BINGHAMTON, New York — Bill Hopkins is 43, so he probably has a couple of decades left in the logging business. However, he already knows what company he will rely on for equipment going into the future: Scandinavian Forestry Equipment.
Bill replaced a cut-to-length harvester about 18 months ago and decided to invest in a new Eco Log 590E machine from Scandinavian Forestry Equipment. Not only has the machine favorably impressed him, he has been won over by the commitment and level of service and support from Scandinavian Forestry Equipment.
“I’ll never own a different machine again,” said Bill. “When it’s time to upgrade my forwarder, there’s no doubt.” He will purchase one from Scandinavian Forestry Equipment.
Bill has been in the logging business for 23 years, but only full-time for about the past 10 years. He had no background, experience, or family connections to logging. “I started everything all on my own,” he recalled.
Bill makes his home in Binghamton, New York, which is just a few miles north of the Pennsylvania state line, a little over 70 miles almost due south of Syracuse. He maintains an office in his home and built a company shop on his land a few years ago.
He grew up in the region. When he first graduated from high school he went to work at a concrete plant. After a stint there he joined an electrical union and worked for a company that trimmed trees to keep power lines clear. That spurred an interest in logging. He only worked four days a week for the company, so he bought an old John Deere bulldozer for skidding and began cutting timber with a chainsaw on his days off — three days a week. He worked seven days a week for about 15 years or more.
“I wanted eventually to have my own business,” he recalled, and it took a while before he was able to have enough logging work that he could afford to step away from the security of the union job and its benefits. Bill eventually hired a man to work with him. He continued felling by hand, and his employee ran the skidder.
Bill did not begin mechanical harvesting until about six years ago, when he invested in a Bell three-wheel cutter. “It was something to get my feet wet in mechanical harvesting,” he said. He and the other man would work together, felling and skidding the logs to a landing, and stop around 1 p.m. and work the rest of the day with chainsaws, cutting off the limbs and tops and bucking the logs.
Bill ran the Bell hot saw about a year before changing over to cut-to-length logging, investing in a used Komatsu harvester. The decision to go to cut-to-length logging equipment and methods was purely practical. “I’m not going to do anything (beside logging) the rest of my life,” said Bill. “I don’t want to be in the woods when I’m 55, carrying a chainsaw and dragging cables…It was either that or find a different career.”
Hopkins Forestry has five employees, including Bill. He operates the harvester, another man runs the forwarder, and a third man runs the bulldozer to make roads; the other two drive trucks. “We try to do 10 to 15 loads per week,” said Bill, who is cross-training the other operator to be able to run the harvester, too, which will free Bill to look at timber and scout new jobs. “All my guys are good,” said Bill. “They are all versatile. They can all get on any of the machines and run them, and we all can turn wrenches and weld or do what needs to be done.”
Beside the new Eco Log harvester, the company is equipped with a Ponsse Buffalo forwarder, a John Deere 700K bulldozer for making roads, a new Western Star log truck, a new International semi-tractor and two more log trailers.
The terrain in the region “is a little bit of everything,” said Bill. “It’s steep and rocky in some places. Other places it’s flat and wet…You get pretty much everything.” The region supports both hardwoods and softwoods. The dominant hardwood species are red oak, ash, and hard and soft maple; the dominant softwoods are spruce, red pine, and hemlock.
Since he bought the Komatsu harvester used, Bill planned to replace it with a new harvester after about two years. When the time came, he initially planned on trading it in on a new Komatsu, which is represented by a local dealer in the region. “I really wanted to stay with Komatsu,” said Bill, but he “couldn’t get a price out of them for nothing.” Another manufacturer represented by a local dealer had a new harvester in inventory and promised to bring it out to a job for a demonstration, “but they never brought it out.”
Another logger Bill talked to told him about Scandinavian Forestry Equipment and Eco Log. When he called Scandinavian Forestry Equipment, company owner Greg Porter told him he could deliver a new machine within a few days. At the time the machine was sitting in the Port of Baltimore, where they are imported from Sweden by Scandinavian Forestry Equipment. Porter’s company picked up the machine at the port, took it to its facility in Manchester, Penn., for final outfitting and servicing, and delivered it to Bill on time. “He’s done everything he said he would do,” said Bill.
