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L&L’s Future Hitched to CTL: Ponsse a firm partner in change and the move to new state

L&L Inc. relies upon Ponsse machinery to move into cut-to-length logging. The two partner as L&L makes a major move from Montana to Oregon.

By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 2/6/2013


MEDFORD, Oregon – The motto of L&L Inc. could be ‘have logging, will travel.’ The family logging company, which for years did business in Montana, in recent years has been operating in Oregon and plans to permanently relocate.

                L&L consists of Louis Mann, his wife, Lori, and their two sons, Terry and Ted. Louis and Lori also have a couple of school-age daughters.

                The Manns operate a cut-to-length logging business built on Ponsse equipment. They took their business to Oregon to do a job for another timber harvesting company. However, it evolved into a solid business relationship, and it looks like the Manns will be staying.

                “It’s quite a process to move an entire business from one state to another state like that,” said Terry, 26. “So I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

                The Manns still have homes on a 20-acre tract back in Philipsburg in western Montana, but they are in the process of trying to sell them in a package deal so they relocate to Oregon. Since they packed up and went to Oregon, they have been living out of fifth wheel campers.

                Louis, 56, and Lori, 53, founded the company in 1986 – the original name was L&L Logging – and continue to own it. Lori does the bookwork for the company. She also home schooled their two sons and is continuing to home school their two daughters.

                Terry, 26, and Ted, 23, have worked full-time for their father since finishing their home school education. Terry attended a one-year program at Frontier School of the Bible in Wyoming first, where he met his wife.

                Louis began the company with a grapple skidder and a Cat D6 bulldozer, which they still have. L&L initially did tree-length logging. All felling, delimbing and bucking was done with chainsaws, and the logs were skidded to a road to be loaded onto trucks. The company had as many as 10 men working for it at one time. Eventually Louis moved into mechanized logging with the addition of feller-bunchers and stroke-boom delimbers to do the work of felling, delimbing and bucking.

                Before moving to cut-to-length logging, L&L did contract cutting for industrial forestry companies. When Louisiana-Pacific sold its sawmill, however, that finally prompted the decision to invest in Ponsse machines and work for private landowners, merchandising the wood for various mills.

                Louis made the decision to do cut-to-length logging in 2004, selling off his equipment for tree-length logging and investing in a pair of Ponsse machines, a harvester and a forwarder.

                “It was a very big change,” Terry acknowledged.

                Louis had attended a trade show in Sweden in 2001 with a Timberjack dealer. “He was always interested in cut-to-length, but that really set his mind” eventually to move in that direction, recalled Terry.

                “Cut-to-length allowed us to cater to smaller landowners more,” noted Terry, because the equipment is more environmentally friendly – reduces rutting and other land disturbing activities and reduces damage to residual trees. In addition, they can utilize more pulpwood – down to a 2-inch top.

                After making the transition to cut-to-length logging, Louis later expanded, adding another pair of Ponsse machines – another harvester and another forwarder. With the onset of the recession in 2007, however, and the added difficulty of finding and retaining good employees, he downsized back to only two machines.

                Terry runs the harvester, Louis operates the forwarder, and Ted operates a self-loading ‘mule train’ – a short log truck with a pup trailer behind it.

                The Manns were introduced to Ponsse by a friend at their church who had done some work in the past with Ponsse in Alabama and put the Manns in contact with the company. Ponsse provided the Manns with plane tickets to travel to Minnesota to see an equipment demonstration that was touring the Great Lakes region.

                “We were very impressed with the Ponsse machines,” recalled Terry. “They were amazing.” The Manns also had the opportunity to meet and talk with other loggers who had used Ponsse equipment for a good number of years, and they praised the manufacturer’s support. “We were sold,” said Terry. “We bought two machines there.”

                At the time Terry was interviewed for this article, the new Ponsse H7 harvester head was scheduled to be delivered within days. The new head will replace the existing attachment on the machine. “It has quite a few hours,” Terry said of the old harvester head, and is in need of repairs. The new head has one bar saw for both felling and bucking and is capable of handling a 30-inch diameter tree.

                The company’s Ponsse Ergo harvester, purchased new in 2008, is a six-wheel-drive machine with balanced bogie axles that enable it to access steep slopes. “The bogie axles in the rear push into the hill the higher you climb,” said Terry.

                The new Ponsse Buffalo forwarder, delivered last fall to replace one of the company’s original Ponsse machines, has balanced bogies on both ends and is equally good on sloping terrain, added Terry.

