Quality Forest Products Aims to Be a Leader

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Quality Forest Products: Georgia’s Deck Trevitt Teams with Pitts Trailers, Ponsse, Chambers Delimbinator, Tigercat for Results

FORSYTH, Georgia — When asked how he would like his company to be identified in the forest products industry, Deck Trevitt answered, “We’d like to be known as the leader in high quality harvesting.”

According to his peers, Deck’s company, Quality Forest Products, is all that and more. He has become known as an innovator in the Georgia timber harvesting community, researching harvesting options and adjusting his company’s equipment inventory to meet the needs of his clients for improved yield from the resource, a gentle footprint on the land, and delivering a quality product into the mill.

Deck has been working to improve his company to better meet the needs of the modern industry almost since he went onto business at the urging of his uncle in 1977. He had been working on the family farm when his uncle, an equipment dealer, pointed him towards logging. At first Deck tried both farming and logging, but after a year he decided to concentrate exclusively on harvesting timber in the forests and plantations surrounding Forsyth, a small town in central Georgia located about 60 miles southeast of Atlanta.

Deck began his business as an old-fashioned, conventional logging company but he soon saw that mechanized logging was the wave of the future, especially for increasing production and reducing adverse impacts on the woodlands environment. He began moving his company towards more efficient harvesting technology with the purchase of a feller-buncher and a grapple skidder in 1979. The move to modernization paid off, and the company grew. Today, Quality Forest Products runs conventional mechanized logging operations with Tigercat feller-bunchers, John Deer and Timberjack skidders, Prentice and Kobelco loaders, and a new kind of delimbing system — the Chambers Delimbinator. The company also has added cut-to-length operations and machinery.

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A good deal of Quality Forest Product’s work is in first thinning of pine plantations. Speed and quality are very important in first thinnings as high volumes of small material must be produced if equipment is to pay for itself.

Chambers Delimbinator Inc., located in Ackerman, Mississippi, has developed a self-contained, pull-behind unit for delimbing trees typically harvested from a first thinning operation. The equipment utilizes flails to remove limbs and bark as the trees are fed through it.

The key to the Chamber Delimbinator, according to the inventors, is the simplicity of the machine. An 88-inch drum size allows from one to 10 trees to be fed through at a time. A patented, open-front feed design allows the machine to be operated with a single knuckleboom loader that delivers a load of stems to the front. Inside, the flail drums turn clockwise, drawing the stems through heavy chains that remove the limbs and the bulk of the bark. Debris is deposited to the side of the machine for the skidder operator to pick up with the grapple and disperse as he returns to the harvest site for a new load. Trees treated by the Chambers Delimbinator require little or no trimming for loading onto trucks, said Deck.

The Chambers Delimbinator works as advertised, according to Deck. “Delimbing multiple stems is much faster than any delimbing method we’ve used before. We get at least 25 percent more production.” The Chambers Delimbinator also does a better job of delimbing stems than other equipment and results in less wear on his skidders than a delimbing gate produces.

Deck’s most recent modernization thrust came last year when he moved into cut-to-length logging with the purchase of a Ponsse HS-16 harvester and a Ponsse S-16 forwarder. Deck invested in the machines both to meet the changing nature of the forests he is working in and to upgrade the quality of the wood he delivers to the mill.

The area around Forsyth has grown and developed in recent years, and there has been a substantial amount of what Deck calls “residential logging”– land that is being converted from timber to residential developments. Before the land is logged, Deck explained, the developer goes through the forest and selects trees that will be retained.

Residential logging requires precision harvesting; trees selected to be left in a development are chosen for their appearance, and developers — and new homeowners — do not want them scarred or otherwise disfigured. The Ponsse harvesters are ideal for this kind of work, Deck noted, because of the degree of control they offer the operator.

A substantial amount of forest and plantation lands in the region now require second thinnings, according to Deck, so fiber utilization is becoming an important factor in harvesting operations. With cut-to-length systems, yield — in terms of the quality of logs sent to a sawmill instead of being used for pulp — can be increased by as much as 25% or more. “We know we can almost assure a 15 percent higher value product when we use our Ponsse cut-to-length equipment on a second thinning,” said Deck. “And we have often achieved 25 percent and more. There is no question both we and the landowner benefit from that kind of value increase.”

Another benefit of cut-to-length is that it reduces labor, said Deck — an important factor when qualified machine operators are difficult to find. When running cut-to-length, only two machines and two operators are involved, he noted. A conventional logging crew, on the other hand, requires four machines and five workers.

“There is so much greater utilization, and it is a lot friendlier to the environment, and you are able to control labor costs,” said Deck. “I think cut-to-length is probably the technology of the future in this area of the country.”

Fine-tuning a logging company means looking at every aspect of the business and making even small changes that advance the ability of the firm to function profitably. Deck pays the same attention to his trucking operation as he does to the rest of the business. Currently he is running five trucks of his own and employing the services of another five owned by contractors.

A decade or more ago he owned more trucks, but in the 1990s Deck shifted to contract hauling. “It’s easier to run your business if you have good contractors,” he said.

In the late 1990s Deck began to have trouble finding those good contractors, who are so important to the stability of a successful logging operation. He moved his company back in the direction of
owning more trucks, retaining the services of contractors who had performed well and filling the gaps with his vehicles. The mix of company-owned and contract haulers has worked out well so far, he said.

As is his way, Deck carefully investigated the technology available to him as he moved back into the trucking business. One decision that has really paid off was to begin purchasing Pitts Trailers for hauling logs. The light-weight Pitts trailers have made a “substantial” difference in his business because they are able to transport more fiber per load, said Deck. “That’s one of those things that’s very difficult to put a number on,” he said, “but we feel it is significant.”

The modern forest products industry is more competitive than ever. Like other industries in the 2000s, the business owner — whether at the harvesting, milling, or distribution level — who does the best job of fine-tuning every aspect of the operation will succeed in the long run where others may fail.

Deck is the epitome of the modern contractor, according to Hugh Rooks, a sales manager for Pioneer Machinery, an equipment dealer serving Quality Forest Products. “Deck listens to his operators and pays attention to what is on the marketplace that might serve his needs and those of his customers better,” said Hugh. “He is always concerned about doing a better job. Other than making absolutely sure that we can help Deck with his parts and service needs, I’m not much help to him. He already knows what’s going on in the industry. I just expedite for him.”

Deck makes sure he is informed, and then he adjusts his business to better serve his customers while maintaining profitability. He has become a model for how the modern forest harvesting contractor can build a successful business that is capable of surviving in the competitive forest products industry of the new century.