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June 2003 - Contractor Profile

An awarding performance

Nova Scotia’s Hankinson Logging, with its dedication to quality, has won this year’s Contractor of the Year Award for the Atlantic Region from the Canadian Woodlands Forum.

By George Fullerton

A dedication to quality has helped Hankinson Logging Inc of Weymouth, Nova Scotia win the 2003 Outstanding Logging Contractor of the Year Award for the Atlantic Region. Nominated by the Nova Scotia region of J D Irving Ltd, the business is owned and managed by Roger and Marguerite Hankinson and their sons, Sandy and Leo. The Hankinsons credit their six machine operators, and the operators’ dedication to quality work, for helping them make the winning team. The Outstanding Logging Contractor of the Year program of the Canadian Woodlands Forum (CWF) annually selects one harvesting contractor in the Atlantic Region that shows above average performance in harvest operations, health and safety and business management skills.

From left to right, Sandy, Roger and Leo Hankinson: An operation built around Timberjack harvesters and forwarders.

“Being nominated for the award speaks volumes about the high achievements that supervisors recognize in their nominee contractors,” says Peter Robichaud, program coordinator with the CWF. “The nominee applications are based in part on an intensive on-the-ground checklist covering all aspects of their work and business management. The quality of the nominees gets better every year, making it an increasingly tough job for the selection committee.” Roger Hankinson came to contracting by way of trucking round wood from his native Digby County to Mersey Bowater mills in Liverpool and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. In 1990, Roger parked his truck and formed Hankinson Logging with his sons and began harvesting for Bowater with a Timberjack 380 cable skidder and a Hahn roadside harvester. The Hankinsons became Irving contractors when Bowater sold around 160,000 acres of woodland in western Nova Scotia to J D Irving Ltd in 1997.

The Hankinsons’ current harvest operation is built around two 1997 Timberjack 1270B harvesters and two Timberjack 1210B forwarders. The operation is complemented by a 1998 Volvo truck with a tandem float and a 1999 Volvo unit pulling a Trailex tri-axle log trailer. The equipment line-up also includes two GMC 3/4-ton crew cab trucks for getting crews to the woods, along with another 3/4-ton GMC pickup truck that Roger uses for support activities. Roger explains that having crew trucks ensures that the whole crew is on the job at shift change. Roger says the 1270B units have proven to be reliable harvesters for the forest conditions they face in Nova Scotia.

Hauler John Dickie handles the bulk of the timber transportation for Hankinson Logging. The company augments that arrangement with a truck of its own to haul studwood.

Both harvesters have over 20,000 hours on the clock. “We started out They also carry a series of portable bridge panels, made of 8x8 hemlock timbers bolted together. The bridge panels are transported to every work site and installed on small watercourses by the forwarders. With increasing emphasis on low mill inventories and green wood requirements, timber transportation is growing in importance. Hauler John Dickie handles the bulk of the Hankinson hauling requirements, although the company did buy one truck in 2002 to haul studwood. Roger worked alongside Dickie trucking wood for Bowater and it is evident that they maintain a good working relationship.

Dickie has two International trucks with centre-mount loaders on tri-axle trailers and a Western Star on a six-bunk tri-axle trailer. The Internationals are dedicated to hauling pulpwood and sawlogs to Irving’s Weymouth sawmill. The Western Star is loaded by a Hankinson forwarder and makes at least one dedicated run per day with studwood to Irving’s Sproule Lumber mill in Truro. The prolonged downturn in the lumber and paper industry is cause for concern for Roger. A rising Canadian dollar and slowing economy in the US doesn’t give him much optimism for the short term. “We can see lumber inventory building up in the mill yards and we know that we can’t just keep piling wood up,” he says. “I expect that we will see shutdowns in the summer, but we will just have to work through that when it comes. With a 1270A in 1994 and it was not as reliable as we had hoped. We traded up to a 1270B with a 762C head in 1997. Our first forwarder was a Timberjack 1010B. “Irving said that we would have the opportunity for lots of work when they bought the Bowater land and we figured if we have one harvester, we might just as well have two. The same year, the 1010 was replaced with a 1210B forwarder and later on we purchased another 1210 from South Carolina.”

