Logging Profiles
Aug. 13, 2018 - Dan O’Brien wears many hats. First is his hard hat as the owner of one of northern B.C.’s larger logging contractors. O’Brien has been harvesting cut blocks in northern B.C. since 1992. Today his group of companies harvests 650,000 cubic metres a year.
Aug. 10, 2018 - In front of us is a tracked Neuson Forest 103HVT single-grip harvester, operated by 22-year-old Gabriel Leblond. He is felling young trees one after another at a private woodlot in Saint-Damien-de-Buckland, in the foothills of Bellechasse, Que. With its new AFM 35 harvester head, the machine can work impressively fast.
July 17, 2018 - To maintain the health and diversity of the forest ecosystem, it is all about balancing the good and the bad. Prescribed fires act as a valuable resource management tool for enhancing ecological conditions and eliminating excessive fuel buildup. However, wildfires do occur — ignited by lightning strikes or caused by human activities usually related to carelessness.
June 28, 2018 - Forest sector contractors in British Columbia are a shrinking breed. The industry has contracted in so many ways but one could argue the most impacted in the supply chain is logging contractors. Contractors are getting larger, owners are aging, and average margins are poor. Risks are increasing while the reward is decreasing. The result is fewer logging contractors. Those left are being asked to do more, and will have to do more.

This spring we have seen the impact of the reduction of logging contractors and the risks associated with operating on the land base. Even with a longer than normal winter harvesting season and the use of satellite yards to lengthen the hauling season, we are seeing sawmills at risk of production shutdowns because of log shortages. The trees are on the land base but there is not enough capacity to harvest, process, and transport logs to sawmills within the seasonal opportunities.

This shortage exists because logging contractors are not generating a sufficient return to be sustainable, recruit and train new staff, or invest in innovation. Over the last few years, TimberTracks has been analyzing logging contractor accountant prepared year-end financial statements to understand the situation of the industry supply chain. We underwent a robust third-party verification process to ensure our analysis and sample is representative of the industry. The results were worrisome.

There are two types of capacity challenges for the supply chain. The first is labour. The workforce is aging and forestry is not generally considered an attractive vocation for younger people. The days are long, the risks are high, and the compensation is not as good as historically found in other mechanized industries such as mining and oil and gas. The collective industry needs to assess its image and how it attracts young people to careers in forestry.

The second capacity challenge is return on capital. Without getting into the specific details, the evidence indicated that logging contractors are financially underperforming the requirements of their capital-intensive industry. The reasons for underperformance are myriad and beyond the scope of this column. How the industry arrived here is not important. What is important is how we move forward to make sure that the supply chain is sustainable.

If we look to other capital-intensive industries we see that supply and demand principles are evident. When demand is high and supply is low, prices rise. When supply is high and demand is low, prices sink. The forest industry has gone through cycles of high supply and high demand of harvesting capacity but return on capital has experienced a long, slow downward trend regardless of contractor demand and supply. The low return on capital has resulted in a supply chain that is an unattractive place to invest capital.

Owners of logging contractors are aging and need to have succession plans. Many multi-generational transfers are occurring, but usually rely heavily on the older generation taking most, if not all, of the risk of funding the transition. Succession plans to employees or unrelated third-parties are becoming almost unheard of. These businesses are worth more in a complete dispersal than they are as a going concern. Is it any wonder that contractor capacity is shrinking?

The long-term solution to supply chain sustainability is creating an attractive investment environment for capital. We are often asked about the proper return on capital for logging contractors. The answer to that question is really dependent on the returns of realistic alternate investments with a risk adjustment based on the circumstances. Contractors are usually financially dependent on, at most, a few customers and that has concentration risk. They also almost exclusively depend on the fortunes of lumber prices. Investment in a logging contractor would need to yield a return risk adjusted higher than could be experienced in a diversified investment such as a public stock market index which usually made up of large corporate enterprises with broad industry, geographic, and product offering diversification.

As we look to the future of forest sector contractors, we have to understand how we manage the long-term sustainability to attract capital and young people to the business. The inability to generate proper returns on capital will invite capital to invest in other industries. It would be a shame if the Canadian forest industry ground to a halt, not because of market demand or wood supply, but because no one was left to harvest and transport logs to sawmills.



