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They''re Big, and They''re Pink: Michigan Loggers Partner with Ponsse to Benefit American Cancer Society
Michigan logging company partners with Ponsse to raise awareness and funds for American Cancer Society with the aid of its pink-painted logging equipment and truck.
By Tim Cox
Date Posted: 11/1/2014
IRON RIVER, Michigan – Although pink ribbons are associated with breast cancer research and awareness, a Michigan logging company has borrowed the color to adorn some of its equipment and help promote the broader efforts of the American Cancer Society.
Did you get that? Pink logging machines. Pink. Shamco Inc. also runs a pink logging truck. Pink.
Shamco is a family enterprise owned and operated by Jerry Shamion and four sons, a family that has been touched by cancer.
Cancer has made a "big impact on our family," said Scott Shamion, who discussed the company and its efforts to raise awareness and money for cancer research.
"We've been affected by cancer and changed by cancer," he said.
Shamco performs cut-to-length logging operations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin. It relies heavily on Ponsse as a partner and runs all Ponsse c-t-l logging machines, harvesters and forwarders. Ponsse also has been a partner in Shamco's efforts to help the American Cancer Society.
Shamco is based in Iron River, in the western portion of Michigan's Upper Peninsula near the Wisconsin border and about 60 miles northeast of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. The company's 21 full-time employees produce about 1,000 to 1,250 cords of wood per week, or about 2,400 to 3,000 tons. Those figures would make it one of the top wood producers in Upper Michigan, according to Scott.
The Shamions are third generation loggers. Jerry, 72, had a logging business with two of his brothers – Shamion Brothers Logging – and his sons grew up working for them.
Beside Scott, 48, the other brothers are Todd 49, Eric, 41, and Ryan, 27. All are college educated. Scott earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan Technological University in metallurgical engineering and a master's in business administration from Bowling Green State University. Todd earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Northern Michigan University, Eric earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Northern Michigan University, and Ryan earned a bachelor's degree in forestry from Michigan State University.
Their parents felt a college education was important even if their sons went into logging. Jerry "knew how competitive business was...and felt our education would not only make our operations stronger but ultimately contribute to the industry as a whole," said Scott.
Scott lives northwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, about a four-hour drive south, and usually spends most of the week in the Iron River vicinity. His brothers live either in Iron River or Crystal Falls, about 15 miles east.
Jerry started Shamco Inc. with Todd and Eric in 1997; they launched the business with two machines, a Ponsse harvester and Ponsse forwarder, and a truck. Scott joined in 1999 after an 11-year stint working as an engineer for General Motors, and Ryan joined when he graduated from MSU in 2009.
The company has been doing business with Ponsse since its launch in 1997. "Ponsse has been a good company to work with," said Scott, and the Shamions have continued to look to the manufacturer for new c-t-l logging equipment.
"The reliability and up time of the Ponsse equipment has been outstanding," said Scott.
Shamco currently is equipped with all Ponsse c-t-l logging machines: five harvesters (four Ergo models and one Bear model) and four forwarders (three Buffalo units and one BuffaloDual). The BuffaloDual does double duty: it can be converted in minutes from forwarder to harvester. Shamco has a fleet of 8 trucks; 4 Michigan log trucks (11 axles), 2 Wisconsin log trucks (6 axles) and 2 tractor trailers as well as road construction machines: three bulldozers, two excavators, a front-end loader, a grader, and two dump trucks.
"The big difference is how Ponsse conducts business after the sale," said Scott. Its commitment to parts and service is "second to none," he added.
"I could tell you 100 stories," said Scott, about what lengths Ponsse went to in order to make sure that Shamion had a part it needed. In one instance, Ponsse promptly removed the needed part from a new machine on its yard. The Shamco machine was back in the woods and operating by the next afternoon. The kind of effort the equipment manufacturer makes to its customers "is unique to Ponsse," said Scott.
"It all gets down to keeping that equipment running," said Scott.
Shamco operates four logging crews and subcontracts one crew. It typically is running four or five jobs at the same time.
Shamco buys land as well as stumpage and contracts to mills for timber harvesting. About 70 percent of revenue is from sales of wood from its land or stumpage; the other 30 percent is contract logging for mills, a part of the business that is growing.
The crews generally work within an 80-mile radius of Iron River, a region that includes the western Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin and two national forests, the vast Ottawa National Forest and the Nicolet National Forest. The terrain varies from swamps to hills. The company cuts hardwoods, notably aspen, and softwoods such as pine, spruce, and balsam. About 30 percent of its production is aspen, 50 percent other hardwoods, and 20 percent softwoods.
