TigerCat Marks 10th Year Serving Loggers

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Market driven, problem solving orientation helps TigerCat succeed.

This year marks Tigercat’s 10th anniversary. It all started in 1992 when an elite group of engineers from Canada toured the southeastern U. S., interviewing dozens of loggers about equipment requirements. In compiling their research, it was clear that loggers in the region required more reliable, productive feller-bunchers.

“When we began, we sought to increase life expectancy and trade-in value of forestry equipment,” explained Tigercat president Tony Iarocci. “Innovative design and high-quality components allowed us to engineer longer life into equipment.”

The company’s first machine was the model 726 feller-buncher, a drive-to-tree machine. The first Tigercat 726 feller-bunchers were sold in the furthest reach of the Southeast — Florida.

Bill Harrison’s company, Harrison Contracting in Williston, Fla., was among Tigercat’s early customers. “When we saw the first one up at Tifton, Georgia (in 1992) I could see how well built it was,” he recalled. “The pins were bigger, the center section was bigger — everything was built up better. We bought one, it held up, so we kept on buying them.”

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It was that commitment to high-quality, durable and reliable equipment that put Tigercat on the track to success in what was already a mature, competitive market. Tigercat followed up the 726 machine with an additional model every year.

Tigercat, based in Canada and with manufacturing facilities in Canada and Sweden, specializes in the design and manufacture of premium quality forestry equipment and specialized off-road equipment. Its diverse forestry line includes complete full-tree and cut-to-length harvesting systems. All Tigercat forestry equipment is ‘purpose built’ for challenging forest conditions, engineered and manufactured for durability and reliability.

Today the Tigercat product line includes four drive-to-tree units, five track feller-bunchers, four hydrostatic skidder models, a line of log loaders, seven felling head models and a growing line of cut-to-length harvesters, harvesting heads and forwarders. In addition to the U. S. and Canada, Tigercat has machines operating in Europe, Russia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

Based in Paris, Ontario, Tigercat is the result of a successful collaboration between state-of-the-art steel fabricator Macdonald Steel Ltd. and the engineers who conducted the initial research. The engineering team had extensive experience in both the design and marketing of logging equipment; and MacDonald Steel had supplied steel components to many heavy equipment manufacturers for a wide range of applications.

Tigercat attributes its success to a number of factors, including exhaustive field research, customer-driven product development and improvement, and a highly skilled workforce. Innovation is the norm. The goal always is to manufacture equipment that improves on existing technology. “We would never be satisfied to build machines that were not an improvement over what is currently on the market,” said Tony.

One of the things that distinguishes Tigercat, he added, is that in developing machinery, the company sets about to fill specific gaps in the equipment needs of loggers — to look for problems that loggers have. “We build machines that represent an improvement, that are a response to a specific need in the market,” he said.

Tigercat’s engineering staff regularly spend time in the woods to research machinery requirements. “We want to make sure our engineers have a good interpretation and understanding of how the customer sees things in the field, and what he needs,” said engineering supervisor Brad Boehler.

“Basically, they are responsible for their designs through the manufacturing process and field use, ensuring that it works,” said Brad. “They are thoroughly involved from concept and design to actual application.”

Another example of Tigercat’s innovation is its new ER boom system. This technology is introducing significant new efficiencies to tree harvesting by improving feller-buncher fuel efficiency, increasing production and reducing operator fatigue. Tigercat engineers were not satisfied with the fundamentally inefficient conventional boom system that must mix two arcing motion functions to get the desired reaching motion. They developed Tigercat’s patent-pending ER boom, which allows the machine operator to extend and retract the boom on a horizontal plane smoothly and quickly using a single joystick.

Tigercat has introduced similar ground-breaking innovations, such as developing high-capacity bunching saws and shears and its line of hydrostatic skidders. In both cases Tigercat’s innovative technology has enabled logging contractors to make significant gains in production.

In developing its line of skidders, Tigercat’s research revealed that loggers in the Southeast required a machine that could operate effectively in poor terrain. They wanted a skidder that could increase production yet reduce ground disturbance.

“The 630B and 635 skidders kind of created their own market,” said Jon Cooper, product manager for Tigercat skidders. The machine automatically adjusts torque requirements to match terrain so that maximum horsepower is always available at all speeds. The operator saves an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 gear shifts per day. Precise vehicle speed control minimizes wheel spin, reducing site disturbance and allowing the machine to operate productively in any kind of terrain.

Tigercat’s innovation extends to filters. Recognizing that effective filtration reduces machine down-time and increases component life, the company developed its own line of fuel and hydraulic oil filters. Tigercat brand filters offer increased efficiency and improved filtration.

