Rocky Mountain Wood Expanding
MONSON, Massachusetts — Hurricane-force winds cause trouble any time of year, even if they are not fueled by a tropical storm. Just ask residents of the Mid-Atlantic and New England about the sustained gusts that have come alone and sometimes against a backdrop of heavy snow in the winter of 2005-06.
Waves of downed trees were the pattern for the Northeast in the last couple of months of winter. Keeping pace with emergency tree work and routine and preventative jobs has exacted a huge commitment from land-clearing companies. Just catching up with John Burson, owner of Rocky Mountain Wood Company Inc., a land-clearing and excavating firm, was a challenge.
John was busy monitoring and also helping his four crews to complete work. A bout of flu made the rounds of employees in February, adding to the workload for John, who has filled in by running equipment.
Fortunately for John, who founded Rocky Mountain Wood Co. in 1979, he has a powerful new piece of equipment in use on the wood waste recycling side of his operations. Rocky Mountain makes landscape mulch from wood harvested from land clearing operations.
In February 2005, John purchased a CBI Magnum Force 6800 horizontal hog. (CBI is the well-known acronym for Continental Biomass Industries Inc. in Newton, Mass.) The machine is built for high-volume throughput and can grind at rates of up to 600 cubic yards per hour.
John was so pleased with his first CBI Magnum Force 6800 that he ordered a second one just six months later. “We’ve bought CBI products for years,” he said. “No one in the country makes a better grinder.”
The choice of the CBI Magnum Force 6800 was easy, said John. “It’s a well-built quality product,” he explained. CBI machines “reflect the quality of the manufacturing” that has gone into them, serving well and long.
Updates have been made to the CBI 6800 since John bought his first one. “CBI added a two-speed track system,” noted John, who will retrofit his older CBI 6800 with the same system because it makes it easier to maneuver. CBI has also increased the infeed chain size, which improved material handling.
“We’re very satisfied (with CBI),” said John. “They’re very good on servicing.”
What does John like best about the CBI? Well, everything, but topping his list is the machine’s capability for high production.
The Magnum Force 6800 was designed with companies like John’s in mind. In addition to being a high-production grinder, the machine is highly maneuverable. The machine’s maneuverability is especially important to John because Rocky Mountain often works in inclined, compact spaces.
Rocky Mountain uses a low-bed trailer to move its CBI 6800 machines, which has a track system mounted to the grinder. For direct towing, CBI also offers a version of the model 6800 mounted on a wheeled chassis.
Rocky Mountain Wood has about 27 employees. The company normally works within about a 120-mile radius of base in Monson, Mass., a town of about 8,000 residents located 14 miles east of Springfield. John’s company works on jobs in western Massachusetts and portions of Vermont, Connecticut and New York.
John’s business is well equipped. Rocky Mountain Wood Co. has three Timbco 445 feller-bunchers; each has a Quadco 22-C head. The company also has a Timbco 475 EXL feller-buncher, a Timberline SDL2a delimber-processor, and a Hydro-Ax forestry mower. Other machinery and equipment includes three Tigercat 630 skidders, a Tigercat track log loader, two Serco 8500 log loaders on trailers, a Volvo truck, two CAT 330 excavators and a CAT 325 excavator for removing stumps, several CBI stump shears, plus a Komatsu 2790 excavator, two Volvo 120C front-end loaders and a Volvo 135 loader.
Maintaining equipment in top condition for optimum performance is part of John’s business strategy. He has, for example, a Hood 24000 mobile slasher that has been in service since 1989, a tenure that includes refurbishing. To ensure that crews have access to maintenance as quickly as possible, he deploys maintenance trucks outfitted with air and welding equipment as well as wrenches and parts. The maintenance trucks travel quickly to job sites where machines are operating in order to maintain and perform needed repairs.
The trucks and trailers on which the entire operation at Rocky Mountain Wood Co. depends include six Kenworth W900 tractors, two Kenworth T800 tractors, one Peterbilt 379 tractor, one Ford tri-axle for stump hauling, one Kenworth T300 service truck, eight Ford service trucks, one Peterbilt 357 roll-off for deliveries, one International 8100 roll-off for deliveries, one Kenworth T300 for deliveries, two low-bed trailers, three log trailers (two with loaders), eight live-floor trailers, two chip trailers, two dump trailers, and eight containers for roll-off trucks.
The live-floor trailers are a key part of the extensive mulch production operations at Rocky Mountain. Mulch produced from wood that has no value as a saw log is sold by the yard, both wholesale and retail. Mulch is sold in bulk form. Some mulch is colored with a Becker-Underwood Second Harvester mulch coloring system.
John also has some Morbark chippers that have served Rocky Mountain well for many years. He had planned to replace them, but he has so much work and the jobs are so varied that the Morbark machines give his business added versatility.
John’s company makes high quality, finely ground, composted and screened mulch. An important part of the screening system is a McCloskey 724 trommel screener.
