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Caribou Spotlight

Caribou Eliminates the Paper Chase

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In the span of 10 to 15 years, our lives have been transformed by mobile "phones" that have become our TV, radio, alarm clock, planner, newspaper, camera and much more. So why are loggers so reluctant to incorporate thier phones into critical everyday work flows for things like time sheet and load ticket tracking, while insisting on continuing to use pen and paper?

The good news is - all these reasons are surmountable! Caribou has developed tools to extend The Logger's Edge core office system load ticket and time sheet tracking out into the woods via mobile digital data entry software tools that works on Android or Apple devices.

Know the Economics of your Business

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Equipped with knowledge about best practices, effective systems and methods, and the right tools in your office, monitoring the economics of your business doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task.

Your employees, family, and the mills with whom you work, count on you to run a profitable logging operation. It’s imperative that you have the right tools in the woods and in the office to do so. Otherwise, you may just have an expensive hobby on your hands.

Gathering, Analyzing Logging Business Metrics Effectively

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I’ve met some extraordinarily astute, successful logging and sawmill entrepreneurs in these last 15 years who could run circles around many of the multinational corporate professionals with whom I worked in my prior life. These entrepreneurs have figured out the business metrics they need to monitor in order to compete successfully, and they’ve implemented efficiency-enhancing data management tools to collect and deliver that data.
I’ve also met some very hardworking, successful forestry business owners who run their business mostly by “braille”—blind to their key business metrics. They work 10-12 hours a day, and operate on a hope and a prayer that their hard work will pay off, too short of time to keep an eye on their numbers. The last thing they have time to do is spend countless hours gathering data. But tracking your data doesn’t have to be daunting if you approach it pragmatically.

From Woods to Office: Ticket Tracking Gone Digital

For logging contractors hauling thousands of truckloads of timber a year, ranging in value from $500 to $1,500 or more, it’s remarkable in this age how manual that process still is. And it’s remarkable how fraught with error it can be. Here’s how one logging contractor in Minnesota addressed that problem.

Read some of the excerpts:
In the office Carlson uses Caribou’s Logger’s Edge Software, which allows them to set up all the jobs with the corresponding delivered prices as well as landowner and trucker pay rates. That system is the central system where all the product, destination, truck, and other setup lists are maintained. The Loggers’ Edge is where all load ticket data are stored and processed to auto-create the pay statements, revenue reconciliation reports, and job profit and production reports each week.

In the woods, each of the crews now has an Android tablet that runs Caribou’s “E-Logger.” If a crew moves onto a new job or starts working for a new mill, that information gets entered into the Logger’s Edge, and then the trucker or crew supervisor simply taps a button on his app to “Get the Latest setup Data” while he’s still in cell range. When a trucker arrives on a job site, he enters his load into the E-Logger, which they generally keep in a crew cab at the job site. The device assigns a unique sequential load ticket number, a time stamp, and a GPS coordinate automatically, and he simply selects the job, mill, etc. using the pre-populated drop-down lists on his app. He can then print multiple copies of his ticket to a portable blue-tooth receipt printer. He provides one of the copies to the scale attendant at the receiving mill when he arrives. The mills like the pre-printed tickets because they are much easier to read and much more professional than the hand-scrawled alternative.

When the driver leaves the mill, he attaches the mill’s ticket printout to the ticket printed in the woods so that the weight information now accompanies the woods ticket. Those tickets are dropped off back at the office, usually at the end of the week. In the meantime, though, the crew foreman can hit the “Send” button on the E-Logger app at the end of each day, or multiple times in the day if cell coverage allows, and those tickets are visible in the Logger’s Edge system back in the office almost immediately. That daily visibility really helps the managers stay on top of mill quotas much more effectively, and it helps them identify potential operational issues or bottlenecks in the woods on a more timely basis. Before the introduction of the Caribou system, the ticket information often did not get entered until the end of the week, and by then it was too late to address operational problems or adjust deliveries for quota...

Mutual Benefits

The forest is full of mutually symbiotic relationships, like lichens in the forest helping with soil formation, or bees helping to pollinate flowers, just to pick two simple and wellknown examples. But it turns out that such mutually beneficial relationships can also happen outside the woods, as the folks from Plains Logging (based in White Plains, Ga.) and Caribou Software can attest. Their relationship dates back more than a decade, when Plains first adopted Caribou’s Logger’s Edge software. Both companies have been instrumental in each other’s expansion, both have encouraged the other to try new things, and both continue to rely on each other’s support and input.

Read some of the excerpts:
And it’s not just the office staff that relies on Caribou’s systems. About a year after Plains came on board with the Logger’s Edge, they adopted Caribou’s Mechanic’s Edge system as well. Their initial motivation was the need for a point-of-sales system for their company store to help manage the sale of equipment parts and services, but they intended eventually to use it to manage the scheduled maintenance on their own equipment fleet. Their store manager, Kenny Stewart, was pretty hesitant about learning a new software system, but he was committed to the process. Now he knows the Mechanic’s Edge like the back of his hand.

As it often goes, other parts of the business took priority for a number of years, but Plains did, in fact, accomplish its goal of implementing the maintenance tracking functionality about two years ago. “We’ve really enjoyed working with the Mechanic’s Edge,” says James Coleman, one of three brothers who are taking over the business from their father, William. “I don’t know why we didn’t get it all set up in the beginning. It has been a great asset, and makes it so much easier to keep up with the machine hours and what services are coming due. Plus, we don’t have to look back anymore at old invoices and paper files to figure out what was done on a particular unit.”