Aaron Sinclair, MBA, is the president of Timber Tracks Inc., based in Prince George, B.C.
June 26, 2018 - Canada is the home and native land of Western Forest Products, the largest coastal timberlands operator and lumber producer in British Columbia. For years, the company, which has an annual available harvest greater than six million cubic metres (2.5 billion board feet), has relied on a private railway and off-road trucks to move logs to its sort yards, where they then were towed by water to their seven sawmills on Vancouver Island.
June 19, 2018 - Given the challenges faced by Canada’s logging contractors, it’s vital to have numbers behind the story. In 2016, Canadian Forest Industries and its sister publication in Quebec, Opérations forestières, surveyed over 500 logging contractors across the country to get the pulse of our sector. The results were shared in print and online over six months, in this final report, as well as in mainstream media. These efforts started a lot of conversations, helped loggers get a better feel for where they stood (not alone) and even helped convince one provincial government to take a closer look. 

To keep the conversation going, and to help establish key trends, we are doing it again in 2018. But we need your help — please take 10 minutes to carefully complete the survey. We are using an independent research firm, so no one, including ourselves, will ever see the raw data. We will only report on aggregated results. 

You can also enter for a chance to win a Garmin field GPS. Research like this is not cheap. Thanks again to our generous sponsors Tigercat Industries and Hultdins, without whom this project would be impossible.

Go to survey
June 18, 2018 - TimberWest held its Safety Leadership and Environmental awards in Nanaimo, B.C. on June 11 and recognized the achievements of five outstanding contractors.  

“Our contractors help coordinate the activities of close to 1,000 people out in the woods every day across a variety of terrain and through changing weather conditions," said Jeff Zweig, president and chief executive officer of TimberWest. "Safe and environmentally responsible outcomes are only possible through their unrelenting focus and commitment to improve.

"Each of the award winners has contributed in an exceptional way to achieving better safety or environmental outcomes. We greatly appreciate their efforts.”

In 2017, TimberWest achieved a below coastal industry average medical incident rate of 2.01 per 200,000 hours worked; a 39 per cent decrease in medical incident rate year-over-year. And, TimberWest received zero major environmental non-conformances’ on its independent environmental audit conducted by KPMG.

“While we celebrate the accomplishments of 2017, the journey is not over until we achieve zero-harm. And this can only be achieved with the support of our contractors,” Zweig said. “Against this context, we are pleased to recognize the efforts of three outstanding leaders in safety and two outstanding leaders in environmental stewardship. Our warm congratulations to the leadership award winners.” 

The five outstanding leaders are:

  • Crew Safety Champion awarded to Denny Pement of Coastline Forestry Group
  • Safety Leader in Innovation awarded to Andrew Johnson of Wolf Lake Logging
  • Best Safety Culture awarded to  Paul Henderson of TPH Contracting
  • Best Environmental Leadership: Planning awarded to Steve Rhodes of Novafor Forest Services Ltd.
  • Best Environmental Leadership: Production awarded to Haka Enterprises Ltd.
TimberWest has recently published its 2017 Sustainability Progress Report which shares the focus for the year ahead including: working towards zero injuries by targeting a further 18 per cent reduction in injury frequency, and a targeted reduction of burning on-site residuals by 20 per cent with a company-wide goal of working towards carbon neutrality.



TimberWest is certified to the Progressive Aboriginal Relations program of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. The company is also third-party certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and has been operating on the BC Coast for over 100 years.  TimberWest is a Canadian company owned by two major Canadian public service pension funds.
June 5, 2018 - For many parents the motivation to build a successful business is to secure a healthy future for their children. For Craig and Catherine Galligos, their motivation is not only their son, but also the future of their First Nation community on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.
May 31, 2018 - Contractors in Atlantic Canada are among the smallest in the country. Canadian Forest Industries 2016 Contractor Survey confirms that 58 per cent of loggers in Atlantic Canada have five or fewer employees compared to the national average of 24 per cent.
May 22, 2018 - With 25 pieces of equipment and 80 employees, Fennell Forestry is one of the largest logging contractors in South Australia. Siblings, Wendy and Barry Fennell purchased Fennell Forestry from their parents five years ago. As CEO, Wendy Fennell manages the day-to-day operations and brother Barry works on new business development.

