Forestry: Logging equipment: what and where to buy?

By: Patrick Cox, Photography by: Patrick Cox

Forestry Forestry
Forestry If you’re a contractor with a mix of machines, you’re fair game to all the construction equipment supply companies Forestry
Forestry The new logger has no choice and on most occasions buys second-hand Forestry
Forestry Forestry

How do you know what sort of machine to buy? What suits your operation? How much guarding do you need? Should you go high and wide? Whom do you buy from?

So many questions need to be answered, and it's probably not a problem for those in the industry for some time, but for those just starting out it must be a nightmare. You start by ringing up all the reputable companies for prices on a specific machine and before you know it, you have all the sales people calling on you, extolling the virtues of their respective brands.

The sales person sees this as an opportunity for a sale, and rightly so as his job depends on it. Does your sales rep hit you between the eyes with a hard sell or does he try to build a relationship with you first? If he is any good he will certainly try to win your confidence first. The sales rep also needs to know his product well. Has he worked for all the major brands over the years?

Does he then run down brands that he used to sell in favour of the new brand he is selling?

Logging contractors are sometimes just loyal to the brand, no matter who the sales rep is. However, if you are a contractor with a fruit salad mix of machines, then you are fair game to all the construction equipment companies and the sales reps love this opportunity to get in amongst it and sell to you. The fruit salad contractors are normally motivated by price and nothing else. Often buying the cheapest is all that matters to them. They are not interested in fuel burn, owning and operating cost over the life of the machine or trade price after three to five years — all-important considerations when making a decision that could cost you up to a million dollars.

This all sounds too easy for those with experience. The new logger has no choice and on most occasions buys second-hand, works his butt off and spends the first couple of years with high R&Ms and particularly big tax bills in his second year, with the first year's tax to pay and provisional as well.

This experience is invaluable, so when you are ready to buy your first brand-new machine, you will have some idea of what you want. And if the sales rep that sold you the second-hand machine has stuck by you, he will no doubt be ready to sell you a new one of the brand that his company sells.

The decision has been made for you. How did that happen? Simple. The sales rep has worked hard for two years keeping in good contact with you, has made sure you got good service from his company for your repairs and maintenance.

Should there be a good time to buy? When is the most productive time for logging contractors? Some would say all year round and maybe so.

Let's have a look at a typical year, starting on the first of April. This would be considered a good time to buy as you should get a full year's depreciation. April might have Easter, which means statutory holidays, and then in June you have Queen's Birthday weekend. Finally, after Queen's Birthday weekend come the most productive and uninterrupted logging months of the year.

There are five good months where there are no holidays and, even though it's winter, these are very good months to put cash in the bank.

October is Labour weekend, November is a full month, December and January are short months, and February is a short month anyway. March is all that is left and we usually do get Easter falling in this month.

Quite often the decision is not yours to make. The machine you order might not be in stock and has to be ordered in, and then it is off to the engineers for a guarding package. Four months could slip by before it is ready and this could see you taking delivery just before Christmas. This is the toughest time of the year, with production affected by holidays and the bank balance getting a hiding from paying wages with no offsetting income.

If you start back after Christmas and have to produce wood again before the cheques start arriving, then there are some difficult times to endure. There have been those contractors that have suffered a major breakdown just prior to Christmas as the season causes serious cash flow issues, and your creditors need to be understanding. It's okay for those with a long credit history, but the newbie might struggle through these times and find himself with the overalls on, trying to help balance the accounts.

As a new purchaser going to a finance company for money, they will tie you up tighter than a straightjacket and get you to sign personal guarantees. And to finish you off, you get to pay more interest.

Have you often wondered why they make it so much harder for you? It could be a test of your business acumen — survive these first two years, prove yourself to your creditors and finance company and next time you borrow money it will be much easier and cheaper.

So what is the best machine to buy?

With such a selection available in today's market, not every machine would suit every logging operation. Sometimes what you want can be determined by the logging company you work for. I'm not sure why the forestry companies get involved in these decisions. There is only one person who knows what machine is best suited for the logging operation they are undertaking and that is the owner of the logging business.

New Zealand loggers have become very adept at modifying machines. What the logger buys off the showroom floor can look decidedly different by the time it backs off the transporter.

Next time you want to upgrade your logging equipment, look at all the options. Have a look at other brands. You could be doing yourself disfavour by sticking to a brand just to be loyal.

Check out availability in the district you work in. Talk to the techs as they know better than most about the machines. Technology is changing rapidly with every company trying to out-do each other.

The company that offers the best sales and aftersales service and shows an interest in seeing you succeed would be my first port of call.

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