Logging and Sawmilling Information for the Western United States
December 2000 - Volume 25 Number 12
Danielson Logging combines the right people and right equipment to create a successful business
By Barbara Coyner
The right equipment for the job, the right people for the equipment, and the right jobs. That’s the formula that keeps Bob Danielson Logging running at full throttle when other logging contractors are bowing out of the race. Add right timing to the list, too. "I threw my hands up at the cedar mill business," says the St. Maries area logger, who stepped out of his cedar mill business and broke into logging in 1988. "It just wasn’t working out, so I did some salvage logging for Potlatch Corporation, and also did some right of ways for Clearwater Power, where they’d fall and I’d skid. They were just hammering the regeneration and I knew I could do better. The fellerbuncher seemed a better way to go. I felt like you had to treat the land like your own and you should never leave a tree kicked over in the woods or leaning. Things should look good when you get done.”
Things looked plenty good as Danielson and his bare bones cat operation were invited onto Potlatch ground. Potlatch foresters remembered his track record from the mill days, so they courted the new kid on the block to get more involved in company operations. Danielson responded by doing quality work, even salvaging 250 cords of firewood one season that would’ve otherwise been sacrificed to the burn pile. His business card was a clean job and a willing attitude. Potlatch Corporation paid attention. In retrospect, Danielson marvels that he got into logging when he did.
The cut was on its way down in Northern Idaho, loggers were feeling the pinch, and clear cutting was giving way to selective harvest and thinning. The 1988-89 season was a turning point in attitudes, income – and equipment. Danielson says that actually worked in his favor because he wasn’t entrenched in old habits, equipment or techniques. He was ripe to embrace the ways of the future, and so were the men who gradually turned up on his payroll. If you talk right equipment, right people and right jobs, Danielson gives first billing to his employees, most of whom are young and gungho to use new technology. Like their boss, they were receptive to changing ways and didn’t have a lot of old baggage to discard, so Danielson promptly enrolled each of them in the LEAP (Logger Education to Advance Professionalism) program.
Proudly, he notes that every employee knows good forestry and can competently choose trees for removal without being supervised by company foresters (Danielson is himself a LEAP advisor, as well being on the Sustainable Forestry Initiative steering committee). Currently, he’s working on an incentive program to further reward productivity and professionalism. With twenty topnotch employees, Danielson goes after private jobs and buys his own timberlands to augment his Potlatch contracts.
Additionally, Regulus Stud Mill in St. Maries entrusts him with 3,600 acres to thin and treat, as time permits. As an added bonus, his crew is clearing land overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene in preparation for an exclusive golf course development, thanks to Bob’s networking skills and contacts. "In order to keep good people, you need to work steady and that takes some hustle to get it done. Instead of just working seven to nine months for Potlatch, we now work eleven and we’re able to afford better equipment.
We have very little turnover in employment, which tells me we treat our people well. We pay well, we have benefits and I furnish company rigs to longtime employees.” The right people for the right jobs, plus the right equipment — that’s the key. For Danielson, the right equipment theory began with an 850 Case, which his wife and business partner Sally still praises because it’s easy to pay for and keep running. Bob adds his two cents worth, calling the Case "like a little pet dog that just lays in the corner and doesn’t cost you much, but is still plenty useful.”
Easing more into mechanical logging, Danielson first bought and built a little buncher out of a Case 855 front-end loader, arming it with a Timbco bar saw. Then in 1992, he purchased a 435 Timbco fellerbuncher with Timbco bar saw, and by 1994, stepped into his first Timberjack 1270 harvester and 1210 forwarder. "Machine upkeep is tremendous, but it’s worth it," says Danielson, who is now on his second 1270 and 1210 (purchased in 1999). "The Timberjack keeps us working year ‘round, and the stuff is light enough on the ground that there is little ground disturbance.
Other machines put about seven to ten pounds of pressure per square inch on the ground, but this one averages about 3.8. The harvester and forwarder ride up over stumps and back down so they keep even ground pressure and more surface on the ground. They don’t poke holes in the ground.” He also favors the double bogie system on the forwarder, noting that eight wheels are better than six at balancing the load. Another plus: the harvester’s squirt boom affords more visibility and 100 percent flexibility, according to Danielson.
With its light footprint, the Timberjack single grip system, coupled with two 527 Cat skidders from the tree length side, work steadily throughout most of the year, keeping a crew busy on short log loads for Potlatch’s St. Maries plant. The equipment stable doesn’t stop there, however, and Danielson also brags up his Timbco 445C feller buncher with its Quadco head, and his 228 Komatsu zero tail swing with its 750 Log Max processing head. The two machines perform well on the landing when teamed with two 527 Cat skidders and a 200 Cat log loader, working Danielson’s Potlatch tree length side. He’s kept Log Max high on his shopping list, buying three after being introduced to them by a friend at the Oregon Logging Show.
In addition to the two Potlatch sides, Danielson crews thin private grounds with a Timbco 425B with a 20 inch Quadco head, a 527 Cat track skidder, a 460 Timberjack skidder, and a PC200 Komatsu with a 750 Log Max processing head. A PC200 Komatsu handles loading chores, and Danielson runs two of his own trucks, along with four more from contract hauler Bill Whitney. He loves the versatility of the various combinations, praising the added safety and comfort that full mechanization affords his crew. Because he tests the equipment in a variety of terrains, he’s a walking ad for the machinery he purchases, mostly from Modern Machinery and Western States, both of Spokane, Wash. On the golf course job, he again runs a 200 Komatsu, this time with a PSM clamshell bucket for brush piles and a Jewell brush clam, using the faithful 850 Case dozer for cleanup.
Talk about the right equipment for the right job, Danielson says his arsenal of late model machines keeps him in steady work, and his crew in steady paychecks. "I guess we could go back to being simple with just one cat," he admits, referring to his less complicated, less mechanized past. "But what happens when you grow like we have is that you get employees with families and you want to see them do well. We’ve made some decent money but we’ve kept reinvesting in new equipment to try and keep people working steady. A lot of people wonder how we do it, but we just try new things and keep our eyes open all the time. You make the jobs fit your needs.” Riding herd on the numbers, Sally says the cost of new parts is her biggest headache in staying out of the red ink.
A stickler for maintenance, Bob remedies the high cost parts dilemma by having his shop people fabricate wherever they can. One savings pared a part from $900 down to $100, and another reduced a replacement part from $6000 to $1500. Danielson credits head mechanic Charlie Ashmead and assistant Cliff Benda, along with two high school helpers, for making the shop pay off big time. "You have to be a problem solver in this day and age to stay in business," Sally says of the family enterprise. "I think we’re going along the right road, doing the right kind of job, but we have a long way to go on the equipment end of it, due to the high cost of parts. We have to make things last longer.”
Despite equipment costs that make his head spin, Bob Danielson rises to the challenge of logging in adverse times. He cautions his employees to make the job look as good as someone’s front yard, not their backyard, so the public sees loggers’ land ethics in action. Plainly, the Danielson name is important to him, as is the reputation of logging in general. "In some ways, I got into logging at a good time," he says. "The new machinery we use now gives us opportunities to do different things. Rather than just clearcut, we can do thinnings and make use of the small diameter wood. The right people and the right equipment make all the difference.” Barbara Coyner has covered forestry issues and the timber industry for magazines and newspapers for over 15 years.
This page was last updated on Tuesday, July 08, 2003