LINCOLN, Maine — When a Maine forest products company went looking for a new grinder, they chose one that replaced its two existing grinders. And their new machine, a Peterson Pacific grinder, only has to run a couple of days per week to get the work done.
Gardner Companies has diverse operations and several business units that currently employ about 200 people. It is based in Lincoln and neighboring Chester, Maine, about 50 miles due north of Bangor, which puts it roughly in the center of the state both north-south and east-west.
“We’re pretty dynamic,” said Tyler Gardner, who goes by ‘Ty.’ He is the grandson of William (Bill) Gardner, who originally founded W.T. Gardner & Sons as a trucking business in the early 1960s. Now operating under the umbrella of Gardner Companies, other business units include Gardner Logging Services, Gardner Land Company, and Chester Forest Products.
The business has grown organically and by acquisitions. It operates three chip mills (two for hardwood and one for softwood), the trucking unit, and nine logging crews. Chester Forest Products operates a sawmill that specializes in cutting hemlock landscape timbers.
The company buys land and standing timber and currently owns about 120,000 acres that it manages with its own foresters. “We do the marketing of most of our own wood and buy stumpage on other land,” said Ty. It harvests timber off its own lands and also contracts to harvest timber for private landowners, individuals and industrial landowners.
The logging crews may work 5 minutes away or 3 hours away. The region of central Maine can be relatively flat to rolling hills. The forests contain mixed northern hardwoods and stands of spruce-fir, hemlock, and white pine. “Average for northern Maine,” said Ty.
Chips are supplied to pulp mills in the region and also to mills in New Brunswick, Canada. The company delivers chips to mills up to a distance of about 200 miles. Saw logs are mostly supplied to other sawmills in the region.
Bill died in 2014 at the age of 74. He was still very active in the business up until the time of his death. Today the enterprise is owned by his two sons — Ty’s father, Tom, 57, and Tom’s brother, Scott, 55. Tom oversees contracts, buying land and timber, and negotiates chip contracts with pulp mills. Scott’s duties include interviewing job candidates and hiring.
Ty, 34, a licensed forester who earned a forestry degree from the University of Maine-Orono, oversees all logging operations and also trucking; he has been working in the family business since he was in high school.
The company previously had two grinders of the same manufacturer. The grinders were moved from chip mill to chip mill to process residual material — oversize material and bark. The grindings are sold for hog fuel. The two grinders were traded in on the purchase of a new Peterson 5710D track grinder from Barry Equipment in Webster, Mass.
The Gardners didn’t give much consideration to other manufacturers, indicated Ty.
“Peterson has a good product. We’d seen it work before.” Barry Equipment had brought a Peterson grinder to the region several years earlier and demonstrated it, and the Gardners had seen the machine operate. Other companies didn’t offer quite what they were looking for in a grinder, said Ty.
The grinder arrived in July and started running the day it arrived. A team from Barry Equipment delivered the machine and stayed several days to train employees on operating the grinder and performing routine maintenance.
The Peterson 5710D is a high-production grinder, noted Ty. In fact, the company only needs to operate it two days a week to stay caught up with grinding at the chip mills. “It works great,” said Ty. “Absolutely no issues with it. None. It does everything we asked.”
The Gardners were impressed that the grinder was “not really over-complicated,” said Ty.
“The discharge system is a little more simplistic,” he added, compared to the other grinders the company owned previously. Also, cutting bits can be readily changed out if they need to be replaced. The Gardners also recognized Peterson for its reputation for durability of its grinders.
A feature that made the Peterson machine attractive was the airbag system that prevents damage to the grinder from contaminants, like rock or stone. “We really liked that,” said Ty, because sometimes the feedstock material is contaminated.
Peterson Pacific Corp., a subsidiary of Astec Industries, Inc., is a premier manufacturer of grinders, chippers, flails, screens, stackers, and blower trucks. Virtually all manufacturing is done at its factory in Oregon, and Peterson maintains a worldwide system of dealers and representatives to ensure strong service and support.
The Peterson 5710D horizontal grinder is a self-propelled track machine designed for high-volume producers with very demanding end-product specifications. Powered by a Tier II or Tier IV Caterpillar C27 1,050 hp engine, it is designed for operations requiring high production and frequent moves between jobs. With a feed opening of 60×40 inches combined with a high lift feed roll, the 5710D can readily grind a wide range of material, including stumps. Peterson’s three-stage grinding process with an up-turning rotor and large grate area enables the 5710D to produce materials to exact specifications.
