BUCKLEY, Michigan – Six hundred to 800 tons of woodchips are produced by Casey’s Excavation, LLC each week. Most of the chips head to Packaging Corporation of America (PCA).
Casey Youker, the owner of Casey’s Excavation, made woodchips the focus of his business four years ago. Before that, his company did demolition and excavation work, neither of which it does today.
Filling the 17 to 22 truckloads with chips that go to PCA each week requires some heavy-duty equipment. And in January Casey added a new machine to his roster, a Tigercat 724G feller. He purchased the Tigercat 724G from Woodland Equipment, Inc. in Iron River, Mich.
The Tigercat 724G purchase is the first that Casey has made from Woodland Equipment. He explained that when he was looking for a new feller, and specifically a Tigercat feller, he talked with other loggers who gave him good reports on the dealer service they received from Woodland. That positive recommendation, when coupled with his favorable view of Tigercat based on the Tigercat 610C skidder he owns, led him to Woodland.
Tigercat, which is headquartered in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, named Woodland Equipment its dealer for Michigan and Wisconsin in October 2016. That put a Tigercat dealer much closer to Casey’s Excavation. And it made it possible for Casey to turn to a company that was also based in Michigan. The nearness of the dealer is something Casey appreciates should he require service or parts.
“I haven’t dealt with Woodland very long, but I’m very impressed,” said Casey. To secure the Tigercat 724G, he worked with Ron Beauchamp, Jr. (RJ), the general manager at Woodland Equipment. But he has already interacted with other members of the Woodland team who made sure the delivery and introduction of the Tigercat feller went smoothly.
In January, we had the opportunity to talk with RJ about his philosophy of serving customers. He emphasized that he and the other members of his company’s team aim to form relationships. Over time, the relationships often develop into genuine friendships, as team members at Woodland Equipment get to know each customer.
In an effort to strengthen ties and further serve its customers, Woodland recently announced the opening of a lower Michigan facility in Gaylord. The new branch will open in March. “We’ve experienced growth and heard a desire from our customers that we have a location in lower Michigan. Making these investments is driven by what I hear from them,” says Ron Beauchamp (RJ). Ron and his wife plan to relocate to the Gaylord area in 2018. “We need to be there, live there, to better understand our customers’ needs. We plan to build the branch with people who share the Woodland value of building customer relationships.” Ron will split time between the Gaylord and Iron River locations while establishing the new branch office. Offering support and solutions to customers – not just equipment – is at the core of Woodland Equipment’s philosophy of doing business.
Casey will prove to be a customer with a definite understanding of what he wants and why. He got started early as a business owner and he has great expertise about equipment.
Having grown up on a farm and with some experience in land clearing, Casey knew he wanted to form a company. “I was 20 years old and I didn’t want to work for anyone else,” said Casey. “I thought I could do it better myself.”
Beef cattle, cash crops, wheat and hay were all in the mix on the farm where Casey grew up. He had plenty of opportunities to use and repair equipment. He also learned to use a chainsaw and when he started Casey’s Excavation in 2005, chainsaws were often used for right-of-way clearing.
For simplicity, Casey has retained the original name of his company, even though it now produces woodchips. He does not expect to return to excavation.
“We make woodchips for PCA by turning low-end forest [resources] into useable product,” said Casey, summing up his business across the last four years to the present. “We mainly harvest lower quality timber. We do sort out grades [and sell to local mills].”
Casey’s team of five works on both private and state land. The approach to cutting takes shape according to what the customer requests.
“It depends on the type of wood,” said Casey. “Each job is different. Some of the DNR [Department of Natural Resources] tracts we get into, they [want a] clear cut and then, they plant with red pine. Popple we clear cut and it regenerates really fast [without planting].”
When Casey began to consider a replacement for an older feller, Tigercat was high on the list because of his experience with his Tigercat skidder. “It’s my first Tigercat feller,” he said. “I bought a Tigercat skidder, a 610C from another dealer three years ago. That machine is phenomenal.”
Casey has high expectations for the Tigercat feller based on his excellent experience with the Tigercat skidder. “The 610 – it’s very good with fuel [economy],” he said. “It’s a good machine with very few problems – a very reliable machine.”
