all the business side, and I focus on keeping the crew (35 to 40 employees) and machines operating, and on dealing with the forestry companies we work for,” he says.

Part of the S&S Logging Team: from left to right, harvester operator Dalton O’Donnell, Sean Storey and Zachary Storey. In the below photo is Tyson Underhill of TCU Trucking (left) and Sean Storey, with TCU Trucking’s new Peterbilt truck.

“I learned bookkeeping from Sean’s mother, using a ledger and filling everything in by hand,” says Sandra. “In recent years, I have evolved to working with a computer. There were more than a few challenges and anxiety making that switch, but now the books, payroll, remittances and bills get handled electronically,” Sandra said, adding that addressing business surveys has added significantly to the business administration tasks.

In addition to administrating S&S Logging, Sandra is also employed as an in-classroom Educational Assistant.

Sean elaborated on the harvesting work they do.

“We do limited work in managed stands, where thinning is required and zero tail swing machines might be better adapted,” he said. “Our operations tend to be in ‘naturally developed stands’ with either a total clearcut or a partial retention type harvest, where retained trees are scattered or in groups and the 855’s can operate effectively from trails.”

On a summer day this past June, two harvesters and a 1085 forwarder, the latter operated by Sandra and Sean’s son Zachary, were in operation just a couple of minutes from their Doaktown base. Due to heightened fire risk, all operations in the Irving Doaktown District were shut down at noon, similar to restrictions right across the province while major fires ran wild in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

“Our prescription here is to harvest hardwoods which will make a log today, while retaining hardwoods (mainly yellow birch) which will make a log in the future. We are harvesting spruce and fir, but retaining hemlock,” explained Storey.

As a result, the harvest block retained a moderate stocking of large, intermediate and small trees. The retained trees will produce seed and their shading will encourage shade tolerant and warming climate adaptable species to regenerate the block.

“We have used Log Max 7000 heads for many years,” Storey explained. “I feel it is one of the very best harvester heads available. It has the capacity to handle small diameter trees and right through to real big and challenging hardwoods. The Moncton Log Max shop services parts right across the country, so we have excellent parts availability, just a couple hours away.

“We get a complete hose kit with every Log Max head, and there is lots of engine compartment room in the 855 for the hose kit and a few of the more vulnerable hoses on the 855 boom,” he said. “Additionally, the 855 has room for tools and oil supplies, bars and chains.

“When an operator changes a hose, he either calls one of our mechanics to have a new one built, or if they are handy to our garage, they can drop it off after the shift and then pick up the new one for the next shift.” Some operators are competent at building hoses, but some lack that skill set, and in that case, they have a couple of full-time mechanics, who will build the hoses.

“Our mechanics build hoses specifically following the manufacturers’ specs,” explained Storey. “In the past, the guy building a new hose would often add a few millimetres to the length, ‘just to maybe make it a bit easier to install’.

“But after a few generations of adding millimetres, a lot of hoses have grown by centimetres and then it becomes a headache trying to squeeze those extra and unnecessary lengths into a confined space, creating increased maintenance/non-production time.

“Keeping hoses to spec is a step to increased efficiency,” he summarizes.

S&S Logging has a contracted welder who works nearly exclusively for the outfit.

“Our mechanics have fully equipped service trucks to get to our operations, which often are spread out across a lot of New Brunswick,” explains Storey. “We do not operate with service trailers. We built heavy duty supply trailers which have a fuel skid tank in the centre, and parts and supply cabinets are accessible from both sides of the unit. The cabinets have certain parts, DEF, chains and bars and chain oil that operators use every day.

“We are very fortunate to have an exceptional crew,” says Storey. “We have a contingent of talented operators in their 20s and we have some middle-aged and some who are approaching or past the age that people generally retire. We have very little turnover. We have good equipment and provide full-year employment, which is very important for people with young families.”

