HANCOCK, Michigan – Rob Lamanen, the owner of DBM Forest Products, decided to switch to cut-to-length (CTL) logging operations seven years ago. Choosing the equipment was easy.
Easy because Rob had already settled on the manufacturer of the machines he wanted. It would be Ponsse.
Why Ponsse? “I always took a liking to them, seeing them in magazines,” said Rob, 53, a Michigan native. He didn’t do a lot of comparing different brands because everything he read about Ponsse confirmed that the company produced the exact equipment he sought.
The Ponsse machines on Rob’s roster have met his expectations in every way. “They’re awesome machines, real operator friendly,” he said.
Rob operates a Ponsse Buffalo King forwarder, which works in tandem with two harvesters, a Ponsse Scorpion King and a Ponsse Ergo. All three are eight-wheel machines.
Rubber tire machines were Rob’s choice for two reasons. One, better maneuverability over rocky terrain. Two, in his case the equipment can often be driven from site to site, alleviating the need for transporting them with a lowboy trailer.
“Where we work there’s a lot of rocks,” said Rob. DBM Forest Products works out of Hancock, Michigan, which is located on the east side of the Keweenaw Waterway on a small peninsula that juts into Lake Superior on the state’s Upper Peninsula. Hancock is a town of 4,500 residents and the site of a former copper mine.
Ponsse’s North American operations are headquartered in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, about 125 miles south of Hancock. Pekka Ruuskanen heads the North American unit of the Finland-based manufacturer, which is a family-owned company.
Rob decided to convert to cut-to-length logging after many years of tree-length logging. He bought the company from his uncle in 1996 and gave it a name that uses the first initial of each of his three children.
Rob’s son, Dustin, operates the Ponsse Scorpion King harvester. Like his father, Dustin is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys fishing.
No stranger to chainsaws, Rob noted it’s still sometimes necessary to pick up a saw to do a bit of trimming. As for his preference in saws, “Stihl for sure,” he said.
Four people make up the core team at Rob’s company, three employees and himself. Two contracted truck drivers also work closely with the group.
Besides the Ponsse machines, Rob has a John Deere bulldozer and a John Deere excavator as well as one Kenworth log truck. The company’s equipment is housed on the site of the 16-acre hobby farm that Rob owns.
Rob also produces and sells firewood. He relies on a Brute Force firewood processor to process firewood logs into cut, split firewood. He buys hardwood firewood logs from Sage Timber, a company that contracts DBM for timber harvesting.
Rob’s company usually works in mixed hardwoods, including tough oaks. The region also supports spruce and balsam. When deciding to transition to cut-to-length equipment, Rob wanted the best harvester attachment he could get for felling and processing the tough hardwoods at the stump. He said the Ponsse H7 was “pretty much top of the line” when he bought his first machine. Ponsse has upgraded the H7 head since then, and it is even “bigger and better,” added Rob.
The first machine Rob purchased from Ponsse was the Ergo harvester with an H7 head. That was in 2016. He added the Scorpion King, in 2018, also paired with an H7 head. He bought the Buffalo King forwarder in 2019. All three Ponsse machines are equipped with ECO-Tracks in winter to improve traction and maneuverability in the snow.
Rob’s son, Dustin, runs the Scorpion King. Chris Bigger, who does watercross racing in his free time, operates the Ergo. Charles Mattfolk drives the company’s log truck.
Rob has been working recently with Ponsse sales representative John Holmes. It’s not uncommon for Ponsse representatives to stop by, and Rob welcomes the interest the company has in its customers. The informal exchanges between Ponsse staff and customers give Ponsse ideas about ways to innovate. Some of the most recent changes in harvesters and forwarders may have sprung from a seed planted during a conversation with a customer.
For example, Ponsse has made improvements over the years to its Scorpion King harvester, which features a crane mounted behind the cab for greater visibility for the operator. The interior is designed to be simultaneously spacious and practical. Ease of access is coupled with excellent visibility and ergonomic balance. And the seat rotates, making it easy to look around without bending or turning or moving the cab.
Chris Bigger operates a Ponsse Ergo harvester for DBM Forest Products. Chris also competes in watercross, racing on water with snowmobiles, and Ponsse sponsors his participation; picture shows him in the International Watercross Association world championships in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, recently. Watercross photo courtesy of Finish Line Photography.
The Ergo harvester is Ponsse’s best-selling machine around the world. The Ergo can be found at work in cold climates as well as the heat of tropical countries in South America.
The Ponsse Buffalo King harvester offers options that simplify customization. It has a load-carrying capacity of up to 18 tons and a telescoping boom as well Ponsse’s Active Crane system. The Active Crane boom control system essentially allows the operator to move the grapple as though it is an extension of the hand.
The Ponsse H7 harvester attachment is known for its power and compactness. With its powerful feed and modest weight, it is adept in both hardwood and softwood. The H7 is Ponsse’s most efficient multi-stemming head, as the geometry of the rollers and delimbing knives are well suited for collecting and cutting larger diameter trees; the design allows processing stems down to the desired log length.
(For more information about Ponsse machines, visit www.ponsse.com.)
Rob mainly contracts to harvest timber for Sage Timber. Most of the jobs are within a 50-mile radius of Hancock. Average production is hard to quantify because of the differences in the terrain of each job and the stands. “It’s up and down,” said Rob.
DBM works 10 months of the year. The work comes to a halt in April and May because log trucks are limited to 65 percent of capacity because of road conditions, and the smaller truckloads make operating less profitable.
“I like working,” said Rob, who belongs to the Michigan Association of Timbermen and buys workers’ compensation insurance through the association. “You’ve got to work hard.” He enjoys “the freedom” that comes with owning a business, although he acknowledged that it comes with a lot of responsibility.
He praised his employees as well as the truckers who haul his company’s wood. “I’d like to say thanks to the crew and the contractor truckers, too,” he said. The crew normally works on one job at a time. “We all have lunch together,” said Rob.
Chris recently participated in the International Watercross Association world championships in Grantsburg, Wisconsin. Ponsse sponsors his participation in watercross, which is racing on water with snowmobiles.
Rob said his confidence in Ponsse and its machines is borne out every day. “Ponsse’s a good outfit to be hooked up with,” he said. “That’s for sure. They’ve got parts in stock. The whole company’s good.”
Rob especially appreciates Ponsse’s commitment to maintaining an ongoing relationship with customers and providing strong service and support. “They don’t sell and then forget about you,” he said.
Rob has some chickens on his farm and grows vegetables and fruit – strawberries, raspberries, cherries, apples. When he talked with TimberLine in late June, strawberries were just ripening.
He has another hobby, a Wood-Mizer LT40 portable sawmill. He cuts lumber for personal projects. The Wood-Mizer LT40 features hydraulics and SimpleSet setworks.
Rob is also an outdoorsman. “Hunting and fishing for sure,” he said, are two favorite pastimes. He hunts deer and bear and bow hunts.