Greg delivered the harvester and stayed onsite with Bill for two days to train him how to operate it and perform routine service, then he left the machine with Bill to let him try it for about a week while Greg went to check on another customer in a different state. “He said if I have problems, call him,” said Bill.” When Greg returned, Bill had pretty much decided to buy the harvester, and they finalized the deal soon after.
The local dealers finally followed through. After Bill had been running his new Eco Log harvester for about a month, they contacted him to arrange demos.
Bill had some hesitation buying a machine from Scandinavian Forestry Equipment because the company’s parts facility is in Wausau, Wisconsin. Other loggers were skeptical, too. “We were all a little skeptical,” he recalled, about getting timely parts and service. “I wasn’t sure.”
He gets better service than from three manufacturers with local dealerships within about an hour’s drive, said Bill. “I get better service from a company 16 hours away than from the local dealers.” With parts delivered overnight, he has been running again days ahead of other loggers who are only an hour from their dealership, according to Bill.
The commitment of Greg and his company to him have made a long-lasting impression on Bill and won him over. That’s why he already has decided he will turn to Scandinavian Forestry Equipment in the future when it is time to replace his forwarder.
Bill also has been won over by the Eco Log 590E harvester, too. “I love it,” he said. “I love everything about it.” The six-wheel harvester can handily cut 28-inch hardwood trees and even trees as big as 26 inches on a slope. “It’s really good on fuel,” he added.
Some harvesters have self-leveling cabs, noted Bill. However, the rest of the machine may not be level. When working on a slope, depending on the degree of incline, there is a certain risk associated with tipping over. However, the Eco Log harvester has a system to individually move each wheel to level it, which enables the operator to change the center of gravity and position the machine so it is stable.
Bill also praised the Log Max 7000 harvester head. “It’s just an animal,” he said. I”m handling 20-inch hardwoods all day with it, and thing just works…I’ve been running it for 18 months. In hardwood almost every day. To this day, I have never broken anything on it. And it’s hard to process hardwood all day, every day.”
Eco Log is a Swedish manufacturer. There are five harvesters in the latest 500F series, including four wheel models and six wheel models. Although all are powered by the Volvo Penta 6 cylinder D8-7.7l engine, they range from 218 hp to 320 hp. The Volvo Penta power plant is known for its high performance, reliability, fuel economy, and low emissions. The harvesters come standard with Log Max cut-to-length harvester attachments.
The unique pendulum arm chassis suspension can tilt sideways 25 degrees and forward or backward 17 degrees. Ground clearance can be adjusted to just over 4 inches to almost 4 feet. With its ability to pass over high obstacles and cross steep slopes, mobility is maximized, enabling high productivity and efficiency. A balanced bogie is an option for even more demanding terrain.
Features include a cabin that rotates 350 degrees, powerful crane, and optimized cooling system. All components are easily accessible under the two large hoods at the rear of the machine, and most components are easy to disassemble and-or tilt.
Eco Log also offers two eight-wheel harvesters, the 688F and the 1058H5.
The mission of Scandinavian Forestry Equipment is to exceed customer expectations and forge profitable, long-term relationships by supplying efficient, reliable, world-class forestry equipment solutions. The staff has over 80 years of combined experience in the forest products industry. In addition to its two locations, the company has a growing network of dealers.
(For more information about EcoLog harvesters or Scandinavian Forestry Equipment, visit www.scandforestry.com, call the company’s headquarters in Manchester, Pennsylvania at (717) 793-3102, or email email@example.com.)
If the staff of Scandinavian Forestry Equipment needs assistance, they can confer directly with Eco Log representatives at the company’s headquarters in Sweden.
Bill had an issue once with the harvester, and SFE could not successfully troubleshoot the issue by phone. A service technician was onsite the next day from the company’s facility in Wisconsin. “They’re phenomenal,” said Bill.