New Brunswick contractor Sean Storey is a big fan of Tigercat equipment. His current stable includes Tigercat 855 carriers with Log Max 7000C or XT heads, a new Tigercat 855 delivered this past June that sports a Tigercat 570 harvester head, a Tigercat 855 feller buncher with a Tigercat 5702 head, and three 25-tonne Tigercat 1085 forwarders.

Their operations are well spread out, and when an operation is distant, they can adjust crews so that the operators with family commitments can stay close to home and the operators with a more flexible lifestyle can take on long commutes, or in some cases, take accommodations through the week close to the operation.

S&S Logging offers employees an RRSP, and Blue Cross programs.

Key to the productivity of their employees is, of course, the iron, which is tough and dependable.

“In my opinion, Tigercats are over-engineered in every aspect,” says Storey—and that’s a plus. “A Tigercat at 20,000 hours or even 40,000 hours works just as well as it did at five hours.”

Tigercats are well-engineered to fit their forest type, says Storey. Traction is not an issue any time of year with the rugged F8 undercarriage. They operate with three hydraulic pumps, one pump for travel and boom, one pump dedicated to the harvester head and one pump dedicated to the cooling system. They always have power when and where needed, he says, and they are always ready to handle big trees—and also work productively in uniform trees.

“Engine cooling has never been an issue with Tigercats,” added Storey. “We got behind on machine cleaning this year and I expected we would have calls about heating—but even with the temperatures nearing 40 Celsius, we had no heating issues.”

Their fleet of 855’s means all operators are familiar with every harvester, and able to switch seats, if and when necessary. Similarly, mechanics are also familiar with them, and are quick to analyze issues and make repairs or adjustments and get back to work keeping machine productive time high.

“We contract Carroll Enterprises to handle our float work and we keep one of their trucks working pretty steady moving our equipment,” says Storey. “Mike Warman, at 76-years-old, operates the float and gives us excellent service. If a move happens to be on the weekend, Mike is there, no questions asked.”

Storey pointed out that the Tigercat 1085 has a 25-tonne capacity, which is important since their forwarding distances are getting longer. Five-hundred-metre hauls to truck roads are more common, so it’s critical for business sustainability that big loads are landed.

In addition to the iron, S&S Logging also keeps a small crew of chainsaw operators who follow on certain harvester blocks, to fell and buck oversize trees. These are most typically white pine, which are cut in the cold months to mitigate potential staining issues.

“When we get an accumulation of snow, we will run the forwarder through those blocks so chainsaw operators can operate productively and safely. Our eldest employee, Leonard Peterson, who is 76, continues to be the most productive saw operator, and he looks out for and makes sure the rest of the saw crew are productive and safe.”

Storey is responsible for attending separate safety courses provided by the three licensees he operates for, and to administer a safety program to his employees. Additionally, S&S Logging provides St. John Ambulance First Aid courses for all employees. Employees also take safety and operating courses with FSC and SFI certification.

All parts of the operation must work together for success, says Storey.

“As a business, we are fully occupied harvesting wood and getting it to roadside. But in order for S&S to maintain its success, we have to rely on a dedicated wood transportation service,” he explained.

“For more than 10 years, we have relied on TCU Transportation to deliver wood to just about every wood-using mill in the province. Tyson Underhill operates with more than 16 trucks of his own, and adds brokers when required, to meet wood moving demand.

“Tyson uses a couple of Cat tracked loaders as well as operating at least nine self-loading log trucking units. Tyson’s service is consistent and congenial—the service from TCU is critical to keeping our business successful.”

Fuel is supplied by Robinson Fuels, a local Doaktown business. “They provide reliable and consistent fuel delivery, which is a critical element in driving our business success,” says Storey.

Wajax Moncton provides them with good sales and parts service. If Moncton does not have a part in stock, it can be shipped directly from the Tigercat warehouse in Ontario, overnight to Moncton.

All of the above says that S&S Logging’s team philosophy extends to a group of business and employer partners, in addition to their team of employees. In effect, they’re all on the S&S Logging hockey team.

George Fullerton

Author

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