Maintenance on the Tigercat 610 is straightforward and simple, said Casey. Just keep up with the regular schedule for maintenance and expect good results, he explained.
Casey will be operating the Tigercat feller much of the time. Although his experience with the feller was a short one when he spoke with us, the experience was all positive.
The Tigercat 724G is built for large timber and tough terrain. Casey’s Excavation encounters both.
“It is maneuverable,” said Casey of the 724G. “For the type of work we do it doesn’t have to be agile. We work in hardwoods, oak, popal. We don’t do pine. When we do run into pine, we make fuel chips.” There are some biofuel users in the region where Casey’s company works that purchase the pine chips.
A drive-to-tree feller buncher, the Tigercat 724G is built not only to handle large diameter timber, but also to work efficiently in high-cycle applications. Weight distribution is optimized across the four-wheel machine.
Casey’s Excavation works jobsites within a 50-mile radius of its home base in Buckley, Mich. Buckley is part of Wexford County. The town is on the east side of Lake Michigan and approximately 120 miles north of Grand Rapids. It has a population of 700.
Buckley is the site of the Buckley Old Engine Show, which is put on each year by the Northwest Michigan and Thresher Club. It draws tens of thousands of attendees. A feature of the 2017 show was the combined show with the Michigan Chapter 11 of the International Harvester Collectors.
The annual engine show in Buckley is a great reminder of the ingenuity and industrial design that has long supported agriculture. It demonstrates how much innovation in one industry can influence design in other industries.
The importance of superbly functioning and reliable equipment is understood well beyond agriculture. Downtime is a bane to all industrious-minded people.
Woodland Equipment understands that downtime is a word that compact wood products operations such as Casey’s cannot abide. For that reason, the Woodland team knows that each logger will buy equipment of the type and at the time that it makes the most sense for that particular logger. Consequently, Woodland works with loggers not only to provide solutions and new equipment, but also to provide top-of-the-line service on existing equipment.
The tractors that Casey’s Excavation relies on for hauling are all Peterbilt. The box trailers used are a mixed group, said Casey. Some of them are refurbished.
The woodchips themselves are produced with a Morbark 23 Chiparvestor®. Casey purchased the Morbark 23 four and one-half years ago.
“I’ve always had a Morbark chipper,” said Casey. “We bought the [model 23] for making wood chips for PCA.” Chips used by that company have very strict dimensional requirements, he explained.
Working on different sorts of tracts means working through different arrangements for securing jobs. “A lot of private owners will reach out to us,” said Casey. DNR advertises opportunities to which interested companies can respond. And so on.
Tigercat is just one of many brands of equipment that Woodland Equipment sells. Woodland also sells TimberPro, Risley, Kesla, Quadco and Log Max®. New and used processors, feller bunchers, forwarders, skidders, forestry mulchers, and many types of forestry heads are all available.
In keeping with its commitment to providing solutions to customers, Woodland Equipment sells the Woodland Computer System. The computer system was first developed more than 20 years ago. It is designed to be an operator-friendly cut-to-length computer system.
Woodland Equipment itself has been in business for more than 42 years. Service from the company extends beyond parts in stock and in-shop and in-field service. The company also has purchase, lease and rental options.
It’s deep and broad experience serving the wood products industry aside, Woodland Equipment places sees the greatest opportunity for learning more in sustained interactions with customers – listening to them and fully appreciating their requirements in equipment. To that end the company also announced recently the addition of Nick Wiegand as UP Territory Manager. “We need to better own our dirt, and demand doesn’t allow me to keep up with customers the way I’d like on being proactive,” says Ron. “Tigercat has the most reliable, productive, comprehensive line in forestry. We’ve just scratched the surface of potential Tigercat solutions for customers. For customers willing to make the investment, Tigercat proves itself,” Ron continued.
Casey must have equipment that he can depend on day-in and day-out. Meeting the quota he has set for woodchip production demands reliable machines.
“I enjoy working for myself,” said Casey. “Obviously, there are challenges, such as supervising people.” But in the whole, he explained that he is very happy with the professional course he has taken.
Casey still farms some. He has ten cows (beef) and farms a couple hundred acres. “I enjoy having the cattle,” he explained. It’s a good break from his business responsibilities.
And when he has free time, Casey has a very definite priority. “I love spending time with my kids.”