OSHKOSH, Wisconsin – In east central Wisconsin, Scott Koerner appreciates the fact that the region supports healthy markets for a full range of wood products.
His family’s company, Koerner Forest Products, buys standing timber, harvests it with cut-to-length logging machines, and markets the wood to mills throughout the region.
“We’re very fortunate to have paper mills, sawmills, and pallet mills,” said Scott. “We also sell a fair amount of firewood.” The company also supplies logs to a manufacturer of log cabins.
A key partner in the company’s operations is Scandinavian Forestry Equipment, distributor of Eco Log cut-to-length logging machines in the U.S. The company’s mixed fleet of equipment includes five Eco Log Machines.
Scott’s father, John, began logging in 1968 through his tree farm business, John Koerner and Sons Tree Farms. He spun off a trucking business in 1995. The family formed Koerner Forest Products as its logging enterprise in 2007. The family still has 3,600 acres devoted to tree farming.
John, 76, still works every day and drives a log truck. His wife, Diane, handles the administrative side of the businesses. Scott oversees logging operations, and his younger brother, Jeff, is in charge of maintenance for the trucking unit.
The Koerrners live in Oshkosh. They have a shop just to the west to service their equipment. Oshkosh is located on the west coast of Lake Winnebago and is almost midway between Green Bay to the north and Milwaukee to the south.
Today Koerner Forest Products has about 10 employees and also contracts with about five other loggers who harvest timber for the Koerners. The trucking business operates eight trucks and has nine employees. Scott, 53, has an office at the shop and in his parents’ home.
The Koerner Forest Products employees comprise three crews. Their goal is to produce 80-100 loads of wood per week. Employee crews normally work on different jobs.
The Koerners have always done cut-to-length logging. Their contract crews also do cut-to-length logging.
“We never did tree-length logging,” recalled Scott. “We basically hand cut with a forwarder until the early 1980s,” then switched to mechanized cut-to-length logging.
Koerner Forest Products buys standing timber from private landowners and bids on state and county timber sales, working on tracts up to about 150 miles from Oshkosh. The terrain can vary from flat and wet to “somewhat hilly,” said Scott.
“We cut a lot of red pine and white pine,” said Scott. “Red oak and white oak.” Other species include maple, cherry, ash, poplar, and spruce.
Pulpwood is supplied to mills for Domtar and Ahlstrom-Munksjö, a Swedish company. Spruce and pulp go to Nine Dragons Paper. Low-grade hardwood logs go to pallet stock mills, pine bolts are supplied to Biewer Lumber and PotlatchDeltic, and hardwood saw logs go to several sawmills in the region
“The only thing consistent about markets and pricing is the constant change,” said Scott.
Koerner Forest Products is equipped with a mixed fleet of cut-to-length logging machines: two Eco Log 590F harvesters and an Eco Log 688F harvester, Ponsse Cobra, Ergo and Scorpion harvesters, Eco Log 574 and 594 forwarders, three John Deere 1110 forwarders, a Komatsu 855 forwarder, and a Rottne F15 forwarder.
The most recent additions were the Eco Log 590F harvester and Eco Log 688F forwarder, purchased from Scandinavian Forestry Equipment, which has a dealership in Wausau, about 100 miles northwest.
“The machines have performed well,” said Scott. One notable change: Eco Log switched from Mercedes-Benz engines to Volvo Penta engines. “Other than that, the overall design hasn’t changed a lot,” noted Scott, although Eco Log also has upgraded the computer systems for the machines.
“They’ve got a lot of power,” said Scott, “and fuel economy certainly is better than a track harvester with equivalent power,” he added.
The Eco Log 590F harvester is a six-wheel machine while the 688F harvester has eight wheels. Both machines have leveling capability, but different technologies. The 590F is equipped with a pendulum arm system to level the machine while the 688F has a standard bogie system to level the cab.
In wet conditions or hilly terrain the company equips its machines with bogie tracks. “If we don’t need them, we don’t run tracks,” said Scott.
The Eco Log 590F is the largest model in the 500 series of F-harvesters and is powered by a Volvo Penta 320 hp engine. It features a cab that can swivel 350 degrees and tilt laterally 25 degrees. The harvester comes standard with a Log Max 6000 or 7000 harvester attachment.
The Eco Log 688F is specially designed to work in steep terrain. At the same time, it minimizes ground pressure when working on sensitive ground. It is powered by a Volvo Penta 286 hp engine. Like the 590F, the cab rotates 350 degrees for excellent visibility. It comes standard with one of several Log Max harvester attachments.
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. It is headquartered in Pennsylvania with another office and parts facility in Wisconsin. It has dealers in the West, Great Lakes Region, and Northeast. The company also represents other forestry equipment manufacturers, including Log Max, Quadco, Southstar, Eltec, Waratah, Hultdins, Cranab, and Fecon.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
When Scott was interviewed for this article, the new Eco Log machines were working in an ash swamp – in frozen conditions – salvaging dead ash. The tract was about 100 acres.
The company buys relatively small tracts of timber, in the neighborhood of 20 acres, although it once bought the timber on a 10,000-acre tract. Scott prefers to gauge tracts by the volume of wood; figuring to harvest roughly 20 cords of wood per acre on average, most jobs are in the range of 300-400 cords.
One nice thing about Eco Log machines, and most of the new European style harvesters, is they’re easy to move because they’re on rubber tires,” noted Scott. “It’s not as much work moving them from job to job as a track machine.” The wheeled harvesters have better mobility and can move faster in the woods and along logging roads. “They also have better ergonomics and are more comfortable for the operator,” he added.
Scott purchased the company’s first Eco Log machine in 2016 from a dealer that was subsequently acquired by Scandinavian Forestry Equipment and since then has added the other machines through Scandinavian Forestry Equipment.
The newest Eco Log machines were just added to the company a few months ago. There were “many reasons” in his decision to add the latest two Eco Log machines, said Scott. “The proximity of the dealership. Parts availability and service was very good. And the overall machine design fits our needs.”
“We do the maintenance, but if there’s something we can’t handle we call the dealership…They’ve been very good to work with as far as troubleshooting issues.”
When his father started logging, he felled trees – mainly pine – by hand with a chainsaw. All the work of topping the log, removing the limbs and cutting the wood to length was done by hand. The logs were placed in a homemade cart with a knuckleboom loader and towed out of the woods with a bulldozer.
Although Scott and Jeff grew up in their father’s logging work and helped stack pulpwood as teenagers, they didn’t immediately join the family business. Jeff joined in 1993. Scott earned an engineering degree from Fox Valley Technical College and then worked as a cost estimator for a mechanical contractor for 13 years. When Scott joined the family business in 1998, he and Jeff comprised one crew and the company employed another small mechanized crew. Over the years, the Koerner family has continued to grow the business.
All company employees are trained according to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative logging practices, and they also are certified under the Wisconsin Master Logger Program, which is overseen by the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association.
“We always run my business on merchandising, marketing as many products as I can get out of a tree,” said Scott. “We sort multiple products out of trees, trying to maximize the value out of each tree. It’s a business practice we’ve always stuck to pretty carefully. I feel some of our success comes from that.”
Scott serves on the board of directors of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association and the Timber Professionals Co-Op, a cooperative that loggers have formed in order to purchase a mill that will enable them to have greater control over their markets. He also serves on several Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources committees related to forest health.
Of course, Scott has operated machines in the past, but he seldom does now.
Although there will be challenging times in the logging industry, Koerner Forest Products feels there are also many opportunities for success.