Tigercat sells its machines strictly through equipment dealers and had to start from scratch to build a network of dealers, which now number 60 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. “In most areas we’ve been well received by loggers for several reasons,” said Ben Twiddy, Tigercat’s district manager for South Carolina and part of Georgia. “Our dealerships that distribute our equipment do a good job. We manufacture the best logging equipment made, and then we follow it up with good service — on a dealership level and a manufacturer’s.”

The involvement of Tigercat’s engineers with loggers ‘on the ground’ has contributed to the success of its machines and the company, Ben agreed. “We have a lot of good engineers, and they spend a lot of time in the Southeast,” said Ben. “They see the machines and the applications where they perform,” from logging in a swamp to working on the side of a mountain.

Tigercat currently has four models in the drive-to-tree feller-buncher series. Combined with six saw and shear felling head options, loggers can customize a Tigercat feller-buncher to specific applications.

The 718 is Tigercat’s thinning machine, although many southeastern loggers have also used it effectively in final-fell applications. The 726B is Tigercat’s largest wheel feller-buncher, best suited to high-production final felling. Highly stable, the 726B is effective in challenging terrain.

The newer 720D is slightly longer than the 718 on account of the cross-cooling system but has a very tight turn radius for excellent maneuverability in thinning applications. The 720D also has Tigercat’s operator-friendly wide-range hydrostatic transmission and a Deere engine option. The new Tigercat 724D is equipped with the unique cross-flow cooling system and wide-range hydrostatic transmission and also features a heavy-duty front chassis, boom and front axle.

Tigercat track feller-bunchers are used in some of the harshest mechanized logging applications and climates, ranging from northern Canada to the shovel logging applications of the American South. The 845B is a highly stable, productive mid-sized feller-buncher well suited to the majority of final-fell applications either on slopes or in sensitive soil applications. The larger Tigercat 860 is designed for around-the-clock extreme duty in poor terrain and large timber applications. The 870 is equipped with a super-duty FH400 undercarriage for higher tractive effort in the worst logging conditions. The newest additions to the line are the 822 and L830 zero tail-swing feller-bunchers; powerful tractive effort and leveling capabilities enable strong performance on slopes.

MacDonald Steel has been an important partner to Tigercat, which has realized significant advantages from the association. MacDonald Steel’s advanced machining and fabricating technology enables it to supply Tigercat with components of the highest quality.

Tigercat operates out of four facilities totaling over 190,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space in Paris and Brantford, Ontario. There is no assembly line on the shop floor of Tigercat’s manufacturing facilities. Each machine is assembled using a ‘team build’ approach.

“We hire highly skilled assemblers to build these machines,” said Martin Jennings, who, as Tigercat’s production manager, oversees all aspects of the company’s manufacturing operations. “We don’t like the assembly line approach. Two individuals work together assembling a machine, running it, testing it, and making sure everything works properly.” When the machine is ready to leave the factory, a sticker is affixed in the cab that says, “Proudly Built By…” and the names of the two individuals who built it. Because each machine is a reflection of the individuals who built it, quality is controlled by accountability, Martin added.

“We don’t make decisions and ‘cut corners’ based on trying to save costs,” added Martin. “We emphasize to our assembly workers that they need to build these machines as if they were going to buy them.”

Strong factory support has been another important ingredient in Tigercat’s success. When the company was in its infancy, its strong support and service helped to instill confidence as a newcomer to the industry.

Tigercat’s in-house training facility at its headquarters in Paris, Ontario enables dealer personnel and loggers to improve their troubleshooting skills.

Tigercat also is committed to serving its dealers and loggers with strong service for parts. Its goal is to maximize machine up-time at the lowest possible cost to the logger. For example, in the case of machines that are down, Tigercat’s policy is to fill orders for parts within 24 hours. In 2000, the Tigercat parts department filled orders for down machines and met the next-day delivery deadline 97% of the time. With the establishment of a new Tigercat parts warehouse in Georgia, which is used specifically to supply parts for ‘rush’ delivery, the company improved on that performance in 2001 while reducing freight costs. Tigercat also maintains emergency parts service around the clock — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — so that dealers can order a ‘rush’ part at anytime, day or night.

Tigercat also offers rebuilt parts — Tigercat Exchange Components (TEC) — that offer high quality, ready availability, and reduced cost. The company operates its own in-house center for rebuilding components.

For more information on Tigercat or its machines, contact the company at (519) 442-1000 or visit the Web site at www.tigercat.com.