The company's pulpwood customers include LP Sagola, Sappi, New Page, and Verso, while sawmill customers include Potlatch, Park Falls Hardwoods, Florence Hardwoods, Columbia Forest Products, and Besse Forest Products Group.
Ponsse has several facilities in the Michigan-Wisconsin region. The two closest ones to Shamco are the Ponsse service, parts and sales facility in Rhinelander, Wisconsin – the site of Ponsse's U.S. headquarters – and another service center in Gladstone, Mich.
Scott considers the Ponsse staff "business partners and good friends."
Ponsse technicians provide extensive diagnostic and troubleshooting service via phone. "They're really good at that," said Scott.
The Shamions have endured battles with cancer. Scott's mother-in-law, Joyce Smith, succumbed to lung cancer in January of this year. Todd's wife, Kim, died from a rare type of cancer, NK or T-cell lymphoma, eight years ago. The company's philanthropic theme of "Logging Strong" is dedicated to them.
Shamco purchased a new Kenworth logging truck earlier this year and had it painted pink at the factory to help raise public awareness of cancer and the efforts to battle it. When it came time to order a couple of new cut-to-length logging machines from Ponsse, the Shamions broached the subject with Ponsse personnel about having the new equipment painted pink. "They were real enthusiastic about it," recalled Scott.
The idea behind "Logging Strong" was to dedicate the company's biggest and most visible assets to the cancer campaign - the Ponsse harvester, Ponsse forwarder, and Kenworth logging truck.
"We felt the color pink is the most well-known color associated with cancer and the least likely color that you would see on big commercial equipment," explained Scott. "We believed the sheer size of the equipment coupled with the color would be a conversation starter for certain and create the exponential reach and awareness to help support the cause."
Ponsse's staff in Rhinelander took care of the color transformation of the new Ergo harvester and Buffalo forwarder. Some of it was accomplished by painting and some by applying vinyl wrap to body panels.
The pink truck was displayed at Bessemer in August at a Relay for Life event, an annual fundraising campaign of the American Cancer Society and its local affiliates. The two pink Ponsse machines were exhibited at the Great Lakes Logging & Heavy Equipment Expo in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in early September.
Scott called the American Cancer Society's toll-free number (800-227-2345), reported how his family had been impacted by cancer, and offered the company's pink logging truck to help raise awareness and funds. He was put in contact with Stephanie Swartzendruber, an American Cancer Society specialist for Relay for Life. Stephanie is based in Hancock, Michigan and covers the western Upper Peninsula.
"I'll be honest," recalled Stephanie, "I didn't really understand what he was trying to do or what kind of truck he had." She was unfamiliar with the logging industry. Stephanie met with Scott and his brothers and told them about Relay for Life and how they could dovetail their efforts with the campaign. "They got real excited about it," she said. At the Relay for Life event, Scott told Stephanie about their plans to have the new Ponsse machines painted pink for the cause.
Shamco solicits donations from other business to benefit the American Cancer Society. In exchange, the businesses will have a place on the pink truck or pink Ponsse machines to exhibit its name or logo - much like the advertising spots on a NASCAR race car. Ponsse was the first business to become a sponsor, with a generous contribution, and Shamco has made the same commitment. The Shamions have collected about $30,000 so far this year, according to Scott.
"I am just continuously amazed and humbled by the money they are raising and the awareness they are raising in the logging industry," said Stephanie.
(For more information about the American Cancer Society or Relay for Life, call the 800 number or visit www.cancer.org or www.relayforlife.org.)
Shamco will continue to exhibit the pink truck and pink Ponsse machines at other events and plans to sponsor the first Relay for Life event in Iron River in July 2015.
The two new pink machines are a Ponsse Ergo harvester, an eight wheel machine equipped with a Ponsse H7 harvester attachment, and a Ponsse eight-wheel Buffalo forwarder. The new machines were introduced into the woods in early September following their exhibition at the logging congress and expo.
Finland-based Ponsse has been manufacturing cut-to-length forestry equipment since 1970. The company's machines conduct timber harvesting throughout the world, from the arctic to the tropics. The company offers seven harvester models and nine forwarder models for various applications and capacities.
The new Ponsse Ergo 8w (eight wheel) model features frames, cabin, working hydraulics, and transmission that were upgraded for 2015, and the harvester also features an enhanced boom for greater performance and reliability. Double-circuit hydraulics and a faster transmission increase productivity. The upgraded transmission provides better control, particularly in rough terrain and on steep slopes. Models sold for North America are powered by a Mercedes-Benz six cylinder 275 hp diesel engine.
