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Steady Improvement, Steady Success Northeast logging business research leads to results in program known as SWAT. TINKMagaw

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oggers constantly race through their long days dealing with one issue after another. Their fastpaced world does not allow much time for reflection. However, through an innovative program developed in the Northeastern U.S., they have the opportunity to stop, take a deep breath and view their businesses “from 30,000 feet” and with an analytical eye. The program, known as SWAT (Strengthening What’s Already There) is a full day workshop that helps logging contractors raise the bar of their business performance, and is based on the results of an in-depth study of the most innovative and successful loggers in the Northeast. Through a series of presentations and exercises, logging contractors identify areas for improvement and/or innovation and then create an action plan to implement them. Some of the topics shared with business owners include: 1) traits of successful logging contractors; 2) reverse calculations of logging costs; 3) throughput accounting PATH 2.0 spreadsheet; 4) process improvement; 5) production bottlenecks; and 6) the people side of production. The original study, Characteristics of Successful and Innovative Logging Contractors in the Northeast U.S., was funded in 2013 by Northeastern States Research Cooperative and grew from the seed of an idea that was planted years ago in a little town in upstate New York. This collaboration was born from a desire to understand why some loggers were thriving while others were merely surviving, and to uncover what set them apart.

time. That’s where the idea was born to conduct research to gain a more indepth understanding of what the most successful loggers were doing to distinguish their businesses. Two of the symposium organizers, René Germain, Professor of Forest Management at SUNY, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Steve Bick, Forest Economist at Northeast Forests, LLC, huddled with the University of Maine’s Jeff Benjamin and Wendy Farrand, forest industry consultant-writer- speaker, to discuss some things loggers had shared at the meeting that day. These were real life hard decisions they had to make to keep their companies going during the severe economic downturn and amid the never ending hurdles thrown at them by their industry. Benjamin, Bick, Germain and Farrand shared a common passion to help strengthen the wood fiber supply chain. A plan was then set in motion to uncover this valuable information and bring it back to the logging contractors in the form of a workshop.

The Study Through a survey, the team set out to identify the most innovative and successful logging contractors in the region. This survey was sent to mill

owners, foresters, log buyers and others who had constant contact with logging companies. Those surveyed were asked to list and rank the companies and give reasons why they considered the contractors to be set apart. There were 18 contractors selected: five each from Maine and New Hampshire, six from New York and two from Vermont. It should be noted that some loggers so identified declined to be part of the study. In an effort to level the playing field as much as possible the team considered the size and history of each business, types of harvest systems, job types and whether or not the contractor had formal training in forestry. Information was gathered through a series of very personal and strictly confidential interviews. Asking logging contractors to share their most innovative and successful business ideas was not easy. The team had to gain their trust by reassuring them that their specific ideas for their businesses would not be shared, but their approaches to innovation and success would be. These interviews were eye opening, telling and emotional. (What often goes unnoticed by many within and without the industry is that behind those hardhats and equipment are professionals who are striving to improve

Conception Of SWAT In the fall of 2011, a logger’s symposium was held at Lyons Falls, NY in which industry stakeholders came together to focus on key issues facing the forest products industry at the 24

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