Whole New Ball Game
Alabama logging company has witnessed dramatic changes in the industry in the last two decades – and is impressed by the next-generation John Deere L-Series II Skidders and Feller Bunchers.
Logging companies can often trace their roots to many generations from the same family. Southern Logging & Timber Co., Cuba, Alabama, is an exception — it was started up by the current owner.
"I got into logging right after high school to pay my way through college," says Larry Strickland, president of Southern Logging. "It wasn't my intention, but it evolved into a profession. I really enjoy being out in the open, working with my hands, and adapting to the different challenges that come my way. And I've enjoyed watching my people grow and mature with this company. I'm glad to have watched my son, Zane Winfield, and brother, Glenn, come on board and manage this company."
LIKE FATHER , LIKE SON
Winfield began working with the company 25 years ago. "We have a strong landowner base and mill support," he says. Winfield is now Southern Logging's foreman. "A lot of the older generation like to see the younger guys get a shot and be successful. I'm proud to keep this business going."
Like his father, Winfield went to college. But unlike his father, he grew up with logging. "As a kid I'd always come out to the forest with him. I knew I always wanted to be in the logging business — so here I am!"
And like his father, Winfield relishes the challenges of being a logger. "No two days are the same. Every day it's something different — whether it's dealing with truckers, employees, landowners, machines, or mill quotas. It's a challenge every day, and I just love working with my crew and being outdoors."
FROM TRIMMING TREES TO FULLY MECHANIZED HARVESTING
After graduating high school, Strickland started trimming trees for a tree surgeon, cutting the limbs into short wood that was used for pulp. He hired someone with a truck to help him load and haul it to the mill. "I cut my first load of wood in September 1970, and it took off from there."
During the 1990s, the company had grown to where it was running three logging crews and two pole mills. But after Strickland's stroke in 1998, the company scaled back to where it is today — a fully mechanized operation employing 15 people and producing over 100,000 tons annually. "It's an entirely different world today than it was in the early '70s. It's a whole new ball game."
The company specializes in pine logs, while also harvesting smaller wood for pulp. "The business has changed in the last couple decades," says Strickland. "In the old days, you'd have people who would cut short wood, then a logging crew would come in and haul logs. Today one crew comes in and basically cleans the whole place up. That's a big change. We do things so much more efficiently than we did then. There's just no comparison. Everyone operates smarter."
The company's first John Deere machine was a motor grader, purchased in 1975. "We've been running Deere forestry equipment for a long time, dating back to our 440A, says Strickland. "Since then we've owned B- and C-Series all the way through to L-Series machines."
Currently the company runs three John Deere 437 Knuckleboom Loaders; 648H, 748H, and 648L Skidders; and two K-Series Feller Bunchers. "I've carried on the tradition of running Deere," says Winfield. "It's all I've been running since I became a part of this over two decades ago."
The L-II is more beefed up, and the tires make a big difference. They are well suited for the woods.
Strickland's brother, Glenn, was a part of a customer advocate group (CAG) in Florida that was invited to the unveiling of Deere's new L-Series II machines. The company has been demoing a prototype of the 648L-II Skidder and 643L-II Feller Buncher. "We've had the machines running here for six months," says Winfield. "They are amazing."
John Deere introduced the L-Series Skidders and Feller Bunchers — its most powerful machines ever — three years ago. Not content to stand pat, they collected input from customers and continued to incrementally refine these machines. "Deere brings strong engineering to its forestry equipment," says Strickland. "It engineers from the owner-and-operator perspective, and it has a great support network with its dealers."
"We like our L-Series machines," adds Winfield. "The visibility and performance are great. They've been good. L-Series II machines are strong and productive."
Enhancements include over 1,600 parts changes, improved component placement, and reduced electrical- and hydraulic-system complexity. "Deere has changed the locations of some of the filters to improve serviceability," says Winfield.
Routing of the electrical and hydraulic systems has been simplified significantly to improve reliability and ease maintenance. Wiring and hoses are better protected against wear and bending. Durable automotive-style electrical-harness components help extend wear life.
"This last summer, we had a limb tear the wiring harness off of our 648L," says Winfield. "That caused a lot of downtime. On the L-Series II machines, the harness has been repositioned so it’s out of the way. That's a good thing for us because uptime is very important."
To improve durability on the L-Series II Skidders, the frame and arch have been redesigned and reinforced. Boom-arch hoses are routed inside the arch, for maximum protection and ready repair access. Higher-ply tire options from the factory increase tire strength for carrying heavier loads.
"These machines take a beating on a daily basis," says Winfield. "The L-II is more beefed up, and the tires make a big difference. They are well suited for the woods.
"Deere is on the right path with the L-Series II machines," he adds. "I've been running Deere machines 25 years, plus growing up around them, and I've never seen anything like this. We're really excited about them."
Southern Logging & Timber Co. is serviced by Warrior Tractor and Equipment, Northport, Alabama.