New engine technology and improved hydraulics offer longer service intervals, increasing effective operating hours and reducing operating costs. The service interval of the 2015 series of Ponsse machines has increased from 1,200 hours to 1,800 hours.
Ponsse's service network includes facilities in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. They also have 3 full line dealers in Canada and 1 full line dealer in the Eastern part of the USA. In addition, Ponsse has 3 service dealers: Al’s Mechanic Service Inc. in Glidden, WI, Berg’s Service and Repair in Tigerton, WI and Arnie’s Repair in Hayward, WI. Ponsse is looking to expand their service dealer network as the company is growing.
(For more information about Ponsse machines, contact Ponsse in Rhinelander, Wis. at (715) 369-4833 or visit the company's website at www.ponsse.com.)
One change that Shamco has made in recent years is to purchase a service agreement when it invests in a new Ponsse machine, which it has done when buying the last four or five harvesters. Under the agreement, Ponsse mechanics come to the Shamco shop to provide regular maintenance service on the machines. Shamco has experienced "definite improvements" in machine performance and up time as a result of the service agreements, said Scott.
Shamco makes good use of evolving technology. For example, it has automated office functions and introduced fleet tracking software for its trucks. It installed GPS software and operating parameter monitoring software on the newest Ponsse harvester. GPS is used extensively in logging operations in Europe, observed Scott. Shamco will use it initially mainly to provide maps to employees to help lay out skid trails and landings and to identify corners of tracts. Company employees also use smart phones to communicate and to send information – maps, timber harvesting changes, and more. New cutting specs can be downloaded from a smart phone to the computer on a harvester. In fact, smart phones are so important to the company's operations that the company pays for them for foremen.
The company has implemented a few changes to help weather the weak economy in recent years. For example, it has increased the percentage of contract logging it performs for mills, particularly for Sappi and LP Sagola, which shifts some of the price risk for stumpage and delivered wood to the mills. The company also has increased the volume of road construction work it does on timber sales contracted with mills; contracting for road construction provides another stream of income and helps the company offset the cost of road building machines – machines it needs to make roads on Shamco timber sales, too.
The recession forced the Shamions to improve efficiency. For example, they invested in bulk fueling, which has been a "huge benefit," saving the company time and money. The strategies worked, and it was able to avoid laying off any employees.
"We were more fortunate than most," said Scott, after the onset of the recession in 2008-09. The company had bought up quite a lot of stumpage when the recession hit. "When we could sell pine, we sold pine. When we could sell aspen, we sold aspen," recalled Scott. The company had to "move around like crazy" between jobs for a while, he said.
The company's employees get a lot of credit for Shamco's success. "We believe we have the most talented, dedicated team in the business," said Scott. Employees receive training in sustainable forestry practices, and they are cross-trained so they can operate either a harvester or forwarder. "And we include them in all facets of the business so they can contribute to improving productivity and efficiency." Employees also share in the company's success through bonuses that are paid up to twice a year.
Senior equipment operators accompany managers to prospective job sites in order to get their insight and input about how much wood production can be expected and help prepare the company's bid.
"We really believe having these guys understand how their job affects the next person's job," said Scott. "When you're running a harvester, you have to be thinking of that forwarder coming behind you," and so on.
Shamco's employees are what differentiates the company from others, according to Scott. "Our team members are really the strength of our operation." He praised the employees for their skills, performance, work ethic, commitment, and dedication.
"They understand...how business works," said Scott, and what is required to make a business successful."
Managers consider it a failure if employees cannot work because a machine is down or a job has not been adequately planned to provide for regular work and production. "We're dedicated to making sure these guys work every day and work as much as they can," said Scott.
The company offers group health insurance, paid vacations, and a 401(k) retirement plan. Managers are provided with a company vehicle. Shamco conducts monthly safety and production meetings.
"We want to make sure we take good care of them and they stay around...They're family. They're a big part of this company."
The company also supports employees by supporting or celebrating life milestones, such as weddings, the birth of a child, or a graduation. "It is important to us, and I know it is important to them," said Scott.
The company is a member of the Great Lakes Timber Producers Association and the Michigan Association of Timbermen, and it provides financial support for employees to attend industry conferences.
"Things seem to be turning around," said Scott. "We have a great crew," and the company is well equipped, its oldest machine is a 2010 model. "We're ready to roll."
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