The Hankinson harvesting operation was praised by JD Irving fir its coordination.  Operators on the harvesters make the effort to sort and pile wood so forwarders can easily pick up the timber and stack it neatly at roadside.

Although the Timberjack 762C head gives good service and reliability, Roger says that they are seriously looking at the 758 head that features four rollers and the option of an accumulator arm that would speed up small diameter stem processing. “We are seeing more small wood and you have to handle that wood fast in order to get production.” Hankinson runs tire chains on all six wheels on the 1270s. “We had half tracks on the bogies, but we would slip sideways on rocks.” Roger says that chains are a much more satisfactory solution. He cautions that shedding the tracks lightens the front end of the harvesters and could lead to machine rollovers. To compensate, they load the bogie tires with calcium chloride to help stabilize the machines.

The Hankinson Logging harvesting operation centres around a 45-foot trailer that has been converted into a well laid out and smartly equipped workshop and parts storage facility, with welder, generator, compressor, diesel tools, 50-ton press, two-wire hose building system and saw chain filer. “We can fix anything on the harvesters,” Roger says matter-of-factly. “One harvester turned over 25,000 hours this past spring and the motor was shot. We hauled it home and did our own rebuild and missed only minimum time from operations.” Roger points out that they have a great working relationship with Clair Machine Shop in Metaghan Centre, Nova Scotia. “They will help us out if we have a bad situation and require machine shop work. They make room for us right away and focus on our jobs to help us get back to work. “We also carry some pretty specialized tools for making our own specialized repairs,” he adds. “On the 762 heads, the check valves loosen up and make the head operate slowly.

We have the tools to overhaul the valves on site and keep the machines running. We don’t need to shut down to take the valves away to the dealer, or bring in technicians to handle the rebuilds.” Hankinson Logging runs two 11-hour work shifts. Each shift has a one-hour maintenance period when the crews discuss work progress and layout, machine problems and other shop talk. Brothers Sandy and Leo rotate as supervisor and harvester operators on opposite shifts. Roger maintains that having business partners working shifts and motivating the crew to maintain high production, quality and safety is key to keeping their business successful. The operation went with a four nights/five days schedule so that the night crew ends Thursday night and has a full two-day weekend before starting days bright and early Monday morning.

Roger says they have tried a number of different shift arrangements and have found the current one has worked the best. One of the big reasons for its success is that it gives crews quality time at home with their families. The Hankinsons usually train operators on the job. “When we get an operator from a training course, they usually have experience on a machine other than what we are running. So they are just about starting out from scratch. We start operators on the forwarders, see how they make out, and then move them on to the harvesters if they have the talent for them,” says Roger. It doesn’t take too long to spot a good operator. “Either they have a talent for it that develops or they don’t. We work with the ones that have it and the others go on to something else.” All Hankinson employees are paid on an hourly basis, with harvester operators on higher rates than forwarder operators.

Roger explains that they require all their operators to participate in safety and environmental training opportunities. Hankinson Logging is a member of the J D Irving Nova Scotia West Safety Committee and participates in first aid, WHMIS and Transportation of Dangerous Goods training programs. Additionally, they maintain their own company safety policy that focuses on personal safety equipment and safe work practices.

Pierre Cyr, operations supervisor with J D Irving, says that Hankinson Logging is one of the best harvesting operations he has ever seen. “They make sure that the whole crew is in on tailgate safety meetings. They are very particular about the quality of their work. The harvesters make an effort to sort and pile wood neatly and the forwarders can pick it up easily and then make a very neat pile on the roadside. There is very good coordination all the way along. “They also achieve very high utilization. There is a maximum tolerance of three cubic metres (per hectare) of merchantable wood left on harvest sites under Crown regulations. Irving sets the limit at two cubic metres and Hankinson Logging is consistently at .8 to 1 cubic metres. They are a very professional crew to work with,” says Cyr.

The Hankinsons’ concern for environmental safety is very evident at the “in the woods service centre”, where absorbent pads come out of the service trailer along with the wrenches. Irving’s standard operating procedures and work quality assessments stress water quality issues and rutting is closely scrutinized. “We pay close attention to soil disturbance and rutting. If we see a wet spot beginning to rut, we will haul brush in to carry the machines over it,” explains Roger.

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