Peterson’s patented Impact Release System — a unique feature — provides uniform grinding and protection from contaminated feedstock. It enables the ejection of contaminants from the grinding chamber to reduce or eliminate damage. In addition, Peterson’s Impact Cushion System uses urethane cushions and shear pins to help further protect the mill from catastrophic damage in the event of a severe impact from contaminants in the feedstock.
The 5710D features an IQAN control panel with a large LCD display that provides the operator with information to efficiently operate the grinder. System pressure transducers and remote monitoring capability simplify set-up and provide complete engine and system parameters. The 5710D can be operated by wireless remote control from the comfort of a loader.
The optional tow dolly makes highway transportation between jobs easy. The quick-change multiple grate system makes it easy to customize grate configurations to produce a wide variety of finished materials. Grates are removed through an access door on the side wall.
Production when grinding green waste, which includes tree trimmings, is 501 yards of 138 tons per hour, according to Peterson. Production while grinding scrap boards, which includes pallets and damaged or undersize dimension lumber, is 591 yards or 90 tons per hour.
Barry Equipment is the Peterson dealer for New England and New York and has represented the manufacturer since about 2002. Owned and operated by the Barry family, it is located a little more than 15 miles south of Worcester, Mass. The dealership has service technicians with fully equipped, state-of-the-art service trucks stationed throughout New England to serve its customers. Service manager Randy Earle has been with the company for more than 22 years.
Barry Equipment represents top-line manufacturers in the industries of construction, recycling, forestry and biomass.
The dealership offers both new and used equipment and maintains a rental fleet of current model excavators and loaders.
Service technicians undergo comprehensive training and complete all OEM required certification. In addition to representing Peterson, Barry Equipment is a dealer for Log Max, Doosan, Rotobec, Fecon, Yanmar, ASV, and other manufacturers.
Mike Conway is a sales representative for Barry Equipment, and he covers Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine for the company. He has been working with the Gardner Companies for about seven or eight years.
“Barry Equipment is pretty much a family-owned business,” noted Mike. “We pride ourselves on customer service and giving back to our customers.” Mike, who travels in Maine a few days each week, is in regular contact with Tom as well as the company’s shop mechanics.
The Gardners had no reservations about buying a machine from a manufacturer located across the country. The company had done business with Barry Equipment previously, purchasing a chipper and two excavators. “Their service is top notch,” said Ty.
Barry Equipment has “just about everything we would need,” added Ty. The dealership has service technicians who travel in the region and usually can be on-site within a day.
When operating, grindings normally are discharged onto a concrete pad and loaded into trucks with a bucket loader. “We could live-load it,” said Ty, “but we don’t need to.”
The Gardner Companies has a mixed fleet of logging machines and heavy equipment from various major manufacturers that includes Tigercat, John Deere, Caterpillar, Link-Belt, TimberPro, and Komatsu. The company has over 200 machines, estimated Ty.
The business has one shop for maintaining and repairing trucks and trailers, and another shop for taking care of logging machines and heavy equipment. Each shop employs six mechanics, and the equipment shop has two service trucks to enable service on machines in the woods.
Most of the company’s logging operations are tree-length mechanical timber harvesting. However, the fleet of equipment includes two cut-to-length harvesters. “There is a niche for cut-to-length,” said Ty, “and we have the tools.”
Logging slash — limbs and tops — is accumulated on jobs, and a chipper is sent to the site later to process the material. Like the grindings, the chips are marketed for hog fuel.
Prices for hog fuel are about “average,” according to Ty. “We won’t complain about it.”
The trucking operations are part of W.T. Gardner, the original company started by his grandfather, and is equipped with about 40 tractor-trailers.
“Business is pretty good, I would say,” said Ty. “Better than five years ago,” when business for the mills was down and wood markets sank with them. “We got through it,” added Ty. “Things are better now.” Prices for chips and saw logs are “average,” he said. “Could be better.”
The company offers group health insurance and a 401(k) retirement plan, among other benefits. It also has a full-time safety director and on-going safety programs.
The affiliated businesses of Gardner Companies are members of several state and national trade organizations: the Maine Forest Products Council, the Forest Products Association, the Maine Better Transportation Corporation, Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, and the Forest Resources Association. Tom and Scott have served as resource professionals for the Maine Tree Foundation Teacher’s Tour.
The biggest obstacle the company faces in the future is labor, according to Ty. “I see the manpower shortage as going to be the greatest challenge going forward,” he said. “The industry is healthy as a whole other than the lack of manpower going into it.” The company had vacancies for truck drivers and mechanics at the time he was interviewed. In addition, it has a number of equipment operators who are getting close to retirement age and will need to be replaced.
“We just try to do a professional job,” said Ty. “We try to do the best we can and don’t really worry about the next guy down the road.”