Robert S. Gollahon of Norfleet Land & Wood sees a broad niche. In an effort to keep pace with expectations of customers, Rob’s strategy for success includes expansion and refinement.
FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia—Succinct as he is focused, Robert S. Gollahon of Norfleet Land & Wood, nevertheless sees a broad niche. “We’re in the timber business,” he explained. And that means keeping pace with expectations of customers.
Expansion is one part of Rob’s strategy for success. Refinement is the other.
“I bought Norfleet a few years ago,” said Rob. Southern Resources Management was established in 1987.
In August 2009, Rob moved to a cut-to-length (CTL) approach. To do so, he purchased a Log Max® 12000 head, which he had mounted on a Timberking 741 carrier.
“This was the first CTL head I have had,” said Rob. To find what he needed, Rob did plenty of due diligence, much of it on-line research.
When Rob narrowed his choice to a Log Max 12000, he got some significant additional assistance. “The dealer, Jim Stout, he was a big help,” said Rob.
Jim is in sales and engineering at Applied Machining, Inc. in Bridgeport, W.V. Facilitating visits for Bob to actually observe the Log Max 12000 in service was part of the equation, explained Jim. Once Bob had settled on the size Log Max head he needed, Jim’s company took it from there.
“We turn-keyed the machine for Mr. Gollahon,” said Jim. “We accepted delivery of a Timberking 741 feller-buncher, which he had purchased in Canada, and subsequently installed the Log Max 12000 head on the machine.” The fit required some changes.
“We designed and built a custom hydraulic manifold to combine the flow of all three hydraulic pumps on the machine, reconfigured the hydraulic valving as required and added the necessary large-size hydraulic circuits to send oil flow to the head,” explained Jim. The result is that Rob has the machine he requires to handle large hardwoods.
“I can cut 40 inches at the stump” with the Log Max 12000, said Rob. That’s important because there are some very big trees on tracts where Norfleet/Southern works. Over lunch one day recently, Scott Farley, who operates a TimberPro 830 forwarder and Dustin Oliver who drives a CAT skidder, regaled Industrial Reporting’s Gary Stergar with stories about just how challenging the enormous trees are.
One such tree was a chestnut with a six-foot diameter. “It was so big they had to cut it into 12-foot to 16-foot segments,” said Gary. The grapple on the loader was just able to get a grip to pick it up and put it on the forwarder.
What made that entire sequence possible was the high performance of the other new piece of equipment at Norfleet/Southern. That is the TimberPro 830 forwarder, which Rob purchased from CJ Logging Equipment of Boonville NY in the fall of 2009.
Again, it was research that led Rob to a TimberPro forwarder. Once he determined the TimberPro 830 was a good fit for his company, Rob worked closely with Joe Girard, an account representative at CJ Logging Equipment to firm details and speed implementation. A family-owned business in operation since 1981, CJ Logging Equipment has a solid track record of outfitting loggers with equipment from an extensive roster of manufacturers. Mark Bourgeois is its president.
Rob is enthusiastic about the TimberPro 830 forwarder and the great partner it is to the Log Max 12000. “It’s a lot bigger” than many forwarders, said Rob. As such, it has “a lot more boom power.”
Tackling such large trees on a routine basis requires Rob and his team to reach for chain saws now and then. When they do pick up a saw, it is always a Husqvarna, he said.
Norfleet/Southern cuts within a 150-mile radius of its home base in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County, Va. Fredericksburg is located in the northeastern part of the Old Dominion. The town has a population of about 25,000.
Depending on how many independent contractors Rob adds to his regular employee team, he may run two jobs at one time with as many as eight people working. Being located near two of the busiest highways in the nation – Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 1, Norfleet/Southern often has visitors dropping by to check on their equipment, as Chris Debernard, the service manager for Carter Machinery, a CAT Forestry dealer, did recently.
Efficiency gained with the Log Max 12000 comes with pickups in per-employee productivity. “Production is basically the same, but it takes less people” to realize that production, said Rob.
“We buy standing timber,” said Rob. “We sort it and sell it to different mills and exporters.” He also has a contract mill handle the timber that he has sawn for Norfleet/Southern exclusively. Rob said his father and his grandfather ran a sawmill in addition to logging. But Rob has kept his business on the logging side of the industry.
Rob’s company relies on contract haulers as well as well as truckers on the payroll. Bobby Rose and Tim Corr drive trucks for the company.
The region where Norfleet/Southern cuts is as rich in hardwood diversity as it is in undulating terrain. Having a forwarder that can climb the steepest hills with ease is a must. And Rob’s team reports that the TimberPro 830 forwarder does just that. Moreover, because the boom on the forwarder rotates through 360 degrees, the forwarder can load a wide area from one position.
The cab on the TimberPro 830 also rotates through 360 degrees. That enables the operator to always face the direction he is working with the knuckleboom loader. The arrangement enhances safety by providing the optimum visibility to the operator at all times.
Trees supported by the mild climate and excellent soil on the rolling hills between the Allegheny Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains include pine, oak, hickory, elm, poplar, birch, cedar, locust, juniper, cypress and the aforementioned chestnut. The Log Max 12000 is capable of handling the entire mix of species. Its manufacturer refers to it as an “extreme-duty head” because it has more than five tons of delimbing force.
Log Max offers eight different sizes of harvesting and processing heads. The Log Max 12000 is the biggest of them.
Day-to-day, Rob keeps his eyes trained on the logistics of business. But occasionally he does get into the woods. “I sometimes run the cutter,” he said.
Upgrading to a mechanized approach after years or decades of traditional felling and skidding can fill a logger with trepidation. Yet Rob moved ahead with the transition without undue concern. Two things helped smooth the switch from whole tree to CTL. One was the significant amount of information Rob was able to gather via the Internet. The other was the able assistance of the professionals at the equipment dealers with which he worked.
Because Rob was able to visit actual work sites of other loggers in transition, he could see that he had more choices than either-or (i.e., whole tree or CTL). “One operation that we visited was a blend of old technology and new, using skidders to drag whole trees felled by a feller-buncher to a processor head that was stationed at a landing site,” explained Jim, who not only had arranged the visits for Rob, but who also accompanied Rob.
“Another [operation] that we visited used the harvester to fell tress and process them into merchantable logs and pulpwood at the stump,” said Jim. “The logs were then carried out of the woods and loaded onto waiting trucks by a forwarder.”
Whichever approach Rob chose, he would be able to stay with the selection he had made in a head. And that was a Log Max.
Rob likes Caterpillar equipment and he wanted a Timberking 741 to carry his Log Max 12000 head. Others who prefer different carriers will find they have a wide array of possibilities from which to choose.
The Log Max heads can be mounted on wheeled or track machines. The control system of the Log Max head is a stand-alone one, which brings more versatility to the choice of carrier. Some Log Max heads are mounted on excavators. Many, of course, are mounted on carriers specifically designed for the forestry setting.
Getting a felling and processing head that is a good fit for the standing trees it will meet on a routine basis demands candor between buyer and vendor. Frank conversation about the kinds of sites on which a logger works, including having vendors on site, ensures that everyone is talking about the same thing. A CTL machine that is too big for its task will be inefficient. One that is too small will wear more quickly than it should.
Having chosen logging as a profession, Rob is quite happy. “It’s just an enjoyable business to be in,” he said. He particularly enjoys the opportunity to “be in the woods” and “the challenge of it.”
When Rob gets time away from running Norfleet Land & Wood/Southern Resources Management, he likes to fish. One gets the sense that while he is fishing, Rob is also conjuring images of the next move he will make in his business – quietly, prudently and intently.