                Their Ponsse machines are equipped with the Mercedes-Benz 906 diesel engine, a 275-hp power plant. “They’re very, very fuel efficient,” said Terry.

                Besides the two Ponsse cut-to-length machines, the Manns also are equipped with a Prentice 410 loader and a couple of Cat D6 bulldozers for making roads and other work.

                The Manns are served by Ponsse facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin. “Parts availability has been wonderful,” said Terry. “I can have any part for our machine overnighted from Wisconsin as long as I call before 4 p.m. their time. The service…has been remarkable.”

                “It’s wonderful,” added Terry. “You can’t do that with the U.S. Postal Service, but UPS can do it.” They either have parts delivered to the RV park where they are staying or pick them up at a UPS depot. In nearly 10 years of relying on Ponsse, there have been less than five mistakes on parts orders, said Terry – either Ponsse sending the wrong part or some mistake on the part of UPS.

                The Manns do a lot of service work and minor repairs themselves. For a major issue, Ponsse will dispatch a technician with a service truck.

                In addition to the strong support they get from Ponsse in the Great Lakes region, Koller North America Inc., the exclusive U.S. and Canada dealer of Koller Forsttechnik equipment, is now a parts and service dealer for Ponsse serving the forest products industry in the Pacific Northwest. Koller, known for its tower yarders, carriages, and related equipment, is located in Philomath, Oregon.

                The Manns have considered other manufacturers of cut-to-length equipment in recent years and know loggers who use different machines. They’ve had little incentive to change, though.

                “We’ve had such great service with Ponsse,” said Terry, “and their machines have just been amazing production-wise, and they’re very operator-friendly.”

                Another factor in their decision to stay with Ponsse is that the company is still owned by the same family that started Ponsse. Larger companies do offer some advantages, Terry observed. However, a family-owned company is able to retain a personal touch with is customers, which is important to the Manns.

                As an example, Terry noted that he once suggested to Ponsse representatives that fluid dip sticks be placed at points for easy accessibility. When their new Ponsse Buffalo forwarder arrived, the dip sticks had been moved in accordance with his recommendation. “I probably wasn’t the only person who suggested that,” he noted, but it nonetheless demonstrated that Ponsse’s representatives are receptive to feedback from their customers and incorporating their ideas.

                Ponsse also is dedicated 100 percent to manufacturing cut-to-length equipment and not excavating machines and other machinery lines, observed Terry.

                Montana’s only remaining pulp mill, Smurfit-Stone Container, closed about three years ago. “We typically cut about 40 percent of our production in pulpwood,” explained Terry. “When that mill went down, that was the nail in the coffin for our business in Montana.”

                The business struggled. “It got to the point we were just going backwards,” said Terry.

                Ponsse representatives were aware of their struggles. And when a Ponsse customer in Oregon, Miller Timber Services, told the manufacturer’s personnel that they were looking for help to get caught up on some jobs, the equipment maker contacted the Manns and put the two companies in touch with one another.

                The Manns made a trip to Bend, Oregon to look at a job for Miler. “It went really well,” said Terry. “Miller was really happy with our work. They offered us another job…and we’ve been with them over since,” the past two years.

                “We’ve just been going wherever the job is and staying in RV parks,” said Terry. Each family has its own camper.

                “Our family motto is, ‘home is where you chock the wheel,’ ” quipped Terry.

                Given the condition of the timber industry in Montana, the Manns have decided to stay in Oregon and relocate.

                Since they have been living in Oregon, they have added to their family. Ted met and married his wife, Lisa. Terry and his wife had two children when they first moved to Oregon, and she was six months pregnant, so now the couple has three children.

                In Montana they worked mainly within 150 miles of home, which was located roughly between Butte and Missoula and about 80 miles from the Smurfit-Stone mill. The Manns worked mainly in Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, and lodgepole pine in Montana. “We did a lot of thinning on private property,” said Terry, largely in the region around Helena.

                In Oregon they are working in a lot of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, but the timber is much better, noted Terry – bigger and taller. “I’ve cut 40-year-old Doug Fir in Oregon that was nicer than 200-year-old timber in Montana,” he said.

                The terrain is similar – mountainous. In Montana their home was at about 5,000 feet, “and everything else was higher,” said Terry. They worked on slopes up to 50 percent. Elevations in Oregon can range from sea level to 7,500 feet; the job they currently are working on is at 6,000 feet.

