“Over our other wheel loaders we are saving between 45 and 55 liters (11-15 US gallons) of fuel per shift with this new Volvo wheel loader and that is very significant.” Greg Murphy, Superintendent Fiber, Yard and Kilns, Tembec, Cochrane Sawmill.
The challenge many construction site managers or heavy equipment fleet owners face on a daily basis is not dissimilar to that of the general population. These specialized consumers know what they have to move, where they have to move it to, what has to be built and how quickly it has to be done. However, the question remains, what brand of equipment is best for the job and will provide the greatest return on investment (ROI)?
Advertising, brochures and manufacturer’s marketing representatives attempt to influence these decisions on a regular basis. Many of these manufacturing segment marketers subscribe to the theory that consumers, of any discipline, need to be exposed to a product or a product message a minimum of five times before the product message enters the cus tomer’s consideration set and a purchase is made.
That was the challenge being faced by the team of Paulo Gignac and Greg Murphy, senior managers at Tembec Forest Products Group, Cochrane, Ontario sawmill. Following the major forestry market downturn of the past few years, the industry was once again on solid footing and making a significant rebound. To keep their Tembec mill productive and profitable and eliminate as much potential downtime as possible, both Paulo and Greg knew they had to begin replacing their aging fleet of wheel loaders. To that end, they began to collect the evidence.
Tembec is a Canadian based manufacturer of forest products – lumber, pulp, paper and specialty cellulose – and a global leader in sustainable forest management practices. Tembec has operational facilities in both North America and France and employs approximately 3,500 people. The company manages nearly 10 million hectares (about 25 million acres) of Canadian forestlands. Their Cochrane dimensional lumber sawmill, established in 1976 and with approximately 120 employees, is a key industry in this quaint, northern Ontario community. Working two shifts daily, six days a week, the mill is currently producing approximately 115 million board feet of dimensional lumber annually. Lumber, that is shipped to markets across North America.
General Manager, Gignac and Fiber Supervisor, Murphy are veterans of the lumber mill industry and over the years have experience with many different brands of wheel loaders. They had been sufficiently impacted by the various manufacturers’ messages and they knew that there were several brand options available to them.
Both knew the best place to start to collect the necessary purchase-decision evidence was in their own mill yard. Here they found three brands of wheel loaders. One was a CAT, currently used as a spare machine, two more were Volvo models, each with close to 100,000 hours of operational time and one was a Clark Michigan. An aging Michigan L160 wheel loader with over 160,000 hours on the meter!
The first Clark Michigan wheel loaders were built in 1954 and the company and their complete line of wheel loaders were brought under the Volvo banner in 1985. So really… there were only two wheel loader brands in the Tembec yard.
Keeping this fleet of aging wheel loaders fully operational in a demanding lumber mill operation and in the harsh climatic conditions of northern Ontario, is not necessarily easy. Not easy… but really quite simple according to Tembec head mechanic Serge Thomas. His secret: “Maintenance, maintenance, regular maintenance. We clean and/or change the air filters every week, blow the radiators clean as often as is necessary and change the engine oil every two weeks or 250 operational hours, whichever is soonest. Engine oil is cheap… engines are expensive.” When asked about loader performance when there is plenty of snow and the temperature often dips to minus 40 Celsius (40 below Fahrenheit), Thomas went on, “The loaders are always parked outside and we keep them plugged in at night. We never have any problem getting them started. I ask all the operators to let them warm up before they start to use them and it works.”
According to Greg Murphy, the Tembec equipment acquisition team looked around at various competitive brands and even demoed a couple, but were always drawn back to the Volvo brand. There were a number of reasons for this explained Murphy, “First we had evidence that many of the competitor’s brands were not going to be as reliable over the long haul and certainly not as fuel efficient as even our older Volvo models. Second, our operators really liked the visibility, lifting power and stability of the Volvo loaders. Thirdly, we had established a solid working relationship with Strongco (Volvo Construction Equipment dealer based in Mississauga, Ontario). Fourthly, who can argue with reliability? All of our aging Michigan and Volvo wheel loaders have in excess of 100,000 hours on the meter and we still use them every day.”
Also assisting with the purchase decision was the close alignment of Tembec’s core values and those of Volvo Construction Equipment. Volvo core values embrace quality, safety and environmental care. Tembec demonstrates industry leadership through its commitment to quality and environmental protection as well as the health and safety of its employee, its customers and the public. According to Greg Murphy, “This close alignment meant a lot to us and we certainly took it into consideration when making our decision.”
Volvo Construction Equipment is the world's first construction equipment manufacturer to partner with the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) in an initiative to cut carbon emissions. With its Climate Savers program, WWF asks companies around the world to commit to reducing their carbon footprints. WWF-Canada tells the story of how Tembec was the first major Canadian company to commit to Forest Stewardship Council Certification.