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Ohio Logger Transitions to Cut-to-Length: Ponsse Brings Reliable Support to Purdum Logging
Purdum Logging transitions to all Ponsse machines for its cut to length operations.
By Alan Condra
Date Posted: 11/1/2016
In south central Ohio near Chillicothe, the farmland gives way to forests leading into Kentucky and West Virginia. It was in this transitional landscape that logger Brett Purdum came to age working in both agriculture and logging. Living on a farm and working with his cousins farming 1,700 acres during his teens and early twenties, Brett spent the warmer months helping raise corn, soy beans, wheat, and beef cattle. In the winter when the harvest was complete, he worked in the woods with his cousins harvesting whole trees for area mills.
In his twenties Brett got married and started a family that includes his wife Alicia, son Drake, and daughter Alivia. By 1999 he decided it was time to move on from farming and dedicate his time to logging only. He launched Purdum Logging and put together a conventional crew for whole tree logging, marketing his logs to lumber mills and selling pulp wood to Glatfelter in Chillicothe. Over time Brett added cut to length to his service offerings, running crews for both whole tree and CTL.
Running a company that works in both whole tree and cut to length operations was very demanding. Rarely were Brett’s crews working at the same location. Brett ran the harvester for the CTL jobs himself because, as he put it, “There’s only a handful of these harvesters running in Ohio so finding a trained operator is not an option and I couldn’t be two places at once. I spent the whole day in the harvester and then dealt with the other things at night and on the weekends. I hardly had time for anything.”
In 2010 Brett made changes to Purdum Logging to narrow the focus down to cut to length. He purchased his first harvester, a Ponsse Ergo six wheel machine that he paired with a John Deere 1410 forwarder. Brett sold his whole tree logging equipment which included a pair of John Deere 648 skidders, two log trucks, a bulldozer, and a John Deere 335 knuckleboom loader.
He had considered buying a Deere harvester to work alongside his Deere forwarder. A conversation with a fellow logger friend changed that trajectory. Brett explained, “A friend of mine was running a Ponsse Ergo. I was talking to my friend one day and that is how I met Jim Charlier with Ponsse. That was how I got into the Ponsse equipment.” Noting that the nearest Ponsse service center was in Gaylord, Michigan, Brett said, “I was very skeptical about it in the beginning because their closest service center to me is about 8 hours away. I talked to Jim about that issue and was concerned about it.” Jim reassured Brett regarding his company’s service and support, and expressed how much Ponsse appreciated the loggers who opted for its machines. “Once you join the Ponsse family, you are treated as family,” said Jim. One option that encouraged Brett was Ponsse’s Information System which allows for remote diagnostics of any Ponsse machine from Gaylord, Michigan, or from anywhere in the world. Impressed by what Ponsse had to offer and the connection he made with Jim, Brett traveled to the Ponsse U.S. headquarters in Rhinelander, Wisconsin to buy his first Ponsse, a one year old Ergo harvester with 2,200 hours on it. He quickly came to admire the Ergo, with its operator comfort and productivity on the job.
Today Purdum Logging works entirely under contract for Glatfelter. The job sites are typically within an hour’s drive to the south of the paper mill in Chillicothe. Harvests are generally on Scioto Land Company property, with some jobs on Glatfelter or state lands. Jobs are mostly clear cutting pine plantations with occasional hardwood cuts of various species.
Without multiple crews at multiple locations, Brett only has to deal with harvesting and forwarding. All jobs are planned out before he arrives and all the cut wood is picked up after Brett’s sole employee, Rob Ward, forwards it to the landing. Brett explained, “That’s exactly why I like this. It’s a lot less stress. So many things about it are so much simpler. We don’t even have to truck our wood. Our operation is called cut and stack. We cut it, stack it on landings. We’ll sometimes leave a job and never see a truck. We’ve had over 10,000 tons of wood on a job and just leave for the next job.” Glatfelter has a trucking operator with a track loader with and several semis to cover multiple job sites. Brett said, “What we fill up in a week, they can truck out in a day.”
Working under contract with Glatfelter works well for Brett. Without feeling the need to compete for jobs, Brett said, “Working for the mill as I do there really isn’t competition. We’re all out there doing the same thing. You’re never really in a battle with competition doing the same thing like it used to be.” Brett’s jobs range from 40 to over 150 acres, harvesting anywhere from 60 to over 100 tons per acre. He typically only moves to different job sites about four or five times a year, ranging in a 50 mile radius of the Glatfelter mill.
