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One Stop Shop
Adams Logging offers more value for its customers
By Bob Bruce
As many loggers have discovered, being willing and able to take on more than just one piece of the timber processing pie can translate into more work and increased customer satisfaction.
Loggers Doing More
Most logging operations don’t just fell the timber, they yard the logs and load them onto trucks to get hauled to the mill. Most also clean up after themselves by, at the very least, making burn piles.
Some loggers also offer road building as part of the package, which typically saves the landowner money and definitely cuts down the hassle of having to deal with a separate site prep contractor. At the same time, it gives the logger an additional source of income that can help increase profitability on jobs as well as provide income opportunities from standalone road-building to help fill in between logging jobs.
Adams Offers One-Stop-Shop
Adam Lee, a logger in Longview, Washington, has gone a step further and put together something of a one-stop-shop of logging services that caters particularly well to smaller private landowners. Not only does Adam offer road building, cutting, processing, transport, and clean-up, he also offers a full plate of front-end services where he does the site survey and valuation of the stand, lays out the unit, obtains all the necessary permits, and deals with the Department of Natural Resources.
He also markets the timber and contracts with the appropriate mills or exporters to get the best price. He does all this and is still able to make good money while offering a generous 70/30 split, weighed in the landowner’s favor.
Evolving into Multi-service Operation
According to Adam, being a one-stop-shop wasn’t something he particularly planned to do when he decided to become a logger, it just sort of happened naturally.
“Most loggers work for a timber company that does their marketing for them, or they work mostly on contract for a mill and not so much with the private end of it like we do,” he says. “I started out at 17 logging private stands of timber, so I’ve just always had to market my timber.”
Of course, he didn’t just wake up one day knowing how to market timber. “I knew some old loggers who were getting out of the business, and they got me in with some of the mills and the log buyers. I partnered up with an old guy, and when he passed away, I pretty much took over.”
Two of the biggest challenges he faced when he was getting started were getting the log buyers at the mills to take him seriously and learning the proper procedures to lay out a unit for harvest.
“I just had to take the bull by the horns and call the buyers at the mills, ask them to come out to take a look at what I had, and tell me what they’d give me for prices. I also spent a lot of time reading the forest practices book, learning how to lay out units right. I probably spent a couple of months total working with various foresters.”
According to Adam, most of his jobs come from private landowners with relatively small plots, who are having their first experience working with a logger.
“The first-time landowners have no idea what all is involved,” he says. “Most of these jobs are around 20 acres, with anywhere from a half million to a million feet of timber. The landowners come in wanting to have the trees cut down, but they don’t know you have to deal with the Department of Natural Resources, the log buyers, and the mills. They think we just come in and buy the logs and take them to the local mill.”
Knowing Your Markets
Well, maybe 30 or 40 years ago, things worked that way but Adam says today, the markets are so fragmented that the only way to get the best price for a stand of trees is to have a solid handle on how much of what species is in the stand and then go find the right mix of buyers.
“There are a lot of specialty mills out there,” he continues, “but we hit primarily the export market and the pole market. The poles we sell to McCormick Piling and Lumber in Warren, and they send them off to places like Ireland. We send the hemlock to Pacific Lumber & Shipping in Longview, and they export most of it to China, where they use them for concrete forms and pallets. The rest we take to Weyerhaeuser.”
During the last year, Adam cruised, quoted, bid, cut, marketed, cleaned up, and replanted approximately 30 different units. “We’ve done everything from cliffs all the way to units that looked
Because most of his jobs are on private non-commercial land, the trees tend to be bigger than what many production loggers are used to. “Most of the timber we cut is too big for a buncher so we have to do hand cutting. We bought a stand of timber not long ago outside of Klamath with 150-year-old timber on it. Typically the units we log are a mix of 70-year-old Doug Fir and Western Hemlock.”
Although it has taken Adam a while to get established, he finds that, these days, the jobs seem to come along fairly regularly thanks to favorable word of mouth, augmented with steady but not at all pushy advertising.
“We probably do more advertising than other people,” he says, “so a lot of the landowners already know about us and contact us for timber appraisals and timber cruises. A lot of times, a property owner will want his land logged, and he will make contact with the log buyers at a mill in town. The buyers contact me, and I reach out to the landowner.”
Adam emphasizes that his approach to contacting landowners is decidedly low-key. “We either write them a letter or call them up to see what they’re interested in. When we send a letter it’s just a brochure, and then they either call back or they don’t. A lot of landowners don’t like salesmen coming up and knocking on their door.”
Adam is able to handle the work he gets with a relatively small crew and a modest amount of equipment. “We have five guys that work for us,” he says, “and we usually run one or maybe two sides. Our ground-based equipment is busy pretty much all the time, and we have a tower that we don’t run all the time, but it’s available when we need it.”
The tower he mentions is a “Skadill” – a 90-foot Skagit mast on top of a Madill carriage. The rest of the equipment list includes a D5 Cat Hi-drive for road building, two Kobelco 290s, a 300 Daewoo with a Keto 1000 processor head, a Clark 667 Skidder, and a Kobelco 220 logger.
With this economic line-up, he can offer a one-stop-shop and get it done.
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