                Miller Timber Services is a diverse company with ten Ponsse machines to run five cut-to-length logging sites and additional equipment to run as many as five yarder logging jobs. The company also provides tree planting services and conducts firefighting operations. The company contracts to industrial forestry companies as well as the U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management.

                The Manns are currently working on the same site as a Miller crew. “We’re able to work together,” said Terry. “It just seems to be a good fit for everybody.”

                The nomadic lifestyle of the last couple of years has been tough at times, Terry acknowledged. “Some people wonder how we can do it.” The answer, he suggested, is in the strength of their family ties. “We’re a close-knit family,” he said.

                “I think our next job is going to be in the Portland area,” said Terry which is on the other end of the state.

                They are not strangers to the lifestyle, he noted. While living and working in Montana, the men frequently had to work at some distance from home and would live in a camper during the week and return home on weekends.

                Terry is upbeat about the future. “I think it looks really good,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about the future,” although he has concerns about the near future because of the state of the economy. “I think being in cut-to-length…is going to help.”

                Federal agencies “are more and more interested” in cut-to-length logging systems, he noted. “They’re pleased with the environmental friendliness of it.” The machines exert low ground pressure, he noted. In addition, they place the slash on trails to further reduce the impact on the forest floor. The harvester and forwarder also can work in tight thinning.

                “All of those things combined make it an appealing logging system to the government agencies.” Industrial forestry companies also are taking in interest in cut-to-length logging methods, he noted.

                It may still be a “tough ride” for the next few years, said Terry. “But I think it’ll be good in the long run.”

 

Ponsse a Leader in Cut-to-length Logging Systems

                Ponsse was established in Finland in 1970 to meet the demands of forest machine entrepreneur Einari Vidgrén. Dissatisfied with the equipment made by other companies, he built his own forestry machines to withstand heavy-duty use.

                Ponsse now is a leading manufacturer of machines for cut-to-length timber harvesting. Its machines are used throughout the world, working in tropical heat to arctic cold, harvesting species as diverse as eucalyptus to old pine.

                Ponsse specializes in the production, sale, and maintenance of harvesters and forwarders designed for cut-to-length logging and their associated technology and information systems.

                The company manufactures a wide range of both harvesters and forwarders, varying in size, power and capability, depending on the demands of the logging application.

                The Ponsse Ergo harvester is powered by an efficient Mercedes-Benz engine and features a dual circuit hydraulic system for excellent performance. The cabin ergonomics, the service-friendly design, durability, and strong customer support ensure the Ponsse Ergo keeps working productively year after year.

                The patented active front axle suspension system keeps the cab upright on uneven terrain and, with its lowered center of gravity, eliminates operator discomfort caused by swaying.

                Although the Ponsse Ergo has the powerful features of a large machine, its agility, low base weight, and active suspension system, which evenly spreads its ground pressure, make it suitable for the most fragile terrain and thinning sites. It can be equipped with different cutting heads, cranes, tires, and other options to suit the most varied conditions.

                The versatile Ponsse H7 harvester head is well suited for subsequent thinning and regeneration felling. The roller assembly geometry offers large trunk load-bearing capacity. The smooth grip adjustment of the delimbing knives and feed rollers, as well as the locking connection of the non-slip grip feed motors, combine to make it a powerful harvester head.

                The grip pressure of delimbing knives and feed rollers is adjusted easily according to the size of the trunk, which guarantees minimal friction between the trunk and harvester head during feeding. The controlled feed acceleration and deceleration reduce feed damage and pressure peaks for greater efficiency. The proportional manual feed speed can be activated using the rocker control button on the handle, which makes it easier to handle trees even in extremely demanding conditions.

                The Ponsse Buffalo forwarder, which a carrying capacity of 14 tons, is based on years of development work based on user feedback.  The durable frames withstand heavy loads and are easy to maintain. The sturdy bogies and cylinder-powered frame lock provide reliability under demanding conditions while increasing comfort during driving and loading.

                The turbocharged six cylinder Mercedes-Benz engine is powerful and fuel efficient, and the hydraulic components are of the best available quality and installed in service-friendly locations.

                The Ponsse OptiControl system oversees the power production of the engine and hydraulics based on demand, so power and fuel efficiency are both optimized. GPS positioning, data transfer and reporting systems, and other PC applications of the OptiForwarder information system (optional equipment) provide efficient cut-to-length logging.

                Ponsse has 12 facilities in the U.S. in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

                For more information, call Ponsse North America at is offices in Rhinelander, Wisconsin at (715) 369-4833 or visit www.ponsse.com.




 






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