Tigercat celebrates silver anniversary
THIS YEAR marks the silver anniversary of Tigercat which began with the philosophy ...design and manufacturing excellence, dedication to the customer, vision, perseverance and teamwork ... and that ethos continues today!
It was in 1992 that a small group of professionals with extensive experience in all facets of the logging equipment industry teamed up with the Cambridge, Ontario-based fabrication company, MacDonald Steel.
At the time, MacDonald Steel was engaged in the fabrication of components for many well-known mobile equipment manufacturers. However, owner and CEO Ken MacDonald envisioned the creation of a new company that would build upon MacDonald Steel’s fabricating expertise, a company that would design and manufacture purposebuilt forestry equipment. It was a gamble because at the time there were many large and established companies competing in a crowded forestry equipment market.
The original team members performed exhaustive field research in the south eastern US, one of the world’s great wood producing regions. This on-the-ground experience with logging contractors determined that even with four manufacturers competing for market share, drive-to-tree feller bunchers were falling well below the expectations of the customer base, foremost in terms of mechanical reliability and longevity.
Focusing on the input and reactions of south eastern US loggers, Tigercat set out to design a technically superior alternative. The result was the 726 feller buncher, quickly recognized as a more durable, reliable machine capable of achieving greater production. The 726 also proved to deliver a longer useful life with significantly higher uptime than competing machines.
The immediate success of the 726, coupled with Tigercat’s high regard for customer feedback and satisfaction, set a high standard early in the game which the company constantly aims to surpass.
The Prototype 726
Pulled off a north Florida highway in 1992 was a Mack truck hauling a strange looking feller buncher. Two guys stood armed with a punch and die set and a ballpeen hammer: a truck driver called Don Snively and a tradesman named Jim Wood. Both worked for MacDonald Steel. Serial numbers and paperwork were minor details that no one thought of during the rush to get the prototype Tigercat 726 feller buncher built — until the prospect of jail loomed, that is!
When it came time to build the prototype Tigercat in 1992, Wood was the obvious choice. As a licensed electrician, millwright and automotive mechanic, he had the skills and talent to deal with the complications and uncertainties that were sure to accompany the assembly of a new machine in the back corner of a steel fabrication plant.
The clock was ticking and Wood recalls being questioned by Tigercat president Tony Iarocci regarding the machine’s state of readiness. He answered, “We can ship it now or wait three more weeks. Tony said ‘ship it tomorrow.’ We had the batteries bungee corded into the belly pan.”
Snively climbed into the old Mack truck bound for Expo Southeast in Tifton, Georgia. Wood followed in a pick-up. They worked on the machine at rest stops in the evening. By the time they reached Georgia, it was acceptably finished. After the show the two of them, often accompanied by Iarocci and company owner and CEO, Ken MacDonald, toured the south east with the machine.
Recalling Expo Southeast and the representatives of another equipment manufacturer who brought them, Williston Timber coowner Eddie Hodge says, “They were rushing us through the show to get us to [their] machines and we wanted to stop and look at this new Tigercat. The damn engine was turned around the wrong way… besides it was a catchy name.”
Shortly after the show the Eddie and his operator flew to Louisiana where the machine was being demonstrated and met up with Iarocci, MacDonald, Snively and Wood. There were not many trees left on the site but they made do. “We cut some stumps and drove it around on some hills and found a few standing trees,” explains Eddie. Then he proposed the one-month trial.
Eddie recalls, “I said to Tony, if you want to you can bring that thing to Florida. We don’t know anything about it, so you’ll have to leave the mechanic with it. If it stays together for a month, we’ll buy it.’ So that was the deal. It didn’t even have a serial number on it. Don gets stopped by the Florida DOT. They’re calling us. He calls Canada and he’s down for like half a day. You know stolen equipment moves like that, you grind the serial numbers off… “They’re from Canada. They don’t have any paper work. They’ve got a day cab truck. And all they wanted was to get rid of that thing and go home.”
By the time Snively dropped the machine to the Hodges and headed for home, he had been away 40 days.
Fast forward a quarter of a century and Tigercat units have advanced from a single prototype to a broad range of forestry equipment and specialized off road machinery.
Producing 19,000 machines and counting, Tigercat has grown into a global success story — by helping its customers to succeed. With an employee count of 1,400 and over 150 independent dealer locations worldwide, Tigercat has accomplished what many thought to be unimaginable in just 25 years.
To commemorate the 25-year milestone the first Tigercat machine ever built was purchased back from the first customers, Williston Timber of Williston, Florida. The machine was taken back to the factory in Canada and fully rebuilt.
The photos show the 25-year-old original 726 when it was picked up from Florida and the rebuilt 726 feller buncher beside it.
The Australian connection came in December 1999 when an H845B Harvester was sold to Kevin Morgan in Tasmania in February 2000 --- that also happened to be the very first Tigercat to ever leave the shores of North America.
Kevin traded this unit around three years ago at approximately 30,000 to 32,000 hours and it’s still powering on for another client in Tasmania.
It’s interesting to note that Kevin’s initial purchase was three Tigercat machines ... two H845B Harvesters and a Tigercat Skidder. Kevin is still running mostly Tigercat machines and has purchased 33 units over the years.
“Australia was Tigercat’s first “international” market at a time when we had built almost right on 2000 machines,” said Glen Marley, Factory Sales Representative, Australasia & South East Asia.
“We now have approximately 400 machines retailed in Australia, and around 1700 in the international marketplace,” he said.
The machine in this photo is indeed the first machine #845H0601 that left North
They were rushing us through the show to get us to [their] machines and we wanted to stop and look at this new Tigercat. The damn engine was turned around the wrong way… besides it was a catchy name.
America and belonged to Kevin Morgan.
It’s interesting to note that Canadian-based-Tigercat has exported its specialist machinery to Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia.
■ Spick and span ... the rebuilt 726 prototype.
Tigercat’s first customer, Eddie Hodge of Williston Timber with Tigercat district manager, Don Snively.
■ Ken MacDonald, Tigercat chief (during a visit to Australia).
■ (l-r) Glen Marley, Tigercat District Manager for Australasia, Kevin Morgan (Director/CEO of the Kevin Morgan Group of Companies), Gary Olsen, Tigercat International Sales Manager.
■ The Williston clan in front of the first Tigercat machine ever built.
■ Not so spick and span ... the pre rebuilt 726 still in the field.