Cat Forest Products Sponsors Events at American Loggers Council Annual Meeting
Cat Forest Products played a major role in the 2008 American Loggers Council (ALC) Annual Meeting by sponsoring several activities, including a plant tour and in-woods demo.
The event was held in Montgomery, Ala., September 25-27. Attendance was up from the previous year with 248 loggers, associate members and supporters representing 28 states.
Cat Forest Products President John Carpenter said he also noticed an improvement in mood. “I was pleasantly surprised that everyone seemed more upbeat,” he said. “Logging has been in a recession for two years now, but I am seeing things perk up. This is a resilient industry.”
On Friday, Cat hosted a plant tour and equipment demonstration at its headquarters in LaGrange, Ga., and the company’s demo site near Auburn. “Not only do plant tours and demos give the loggers a chance to see the latest and the greatest,” said ALC Executive Director Danny Dructor, “It is an opportunity to get to know the manufacturers better and to speak with the engineers about what they like and don’t like. It’s a chance to form a relationship rather than just being a customer.”
Buses left the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery bright and early for the two-hour trip to LaGrange. The first stop for all visitors was the auditorium in the customer service center where Carpenter welcomed everyone and presented an overview of the facility. He reported that in 2007, the company completed a $5 million capital expansion to add track feller buncher fabrication. Another $5 million is being invested this year and next to make room for additional fabrication and assembly work.
Visitors were divided into groups and equipped with headsets and safety glasses for the guided tours. Trained tour guides walked visitors through the processes for fabricating and assembling wheel skidders and track feller bunchers. Engineers and product specialist were stationed along the way to answer technical questions about the equipment.
Joe Allen, manager of the Cat® training center who coordinated the plant tours and machine demo, said that a logger from Mississippi remarked about the cleanliness of the plant. “He asked, ‘Is this factory always this clean, or did you all come in here and whitewash it for the tour?’ I told him we straightened up, but he could come in here any other day of the week and see that the factory is close to this clean all the time,” Allen recounted. “We have a modern, well-kept factory and world-class production processes.”
Guides pointed out the Fanuc medium and large robotic cells and also highlighted Quality Gates, a process being implemented throughout the plant. Quality Gates are established at critical stages in the fabrication and assembly process. Much like a fence gate, production cannot “pass through” or continue until the outcome of the previous stage is checked. “It’s a place where you stop the process and make sure everything is right before it moves forward,” Allen explained.
The tour continued at the test track where the visitors watched a wheel skidder being put through its paces. Embedded concrete “moguls” in the track simulate the worst in-woods conditions and ensure that the Cat machines have the structure and strength to withstand them.
After a barbeque lunch in the pavilion at the demo site, Allen narrated a demonstration of the Cat 522 track feller buncher, the Cat 573 wheel feller buncher, the Cat 527 track skidder, the Cat 525C and 545C wheel skidders, the Cat 559 knuckleboom loader and the Cat 324D FM. Prentice machines were also on display at the demo including two knuckleboom loader models, a Prentice wheel feller buncher and a site prep tractor.
That evening Caterpillar sponsored a reception and dinner followed by the annual auction. Each guest was presented with a gift as they entered the dining hall. Carpenter and many Cat Forest Products employees were on hand to welcome and mingle with the dinner guests. The auction, with items donated by ALC members and supporters, raised $17,000 for the association. Cat Forest Products donated a red cedar driftwood bowl, which was one of the most popular items and went for $750.
The theme of the Ladies’ Brunch Saturday morning was “Where in the World are Dick and Jane Logger?” The program started with skit in which two actors playing “Lois and Louis Logger” lamented that there weren’t enough young people going into the forestry business. The skit was followed by a lively contest that pitted each table of women against each other to find “Dick and Jane Logger,” young people representing the next generation of loggers. The women were spirited participants — singing TV show theme songs and doing conga lines around the room!
The game was followed by a presentation by Bruce Vincent, executive director of Provider Pals, an organization to teach young people about the value and importance of loggers and other natural resource providers. Through its programs, Provider Pals is working to actually cultivate the Dick and Jane Loggers of the future.
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