A service technician who makes monthly visits to customers for preventive maintenance always calls Bill — even if he will be a few states away — and asks if he needs any supplies. Even if he is not planning on making stops in New York, he will bring supplies to Bill and stop for a few hours to check out the harvester.
“I’ve owned a lot of different skidders, dozers, excavators,” said Bill. “I’ve never had any company give me service like these guys.” Other dealers “promise you everything, but none of them lived up to their word like these guys do.”
Bill’s company contracts to harvest timber for Wagner Lumber, which operates three hardwood sawmills within about an hour’s drive. The main mill he supplies is only 20-25 minutes from his home. Hopkins Forestry has been cutting for Wagner for 7-8 years. Wagner pays per 1,000 board feet, with the price varying from job to job.
Bill also buys standing timber on occasion, although not very often. He negotiates with timber owners to buy wood ‘on shares.’ He negotiates a split of the revenues for the wood 40-50 percent for Hopkins Forestry and 60-50 percent for the timber owner, depending on the job and details of the contract.
He bids on a lot of timber, but he finds it hard to compete with mills that can afford to pay more. “You can’t compete with them,” he said. “They put more money on the stump than you can sell it for…I can’t outbid the mills.”
Hardwood saw logs are supplied to Wagner, and the softwood saw logs go to another company. Small diameter softwood logs, down to 6 inches, are supplied to a company that processes them into components to make doors and windows. Softwood pulpwood is supplied to the Finch Paper mill in Glens Falls. “I wish I could do more,” said Bill, but the haul to the mill is three hours one-way. “It’s hard to do pulp in this area,” he added, because the nearest mills are so far away, which increases trucking costs. Low-grade hardwood logs are sold for firewood to individual homeowners and two firewood businesses.
When harvesting a site for Wager, Bill gets to keep all the softwood and firewood logs for free as part of the contract he negotiated. If there is a large volume of firewood, he’ll exchange some services for the extra wood.
When he was interviewed by TimberLine, Bill was working on a job he took over for a friend who was cutting the timber by hand. It was about 70-80 acres, steep terrain and a lot of low-grade hardwood. “I’m trying to clean it up for him so he can get it done.”
Bill takes slash from softwood trees and places it in front of the harvester to make a mat to drive on. “It’s hard to do with hardwood because it’s gnarly and twisty,” he said.
The cut-to-length machines do a better job than tree-length equipment, Bill noted. They leave the job site cleaner and the ground better preserved than skidders that are dragging trees through the forest. Loggers working with skidders don’t bother to remove small trees, either. “There’s a lot less residual damage…You can really do a good job with them.”
Foresters that he works for prefer using Bill rather than tree-length loggers and are starting to put out some jobs only for loggers with cut-to-length machines.
Bill offers his employees a 401(k) savings plan, and the business contributes to it. He is very flexible with his workers. “They can set their own hours as long as they get their work done.”
Bill used to race dirt bike motorcycles when he was young but gave it up when he married and started the business. He still works six or seven days per week. If he’s not in the woods, he’s at the shop working on equipment or trucks. “It’s just a way of life if you’re a logger,” he said. “I’m the business owner, so I have to keep things going on the weekend. If a truck needs to be fixed, I have to have it ready for Monday.”
Bill invested in a Wood-Mizer LT50 portable sawmill a year ago to begin making lumber, and this year he added a lumber dry kiln equipped with Nyle Systems technology. He has a shop that also contains a WoodMaster four-in-one moulder-planer. One man works in the shop, making lumber, tongue and groove flooring, siding, and moulding. “I’m trying to branch out,” explained Bill.
The mill has business booked 6-7 weeks out. “The price of lumber is sky-high right now,” noted Bill. “No one wants to go to Lowe’s and buy a 2×4 for $7 when they can buy it from me for $3.”
Bill gets a lot of support and help from family members. His wife, Ashley, works full-time, which helps pay the bills for their home. His father-in-law, Jim, who is retired, fetches parts for him. And his mother-in-law, Carey, helps in the lumber business.
“I couldn’t make it if it wasn’t for my wife and her family,” said Bill.