September and October 2006
 

 

 

Focus on Quality

Attention to detail keeps Hofenbredl Logging going strong

By Bob Bruce

Larry Hofenbredl was no more than 15 when he started helping his dad and uncle with their logging operation. Once he graduated high school, he went into the business full time. Six years later, he had the opportunity to bid on his own job and set up his own operation.

Hofenbredl Logging has several long standing customers and at times is running six sides.

And while he’s not saying it’s been easy, Larry does admit that, from a business standpoint at least, his company has been enjoying steady growth and good numbers ever since. “I’ve never had to look for work,” he says. “It’s all come our way.”

Both his dad and his uncle are still in the logging business, but Larry says they work for different outfits so they’re not really competitors.

Steady Customers & the Necessary Iron

Hofenbredl Logging keeps work flowing steadily from three, longstanding customers: Stimson Lumber out of Forest Grove, Ore., cutting primarily on their Grande Ronde tree farm; Forest Capital Partners out of Monmouth, with jobs that generally are between the Valsets area and Lincoln City out by the coast; and Miami Corporation. Most of his jobs are within an hour, or less, radius from his offices and yard in Grande Ronde.

The company has about 45 employees, and if the work load requires, they can have up to six sides running at once. They have a solid fleet, including a Skagit 100-foot tower, Thunderbird TMY70 and TMY50 yarders, a Linkbelt 290 loader, and a Cat 330B with winches. They also run two Linkbelt 4300 shovel loggers, a Prentice 730 and a Madill 3200 feller buncher, both with hotsaws, and two Linkbelt 240’s with Pierce/Logmax stroke delimbers.

Most of the equipment is no more than five or six years old. Larry says he’d like to be able to turn them over every three to five years, but the workload has been so constant, and the equipment has been so reliable that instead of trading in and trading up, they’ve just kept up the maintenance and kept them in service.

Prentice/Logmax stroke delimber. Larry says he likes to turn over equipment every three to five years, but with reliable machines and a constant workload, it's more like five or six years.

Long-Standing Crew

One of the factors that keeps his crew productive is that the core group of guys have all been together since about 1997. According to Larry, they work well together, care about their work, and are willing to put in the extra effort to do a good, clean job.

“We need to train new guys,” says Larry, “but there aren’t any coming up, who want to get trained. The schools are telling people there’s no future in logging, so they don’t want to go out and get started. The biggest problem we have is the guys out there setting the chokers, doing the ground labor. That’s where all the turnover is— the work is a little harder, but the pay isn’t too bad — we just take people as they come along and some of them work out and stay, but most of them just move on.”

But even with the difficulty of finding young blood to bring up through the ranks, Larry’s team already pounds out some serious numbers. With everything going full tilt, six sides each pulling out ten loads a day, that’s about 212,000 board feet on a daily basis. “It doesn’t happen all the time,” says Larry, “but we can get close to 54 million board feet per year, if everything goes well.”

The company employs 45 and the core of the crew has been working together since 1997.

Recipe for Success

That Larry has had continued success working for a small handful of steady customers is a testament to both his easy-going business skills and his conscientious approach to fulfilling his contracts. As he sees it, the key is simply to do your best to keep the customer happy doing business and see that costs are covered, so nobody loses, and they’ll keep coming back.

“You always have to deal with the mills wanting to have the job done cheaper,” he says. “I just throw out the best numbers I can — it’s all you can do. They know what the costs are, just like you do, so you may have to try to get more production to compensate, or try to split the difference. Sometimes bidding for the job is the best solution— you turn in your number and you either get the job, or you don’t. Sometimes it all just depends on timing.”

Operator behind a Prentice 730A Feller Buncher.

Quality Pays Off

Larry Hofenbredl says the real secret is — do the best job possible and the work will follow.

From the time he got his first independent job, Larry figured that the real secret was to just do the best job possible and then more work would follow. “Some people, if they have to do the job cheaper, they won’t do as much clean up. They figure they aren’t getting paid for it. Or they don’t like messing with pulp.” “But if your job looks good when you’re done with it, if you don’t have to go back and re-log something, that’s what I mean by a good job. For example, we make sure the ditches are all clean, and the logs are all picked up that needed to be yarded and loaded out.”

Looking to the Future With stem diameters getting smaller — partly due to the lack of harvestable old growth and mainly because that is what the mills are primarily set up to handle anymore — one of the biggest challenges Larry sees looming on the horizon concerns a fairly practical, mechanical matter.

“I think yarder logging is going to become harder in the future, because you’re not going to have stuff to tie your yarder down to,” he says. “Right now we’re tail holding onto old growth stumps that are still good, but who knows if they’ll be good the next time around (like in 30 years when the next harvest cycle rolls around). You’ve got to get your line out across the wood and tail hold to something.”

But whatever the future brings, Larry Hofenbredl seems to feel pretty confident that his logging operation will still be humming along smoothly. “I don’t think I want to get any bigger than we are. I just look forward to the challenge of keeping everything running— taking the work on, getting it done, and trying to get more.”

TW

This page was last updated on Sunday, January 28, 2007