Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc. Has a Long History – and a Long History with Cat® Wheel Loaders

- Advertisement -

Wheel loaders from the Cat® K and M series do the heavy lifting of logs and mulch.


CORTLAND, New York – Focus and efficiency are inextricably linked at Gutchess Lumber Co., Inc. “We strive to manufacture the highest quality hardwood products in the Northeast,” said Matthew Gutchess, executive vice president of the company.

That focus has carried Gutchess Lumber across more than a century. “As a 111-year-old business, we are firmly committed to the healthy regeneration of our forests,” said Matthew.

The commitment encompasses making use of every bit of wood fiber. Mulch is made from bark. Incoming logs of species that Gutchess does not saw are sold. Nothing is wasted.

- Advertisement -

Gutchess employs more than 400 people. “Our company is committed to excellence,” said Matthew. The manufacturing team adheres to a clear rank order of priorities, which is “safety first, then quality, then production.”

Strong-performing machines fill out the equipment roster at Gutchess Lumber. Among them are three wheel loaders from Caterpillar.

The three Cat® wheel loaders – 930K, 938K and 950M – were all purchased within the last year. And the 950M had been in service for just three months when we talked with team members at Gutchess. Yet Cat wheel loaders have a history of service at Gutchess that goes back more than three decades.

Bob Burvee, plant manager at the Gutchess facility in Cortland, N.Y., has been with the company for almost 30 years. (The headquarters for Gutchess is in Cortland, too. The company also has facilities in in Freedom, N.Y., Preble, N.Y., Brookville, Pa., and Latrobe, Pa.)

“I started in the mill and worked my way through the wood yard, log yard to maintenance and plant manager,” said Bob. Throughout the entire interval, Cat wheel loaders have been in use. Bob recalled the progression from Cat 966C and 920C models to 966D to 966F and finally to K and now M Series wheel loaders.

There’s no question why Gutchess has stayed with Cat wheel loaders. “We’ve had good luck with them,” said Bob. “They’re reliable. We get good service from Caterpillar.”

Even so, that does not mean that each time a wheel loader has been retired and its replacement purchased it was simply a given Cat would get the nod. “We have a group of people here – a five-man team that does research on equipment,” explained Bob.

The Cat 950M even had a trial of sorts. “We were renting the unit,” said Bob. “Everyone liked it.” Still, standard due diligence was applied to making the decision to purchase.

One thing the team at Gutchess likes about the K and M Series Cat loaders is the ease of access to components, said Bob. “We do our own oil changes and lubrication.”

The Cat 950M is in service at a concentration yard near Albany, N.Y. where it moves log lengths. The Cat 938K is in use at the Cortland site and is used primarily to load trucks with mulch. At the Freedom site, the 930K is used primarily to move logs – and to load mulch as needed.

In a mill yard where it’s sometimes logs and sometimes mulch that must be moved, versatility is essential. Cat offers high-dumping bucket, sorting and loading grapples, and woodchip buckets for its wheel loaders.

“We’re in the business of producing the highest quality we can from forest resources,” said Bob. As such, any time savings realized while switching out attachments or doing routine maintenance on a wheel loader is time that can be redirected to refining other operational procedures.

Gutchess Lumber can also expect to make gains in fuel efficiency, especially with the Cat 950M wheel loader. “The M Series machines are designed for better performance with less fuel consumption,” said John Eisenhooth, sales representative at Milton Cat in Syracuse, N.Y.

John worked with Gutchess, a company he knows well, on the purchase of the Cat 950M. “Gutchess is an awesome company,” he said.

Having worked with numerous loggers throughout the Northeast, John understands how a top-performing machine adds to the productivity of a company.

“Milton Cat is a total partner in the operation – we’re actually a partner to the customer,” explained John. That means getting to know the needs of the customer through conversations and visits – and sometimes anticipating what’s needed. For instance, John had the opportunity to recommend the Cat M Series wheel loader to Gutchess.

The Cat M Series wheel loaders have been engineered to consume the least amount of fuel possible. The company reports that in head-to-head millyard log handling tests the Cat M Series burns at least 10% less fuel than a leading competitive wheel loader in the same class.

Bob said that he and his colleagues are looking forward to seeing fuel savings accrue over time with their Cat 950M wheel loader. Efficiency is something the entire Gutchess team takes to heart.

“Being able to utilize every speck of natural resource” is gratifying to all, said Bob. It’s one of the joys of his work day. And it’s coupled with another great positive. “I really enjoy the type of people we work with.”

Gutchess Lumber buys standing timber and it buys logs. It contracts for all timber harvesting.

With four band mills and three band resaws in operation, Gutchess produces more than 80 million board feet of lumber annually from northern and north Appalachian hardwood species. The species include white hard maple, northern red oak, black cherry, white ash, red maple, basswood, white oak, white poplar, black walnut and hickory.

Most lumber is kiln dried, but some is sold green. Kiln and kiln components from several manufacturers contribute to the five million board feet of computer-controlled kiln capacity.

All the mills are fully optimized. The band mills and band resaws also represent several different manufacturers. At the Cortland, there is a six-ft. McDonough band mill and a six-ft. McDonough band resaw.

Gutchess Lumber has many different types of customers, ranging from distributor yards to end users. The company owns some trucks, but its preference is to contract for carriers, explained Bob.

Founded in 1904 by George Gutchess, Gutchess Lumber has welcomed five generations into the business. The company founder powered his mill with a wood-fired steam tractor. Oxen and horses were used to haul lumber to customers in the farm communities of central New York State, as well as to skid logs to the mill.

The town of Cortland has a population of approximately 19,000. The town is situated just southeast of the Finger Lakes region in the central part of the Empire State. It is part of Cortland County.

Gutchess Lumber belongs to many wood products organizations. Memberships include the Empire State Forest Products Association (ESFPA), the Pennsylvania Forest Products Association (PFPA), the Hardwood Manufacturers Association (HMA) and the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA).

Since its inception, Gutchess Lumber has kept its focus on quality as it improved efficiency. Today, the company serves the global market.

Like all companies, Gutchess Lumber must keep pace with the market it serves. And, like all companies, it must also keep pace with changing rules and regulations for its industry sector.

One significant feature of the Cat 950M is that as part of the Cat M Series, it meets Tier 4 Final/Stage IV emission standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Both the fuel efficiency and the advanced emission control built into the Cat M Series augment features that were introduced in the Cat K Series. The Cat K Series made significant ergonomic improvements to the cab. Besides experiencing a more comfortable day of equipment operation, the operator of a Cat K or Cat M Series wheel loader also can work more safely because of changes made to external mirrors that enable a view of rear tires right to ground level.

Dependable equipment provides a big assist to end users. The machines in use at Gutchess Lumber, including the three wheel loaders from Caterpillar, help to make the company strong.

In all of its endeavors, Gutchess Lumber works to protect the long-term health of forests. Sustainable harvesting is a given. The more that can be done to enhance the value of every bit of wood fiber, the better we can ensure forests will last for generations to come. For Gutchess, it’s all part of providing superior service to customers.