A double-grind process is essential to making high-quality mulch, said John. After grindings are screened, they are permitted to compost for as much as a year. Then the material is screened again with the McCloskey trommel and ground a second time. The process produces a rich, dark mulch that is sold natural and also colored. The double-screening also removes top soil that can be sold separately.
In 2001 John bought a sawmill and planing mill in Wilbraham, Mass. He recently added a Heartwood 310 horizontal bandmill and has begun to expand the mill’s capabilities. The mill has been manufacturing custom timbers and wood components, such as wood beams used for building replicas of old ships and other boats.
The Heartwood 310 has been used to cut the custom timbers. It can mill logs up to 35 inches in diameter and 20 feet long; the sawmill is equipped with a double-edged blade that cuts in both directions.
Marketing to niche customers like custom boat builders is just one of John’s strategies for the sawmill. He plans to add equipment for making grade stakes, too.
Adjusting to customer needs to sustain and grow his business is something that John has done since he first got hooked on the wood products industry. He was in high school when he started a part-time logging business with a C5 Tree Farmer cable skidder, a used International dump truck and a Husqvarna chain saw.
From the beginning, John merchandized wood in a way that would bring the most return on his investment of labor and money. If he had a log that could fetch a good price at a mill, he took it there.
Otherwise, he processed the low-grade logs into firewood. Rocky Mountain continued to produce and sell firewood until recent years.
The “y” in Rocky comes not from the great Western mountain range but because of a printing error. When John was incorporating Rocky Mountain Wood Co., the government agency in charge of the paperwork added the vowel by mistake. He decided to keep the name.
John reckons that his keen eye for quality might come from what he learned from his dad. His father worked at an engine ignition systems company. From his father John learned about small engine maintenance. And the entire experience gave him an appreciation for the marvel of keeping equipment going, allowing it to see its fullest life.
The CBI Magnum Force 6800 has a clamshell opening, which makes it easy to perform maintenance. “It’s one of the few grinders where you have full access to the rotor,” said John. “It’s very easy to get in and service.”
John uses the CBI Magnum Force 6800 machines primarily for first grinds of wood material, although that may change in the future.
He is very pleased with the new stump shears from CBI. In mid-March he took delivery of a CBI detached shear assembly. He will use it for splitting stumps that are fed into the CBI Magnum Force 6800 hogs.
CBI’s development of the new detachable stump shear, which John will use with one of two CAT 330 excavators or a CAT 325 excavator, is evidence of the attentiveness that CBI shows to its customers, explained John. “They are one of the few companies that listen to what you say,” he said.
Because Rocky Mountain needs its excavators for more than one function, the ability to change out attachments is a huge plus. CBI is also making a 360-degree rotating grapple assembly that John will soon use as an excavator attachment.
Careful choice of equipment is a must, said John. He has a long history of working with CBI because the company meets his two non-negotiable criteria for any vendor: durability and service. The machine must be rugged, perform well and the vendor must be ready to stand by its product to answer questions and provide technical help when needed. CBI meets those criteria for John.
The CBI grinders have proven to be durable, reliable machines, according to John. “They’re working every day,” he said. Just two days after the second CBI was delivered, it was up and running.
CBI was founded in 1988. Since then its products have carried it to international prominence, and CBI now sells all over the world. It works to tailor each of its products to the precise type of service it will see. The custom design enables its clients to get the most from their investment.
CBI manufactures grinders, chippers, shredders, screening systems and stump shears. It also offers a full range of ancillary equipment, such as infeed, sorting, and conveyor systems. CBI machines are used in many applications, including processing of yard waste and production of wood fuel for co-generation plants.
The features of the CBI Magnum Force 6800 horizontal hog illustrate the attention that CBI gives to the type of customer that will use a particular machine. The CBI 6800 has a clamshell opening of the grinding chamber, which eases maintenance. It has a high torque, hydrostatic feed and a Twin-Disc hydraulic clutch. A CBI IntelliGrind system governs the speed of the infeed system to make sure it is compatible with engine load. The hammers, which CBI calls Replace-A-Face, can be easily changed out when they require repair. Components in the CBI 6800 come from Caterpillar, Rexroth, Twin Disc and Flexxaire, among others.
Rocky Mountain Wood Co. and CBI share a philosophy. Both companies put a premium on a work ethic that ensures customer needs are met, irrespective of complications that emerge from time to time. Nothing — not hurricane-force winds nor unwieldy, bushy, tangled and hardwood trees — diminish that commitment.
Professional meetings, safety training updates, trade shows and reading industry publications are all part of the full schedule for John, who enjoys every aspect of the business. To be sure, John explained that he also enjoys the challenge of meeting all the expectations and requirements that come with environmental regulations.
Most of all, of course, John likes that fact that he is taking a renewable natural resource and helping ensure that it is used for its highest potential in grade lumber or other forest products.
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