Confidence and trust plays a major role in business success
ACCORDING TO Tabeel Trading’s Managing Director Steve Witherow their purchases of 11 Komatsu Forest machines over the last 18 months revolves around two key points ... confidence and trust.
Running a successful forestry logging/chipping/ haulage business is more than just utilising machines ... it is about the people; the business relationships; the trust; the confidence. With a current workforce of 108 the obvious question was how do you keep track of things? and his reply said it all ... “Good people. You can’t run a business like this without good people, and that’s my main focus. It’s not about the machinery, it’s about the people, and everyone is equally important and family is most important.”
And that includes a long-standing business relationship with Komatsu Forest.
Steve and his recently deceased father John have created a long and successful logging business when moving to Mt Gambier for the salvage operation just after the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983.”It all developed from there,” says Steve.
When the fire salvage work finished they moved into green plantations. “Our first harvester in 1986 was a Kato excavator with a Steyr processing head; it was very early days for mechanisation. We were just producing long length pulp, and Moreland Logging had kicked off with the first KF products... the Valmet GP940 mounted on a Sumitomo excavator.
“From there it started to develop even more as manufacturers caught up with everything that we (contractors) wanted as they were pretty dirty and rough bits of gear at that point of time,” Steve recalls.
“In 1986 we began our contracting with the Woods and Forest Department (the SA Government) and from there it progressed through those years in contracts, we eventually branched out and started working for CSR. That is when we got into chipping
and took over what was CSR’s harvest and haul division which was not cost effective as a mill operation. At that stage we had 15 people before we took over the CSR harvest and haul division and then it jumped to about 50.”
Tabeel’s first Komatsu (Valmet) came in 1988, a Valmet 892 forwarder ... the start of the Komatsu Forest Australia connection. “That was when we met Brenton Yon and it just grew from there. Since then we’ve had nearly every model they’ve made, from single grips to twin grips to their forwarders; even their Timbco range of Feller Bunchers. We also run quite a number of Peterson machines which is now under the KF banner in Australia.”
Steve explained that it wasn’t just buying equipment from KF, “it’s more a long standing business arrangement that’s worked for both companies. In some cases they may not have the best product but they are probably the best company for us to be dealing with.”
When asked whether there was any one model that stood out over the years he didn’t hesitate in responding ...”At one point we purchased four black 911 Harvesters. I got one machine to run through two contracts ... it did a 10 year contract ! We traded it in and bought it back twice ... and we have still got it today. So, it’s really been a classic as we traded it in and bought it back twice. It’s a training machine ... for operators to learn in. When they first released the series we jumped on them because they were very productive and for their time they were well advanced,” said Steve.
“Komatsu Forest’s backup and support is the standout. If you have a problem with a particular item of equipment they work on the problem and come up with a resolution. “They’re not just about selling machines and leaving you with a heap of problems. They support their product. They are a tight crew from top to bottom so if you have an issue they get the message fairly quickly. Yes, Komatsu Forest Australia have been good to deal with.
“While Komatsu Forest Australia are considered a very experienced supplier of harvesting equipment, they now have extended their product line by becoming the dealer for the Peterson chipper and green waste product line which has been another plus for us.”
The latest hybrid Peterson flail chipper has special relevance for Tabeel ... “we were on the design team with Peterson”, says Steve. “That’s been another arrangement that really came about because of Komatsu Forest’s insistence of getting on board with what the customer wanted, not necessarily what they thought the customer should have. That’s worked out well.” This new machine will be on display at AUSTimber.
“Komatsu Forest have been in the country for a long time and are regarded as being a reputable supplier and have been very supportive of contractors over the years as well as
supporting many industry groups. We see them as good business partners but we don’t always buy their equipment . We’ve got 19 harvesters, 15 forwarders and 7 excavators of various breeds, but the majority are KF products”.
Steve mentioned the KF technicians. “They’re the unsung heroes ... they don’t get a lot of mention. These machines are so technical today and you need the technicians to be there to get them on line. They’re a very important part of the purchase decision, too.
“You look at who is who, who is available for support, where the spare parts are going to come from. All these things in some way help make your decision ... which Komatsu Forest have been good at most times.
“The timber industry has been very good to us and it’s probably the cleanest, greenest thing we could ever be involved with,” says Steve. “This area (Green Triangle) has been through downturns but has reinvented itself with a vibrant export market with strong growth over the last two years in blue gum and some expansion in the pine operations as well.”
This has required a significant capital investment by Tabeel to meet these new demands over the last couple of years with Steve’s shopping list at Komatsu Forest being as follows: 4 x 895s.
1 x 931.1
1 x 931 new gen
1 x 951
1 x S132
1x S92 1 x 5000 Peterson Flail / Chipper
1 x 6800 Peterson Flail
1 x 6910 Peterson Chipper PC220LC-8
When asked what he most liked about the latest batch of equipment, Steve replied: “It’s early days but productivity levels and machine up time is looking good”.
Australian Forests & Timber News
Peterson 6910 and 6800 at work