Multitek Firewood Processor is Perfect Match for Gourmet Wood® Products, Inc.
FORT WORTH, Texas – The mention of barbecue conjures up savory tastes, no question there. But for Greg Helfenbein, president of Gourmet Wood® Products, Inc., barbecue points to much more, as in an entire product line of firewood.
Gourmet Wood Products, which dates to 1983, offers customers a full range of firewood products, including the chunks and logs of flavor-enhancing woods that add something special to barbecue. Hickory, mesquite and pecan are sold in chunks and 16-inch logs. Boxed, the woods are shipped to all parts of the country and beyond.
Yet the barbecue wood is just one market niche that Gourmet Wood Products (GWP) serves. “We’re a firewood producer,” said Greg. And that means making and selling everything from full cords to specialty products.
For just under two years now, a Multitek model 2040XP2 firewood processor has been a key performer for GWP. The Multitek is the first that GWP has ever owned, and it has met all the expectations that Greg had for it after he watched it in action at a trade show. For starters, he explained, it is a “very reliable machine.”
Indeed, the Multitek processor is such a flexible and hard worker that it responds with ease to the hands of the four different operators who rotate stints in the cab. GWP loads the Multitek with a rubber-tire loader. There is a fair amount of thumping and bumping in that process, but the Multitek tolerates it. “This machine is much more rigid [than others considered],” said Greg. The positives just begin there, however.
Being able to process incoming wood in the most expeditious way cuts time and adds profit. GWP was able to purchase the Multitek 2040XP2 with a 16-wedge splitter head.
The basic model 2040XP2 has a floating, vertically adjustable interchangeable four-, six- or eight-way splitter head, or a 6-way split 2-stage splitting wedge system for bundled and cooking woods. The Multitek processor is designed to split even challenging low-grade material. The force behind the splitter head is hydraulic. The Multitek 2040XP2 is now available with an optional 60-inch circular saw.
“We do 100 percent of our own maintenance,” said Greg. So being able to depend on the Multitek processor applies on many levels. “I think the Multitek is the best-built machine on the market,” he explained.
Greg is happy to talk about the Multitek, which has joined many proprietary pieces of equipment – several built in-house — on his roster of machines. But he is in a competitive business and he candidly said that he would not tell us the way GWP does so much so successfully. That would be giving his competitors too much of an edge. A few dimensions of GWP that Greg felt he could discuss follow.
“Gourmet Wood Products has a mixture of commercial and residential customers,” said Greg. “Most have been with us more than a decade.”
In addition to the barbecue wood, GWP sells firewood for heating and ambience as loose cords and in bags, bundles and corrugated packages. GWP sells under its own name and does some private labeling, too. (GWP products are imprinted with the company logo: a curious armadillo standing beside a mesquite tree.)
Wood is debarked before processing only if a customer makes a special request and debarking is done off-site through a contractual arrangement. Wood is sold green, seasoned and dried. Drying at GWP is done in proprietary structures. Wood comes from many sources, including some from mills.
“Ninety percent of what we’re running through the processor, we are buying from loggers,” said Greg. “We do logging sometimes.” But the logging is very infrequent because GWP prefers to focus on its core business.
“We’re looking for more pecan log contractors,” said Greg. And he added that he hoped some East Texas loggers would read this story and contact him. (The pecan and the hickory are closely related. In fact, hicans, or hybrids of the two trees, were once favored as fast-growing shade trees that produced few fruit and nuts – a boon to homeowners with lawns.)
At age 19, Greg was already working as a civil engineer. Being outdoors suited him, but he began to see the possibilities in wood fiber. Soon he was immersed in the wood products industry. But it was not a first foray into logging or firewood.
“I was raised on a farm with my grandparents,” said Greg. “Cutting firewood with a chain saw, cutting by hand” was part of life, he explained. “I liked the blood, sweat, rattlesnakes. I just loved being in the woods.”
So getting involved in GWP was an attractive change of pace from civil engineering. Being at the helm of the company, Greg does not get to spend as much time in the woods as he would like and admits that at times it seems the most time is spend behind a desk.
Still, Greg enjoys the hours he spends in the cab of the Multitek 2040XP2 firewood processor. “This is a fairly ergonomic machine,” he said.
The Multitek 2040XP2 has been on the market since the early 1980s in its basic form. The improvements to the processor have been continuous. Features include an infeed shuttle grapple carriage, pilot operator joystick controls, a circular cut-off saw, and a 16-way splitting system.
Fed to the processor are hardwood logs as large as 16 inches in diameter and as long as 40 feet. Operators of the Multitek 2040XP2 easily produce “one and one-half to two cords per hour,” said Greg. “The hickories are a little slower,” he explained. “During peak times, we run it every day.”
Peak times are September to March, or two months before firewood season until spring. The remainder of the year, the Multitek processor runs approximately half the time that the full-time team (of 10 employees) at GWP is engaged.
Fort Worth, Texas is the home of GWP. The Tarrant County city in the north-central part of the Lone Star State has approximately 500,000 residents. A 20-ft. sea container on the GWP acreage has been painted in the colors and symbol of the state flag, making it red, white and blue with a big star in the upper left corner.
The day-to-day at GWP is very satisfying to Greg. “The sense of accomplishment of growing a business” is great, he said. But what he likes best, he explained, is the “social interaction with customers and vendors.”
The Multitek 2040XP2 is the first Multitek machine that has been used at GWP in its 26 years of business. Greg bought the machine directly from Multitek North America, which is headquartered in Prentice, Wis. Although he was quite impressed when he watched the machine perform at the industry show, he took the time to do research on it before he committed to buy. The research supported all that he had seen so he went forward with the purchase.
With perfectly contoured wood, the Multitek 2040XP2 can produce more than four cords per hour. Keeping pace with the production is the 80 horsepower John Deere liquid-cooled diesel power unit that is standard on the processor. Working in concert to speed the process are a four-chain log deck, the overhead log infeed shuttle grapple and a 60″ circular saw.
Multitek has been providing the industry with firewood processors, wheel crushers and skid steer attachments for almost three decades; craftsmanship and durability of product are what the company considers standard parts of its operating procedure. The Multitek commitment to excellence parallels that at GWP.
“Excellence demands commitment,” said Greg. That sums up his outlook regarding business. Details matter and doing it right takes as much time as it takes. The philosophy is highlighted on the website of GWP, or Gourmet Wood Products (www.gourmetwood.com).
The wood for cooking that GWP produces is the result of a carefully considered process that addresses what customers want and need. For instance, slow, even heat is a key element in barbecuing meat so that the meat acquires the best flavors of seasoning and sauce.
As GWP continues to refine its operation and to adapt to changes in the marketplace, Greg keeps an eye on what might be on the horizon. GWP will be ready to exploit opportunities as they arise.
Pressed to offer a perspective on the course the industry might take, Greg demurred initially. But then he offered a comment that he imagined is fairly universal and not a threat to competitive footing. “Eventually biomass has a very good chance of replacing fossil fuels,” said Greg. Being part of an industry that will contribute to that wave of change is exiting, he explained.
For the last five years, Greg has been a volunteer firefighter. The endeavor takes up much of his time outside the business. He is also involved in the local Chamber of Commerce activities.
Greg owns a house on Caddo Lake,
a 26,000-acre lake that is the only natural lake in Texas. The lake is also the largest natural lake in the South. The home offers a great respite from the demands of heading up a business, as well as excellent fishing.