Like many young people, Wendy didn’t know what she wanted to do for a career when she was deciding on a university program. “I like money so I went into accounting and thought I would see where that went,” she says. At the age of seventeen, just before going to university, she worked alongside her father, travelling to job sites and helping him in the workshop. The following year Wendy went to the University of South Australia to study accounting but arranged her days so she only had lectures on Monday and Wednesday, allowing her to drive back home to work in the family business.

While attending university, Wendy got her B-Double truck licence. “We only had two trucks then and Dad and I would do night shift. We had drivers on during the day, and for some extra capacity, we’d jump in at night,” explains Wendy.

Wendy wanted to be more involved in the family forestry business so she changed some of her courses to focus on occupational health and safety. “The company was relatively new at this time so I helped formulate all the safety material. It was really good to have a real live business to work with. I was able to put my knowledge to good use.”

Wendy had one more year of university left when the family business won its biggest contract. “I was two years into my three-year degree and I decided to do the last year by correspondence and come back to work. And I’ve been here ever since,” she states.
DSC0364 webAs CEO, Wendy has a lot of daily responsibilities and is pulled in many different directions throughout the day. However, she highly values her visits to the operations to engage with her employees. “I see the staff as they come through the depot but I like getting on site as much as possible to catch up and have an overall look at what’s happening.”

Prioritizing what needs to get done each day is critical to her role and she spends a lot of the time giving direction to the leadership team. “My main goal is making sure our machines are always running. So planning preventative maintenance, addressing safety aspects and making sure we are working through the required logistics,” Wendy expresses. “I really love learning about the equipment and how we can get the best out of it. There is always something on the go and it’s always evolving.”
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Wendy has been in the business for 25 years and people are still surprised when they find out what she does for a living. “I guess they don’t really understand exactly what I do and they are typically shocked at how much knowledge I have of the machinery.” She knows some female skidder operators and truck drivers in the area but does not know of any other female forestry business owners.

When asked why she thinks there are so few females working in the industry she explains, “It is the image of the forestry industry over here that deters women. It really needs to be uplifted to showcase the careers possible. In Canada, most people understand what forestry is all about. Here in Australia there are still people that live in this area that have no idea what goes on behind the trees. People still believe that you get a job in forestry if you couldn’t get a job anywhere else. People think it is second-class, but it isn’t. With all the new advanced technology and innovation, the careers in this industry are quite good and the jobs are well paid, dynamic and interesting. We need to be promoting the industry better, especially to young people and to women.”

Fennell Forestry
Fennell Forestry is a major plantation timber harvest and transport company, with an industry history spanning 27 years. The company runs a blue gum chipping operation, a pine harvesting operation and a transport business, operating 24-hours per day from Monday to Friday with three crews on pine and one crew on the chipping side. The pine side of the business produces 11,500 tonnes of wood each week and the chipping side produces approximately 4 500 tonnes. “We harvest about 560,000 tonnes of pine and 200,000 tonnes of chips annually,” Wendy states.

The company ran excavator for many years. As equipment developed and the business grew, they looked into purchasing purpose-built and decided on a Tigercat H855C harvester. “Once we went to purpose-built, we never went back,” Wendy states. “We have over 25,000 hours on that first harvester and it has held up great.”

Fennell Forestry now has nine pieces of Tigercat equipment: two feller bunchers, two skidders, a 1085C forwarder, three H855C harvesters and a new H855E harvester. Wendy purchased the company’s first 1085C forwarder last February. “We are not in steep ground so there was a debate between Barry and I if we should purchase the 1085C. We weren’t quite sure if it was the right fit for our job but it is proving to be doing very well.”