The logging seasons in southern Ohio run between hot, humid, and dusty in the summer to wet and muddy in the winter with only rare frozen ground. “Our pine plantations are very dusty. We have a steam cleaner and several times a summer we wash the radiators out, but normally we can just use an air hose to keep them clean,” Brett said.
In 2014, with the hours on his Ergo running up, Brett made the trip to the Great Lakes Logging & Heavy Equipment Expo in September to take a look at the new Scorpion King harvester from Ponsse. Impressed with the operator focus of the design, Brett took delivery of one of the first few Scorpion Kings in the country, his equipped with Ponsse’s H7 harvesting head. With its unique three section frame and automatic leveling cabin, Brett is a true believer, saying “There’s nobody building anything that compares to it.”
Transitioning completely to Ponsse with a new forwarder came in 2015 for Purdum Logging. “I was running a John Deere with a lot of hours and was ready to get a new machine,” Brett noted. “I got the first Buffalo Active Frame that was in the country.”
Ponsse’s operator-centric engineering has made Brett a brand loyalist. He explained, “You get me in a Scorpion and you’ll never get me back into an Ergo. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that Ergo, it was a great machine. But if you get into a Scorpion you won’t go back.” With the Scorpion, Brett says that Ponsse has put a whole new focus on operator comfort. Brett remarked, “That’s exactly right. That is the most operator friendly machine that you will find. Ponsse really doesn’t have a flaw that I’ve found.”
In many ways Brett feels that Ponsse designs their equipment based on input from the loggers that operate them. The Ponsse reps spend a lot of time in the woods with operators, taking note of suggestions for design improvements. Brett said, “That’s one thing I love so much about Ponsse is that they talk to their operators and listen to their operators. I’ve seen a lot of changes made that were things I’ve said to a salesman, things that I’ve said to a mechanic.” At one point Brett suggested that the Ponsse head would benefit from additional guards to further protect the hydraulic hoses. Following that conversation, Ponsse designed and fabricated hose guards based, at least in part, from Brett’s feedback. “All the little issues like that, things that I’ve seen, they address everything they hear from their operators, which means a lot to a guy who is out there running long days in their machines.”
Brett feels that Ponsse’s focus on cut to length equipment leads to machines that excel in the CTL business. “As far as I am concerned, they are leading the market in cut to length equipment,” Brett said. When it comes to operator functionality and ergonomics, Brett says that is where Ponsse has really designed their machines with the operator in mind. “The controls in the cab are all at your fingertips. You’re not reaching, your hands never leave the controls and everything is right at your fingertips. It’s a very comfortable machine to operate. You’re not reaching to push a button for a different function.” Brett continued, “It’s a wonderful machine to me. You’re cutting several trees a minute. At the end of the day you’re harvesting a lot of timber. It makes a huge difference at the end of the day.”
On the forwarder side, the Ponsse ActiveFrame cabin suspension system is available in their eight wheel Buffalo, Elephant, and Elephant King. Derived from engineering on the Scorpion line, it features a dual frame design that suspends the cabin on an inner frame with the bogies connected to the outer frame. Sensors keep the cabin level hydraulically on sideways tilts up to six degrees on the Elephant series and seven degrees on the Buffalo. Brett described the benefit of the design by saying, “The most uncomfortable place to be is on difficult terrain and your cab is tilting sideways and you’re trying to operate.”
Regarding his loyalty to the Ponsse line over his last few purchases, Brett explained that, “The biggest thing that keeps me with Ponsse is the people at Ponsse.” Brett related one particular experience that reinforced his perception of the brand, “They are so easy to work with. I’ve called them on Friday night, they sent a guy down here, he fixed the machine on Sunday, and we’re back to work Monday. You can’t beat their service.” He continued, “I have their mechanics’ cell phone numbers, I have their trainers’ cell phone numbers. I’ve called on guys on Sunday that helped me fix a computer problem over the phone. Ponsse doesn’t have guys that don’t know their machines inside and out. They’re highly trained and very professional. It would be very hard to beat the people in that company.” Explaining that he has had Ponsse people come to southern Ohio from Gaylord and Gladstone, Michigan, as well as from their U.S. headquarters in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Brett said, “They really, really stick behind their equipment. When I bought the first machine, they told me ‘You’re part of the family now’. And that’s exactly how they treat you.”
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