Managing a growing business
There are definite challenges to managing a growing company. Wendy and Barry are always looking for new innovative ways to operate and grow but without sacrificing or losing what made the company successful in the first place. That is why they decided to enroll in the Business Growth Program offered by the state of South Australia. Wendy wanted to establish how to effectively grow while holding true to the company’s core values.
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Dr. Jana Matthews, who has worked with a lot of large companies in the U.S., was brought over by the state of South Australia to run the Business Growth Program. Fennell Forestry was the only forestry company in the program. Companies from a wide variety of industries participated — from a pharmaceutical company to an event planning business and a Hollywood film agency. The program had multiple growth experts in to discuss common pitfalls, the different stages of growth and how to effectively advance a business when you’re rapidly growing. “It was really good to understand. We have good foundations in our business and it helped us ensure we keep those as we expand,” Wendy elaborates. “Dr. Matthews would tell us things that needed to be done and I’d think to myself that our business didn’t need it but in the end she was right.”

The Green Triangle
Fennell Forestry’s success story is built upon South Australia’s thriving Green Triangle timber industry. Reflecting its name, the Green Triangle is one of Australia’s major forest regions, covering an area of six million hectares (15 million acres). It has extensive plantation softwood and hardwood resources. The Green Triangle spans between the states of South Australia and Victoria with ready access to the capital cities of Melbourne and Adelaide. Processing activities are centred around the cities of Mount Gambier in South Australia and Portland in Victoria, which also provides the region’s port.

Fennell Forestry continues to ensure it has the proper infrastructure and personnel to support the growth. The company has its own workshop, an operations manager helping support both the logging and transport side of the business, a full time operator trainer and a training room for classroom sessions, as well as a large parts warehouse with plenty of inventory.

Wendy and Barry make a great team. “You can’t beat being in business with family because you know those core values are the same.” Wendy acknowledges that she and Barry are very different. “I am more structured and he’s got the random thoughts and entrepreneurialism. I like to get in and do things with structure and see things out. Whereas Barry is always moving forward, looking for the next improvement.” The balance in personalities definitely contributes to the company’s success. “I think that’s what makes it work so well,” says Wendy.

Work-life balance
On top of all Wendy’s work responsibilities, she is a single mother of two with eight-year-old, Flynn and six-year-old, Hudson. Her boys really enjoy watching the equipment run but they have other career aspirations at this stage in their lives. Hudson wants to own a pet store and Flynn wants to be the next Shaun White (a professional snowboarder).

Wendy enjoys family ski vacations, recently visiting Whistler, B.C., and New Zealand. “Flynn wanted to try snowboarding, but you couldn’t snowboard until you were eight, so I had to go back when he was eight, and that’s where we went last year. The boys have been hooked on the Winter Olympics, telling me all about it when I get home from work,” she says.

Wendy doesn’t mind working as hard as she does. She always makes sure she wakes up with the boys and is there to put them to bed. “It throws everything out of whack, when I have to be away at night,” she says. She keeps it structured so the boys always know when she will be home.

Wendy has managed to help build a booming business, excel as CEO and have a beautiful family — proving you can do it all. “I love my kids and my work. I have a great team around me and I appreciate them all. It’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure.”



This article originally appeared in Between the Branches, April 2018, the official publication of Tigercat Industries Inc.

To read more Tigercat Between the Branches stories, visit www.tigercat.com/btb.

May 9, 2018 - Given the challenges faced by Canada’s logging contractors, it’s vital to have numbers behind the story.
May 1, 2018 - For the past decade, employers and forest industry stakeholders have increasingly been challenged to find well-trained, competent people to meet their staffing needs.
March 29, 2018 - When Al and Erin Fitchett look out their picture window, across the west arm of Kootenay Lake near Nelson, B.C., they see the steep forests of the Selkirk Mountains stretching off in the distance. They also see scattered traces of the loggers who came before them, men and women who made their living sustainably harvesting the mature fir, hemlock and cedar for the local sawmills.
March 23, 2018 - Like many successful loggers, Liz Bernier and Joel St. Onge had the operations side of their business nailed down. They had the growth curve to prove it. Yet as they grew, they outgrew some of their business practices. That’s where the Business Skills program from FPInnovations entered the picture.
Feb. 26, 2018 - Derek Tchir is a logger because he likes the smell of trees. He’s surprised when I tell him that’s the first time I’ve heard that response.
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