In recent years, Plains has even extended their use of software right on out to the woods, replacing their daily paper log sheets and hand-written trip ticket/ sticker system with Caribou’s Suzie Logger app for one of the company crews, the one that Grant Coleman heads. Plains had developed a meticulous manual tracking system for accounting for each and every load in the woods, using a sticker system to match each load with the corresponding mill ticket to ensure all loads were accounted for. The Suzie Logger Android tablet app has essentially allowed them to eliminate their sticker system and has also allowed them to eliminate all the preprinted authorization sheets that they used to print for use in the woods for those mills that required them...

A Silent Partner That's Truthful About Business Performance

When it comes to understanding the economics of your business, and helping your administrative staff and management work smarter, a good information management system is one of the most valuable business partners you can have. It’s a business partner that will help you sleep better at night, either knowing that your gut instincts have been validated by what your data tell you, or helping you identify where the problems are that you need to correct.

Read some of the excerpts:
“The way the information is linked in the system between time sheets and load tickets lets us easily pull comprehensive job costing information that would otherwise have taken hours to compile, and would have been much more prone to error.”

Each day, the loadermen at Hadaller turn in their load sheets, which itemize out all the loads they loaded that day, complete with the trucker, the mill, and the specie/product information. They enter the loads into The Logger’s Edge on a daily basis, allowing the managers to monitor loads per day to ensure the truckers are getting at least the minimum loads they need to cover their costs. By monitoring this information daily, they can catch problems while they are happening, ask questions to identify the cause of the bottlenecks, and take corrective action immediately.

Each pay period, Hadaller receives an electronic load ticket listing from Weyerhaeuser, which they import into the Logger’s Edge. The software automatically matches up these loads with the loads entered from the loadermen’s sheet, making it easy for the office personnel to spot “missing payments” from the mill so they can ensure they are getting paid for every load they deliver...

In the Woods or in the Office - Where Would You Rather Be?

The software has allowed Bisballe Forest Products to leverage his time much more effectively, freeing him up to spend more time in the woods, which is exactly where he needed to be to grow the business.

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For Kurt Bisballe at Bisballe Forest Products in Lake City, Michigan, the choice is obvious: in the woods. He would far rather be overseeing his logging jobs at the job sites and seeing first-hand what is working well and what needs improvement. Preferences aside, the reality is that he brings the most value to his customers and his employees when he is able to spend more time in the woods and with his customers, not stuck behind his desk in the office...

Tracking Loads

Caribou Software simplifies and streamlines procedures for Maine loggers.

Each week Crawford's multiple crews develop many loads of different products and deliver them to various markets. Crawford personnel estimate they have shaved at least two full days off the time they used to spend on paperwork.

Read some of the excerpts:
Let's face it. When it comes to adopting computerized technology, loggers as a general rule don't lead the charge. Even in the office, many logging companies are slow to embrace computerization. They may have embraced a computerized accounting system like Peachtree or Quickbooks to handle their overall financials, but when it comes to keeping up with load tickets, they often still rely on rudimentary spreadsheets at best, or worse yet, a #2 pencil and a 10-key adding machine.

That used to be the case with Robin Crawford and Son Woods Company, Inc., a 200,000-plus cords a year entity headquartered in Lincoln, Me. In 2007 the company adopted Caribou Software's Logger's Edge program to help keep track of load tickets and streamline the trucker and crew payment process, not to mention the revenue reconciliation process. They even use the program to keep up with fuel purchases and to automate International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) reporting each quarter.

Timber Talk - May 2014


A Timber Talk reader asks the question "With tax time just ended, I’ve been forced to think about all my costs—especially since I went mechanized. Sometimes it feels like they’re getting out of hand. Got any tips on how I can improve my record keeping?"

Read some of the excerpts:
While calculating your equipment costs might seem tedious, it really is vital because many mills "estimate" equipment costs in order to set logging rates. Specifically, they estimate the costs per productive machine hour that a contractor should be able to achieve for each machine involved in harvesting a cut block. They then convert the hourly cost to a cost per output (e.g., cubic metre), based on an estimated production per hour ratio. This rate-setting exercise theoretically ensures that the contractor earns enough to cover his equipment costs.

The question, of course, is how to arrive at this hourly cost figure, and what exactly it should include. There is no set formula for calculating the cost of a piece of equipment, but an accounting cost "build-up" approach is fairly common. All the relevant expenses are identified on an annual basis and then divided by annual productive (as opposed to available) hours in order to express the cost on a per-hour basis. The expenses generally include routine operating/service expenses, operator costs, capital expenses (depreciation and insurance), and a return on investment.

When performing this cost build-up exercise, there are a number of devilish subtleties buried in the details. These subtleties can have a not-so-subtle impact on the final costing figure.

It's Your Money - Do You Know Where it Is?

Logger's Edge Software is Designed for Logging Businesses

(May - July 2009 edition of the Southeastern Wood Producer Association's Out of the Woods Magazine)

Read some of the excerpts:
Thanks to their investment in The Logger's Edge, a software system designed specifically to help loggers track their business data, Glenda and Dewayne Shepard from Circle S Timber Harvesting, Inc. watch their revenues and costs from one job to the next like a hawk. Circle S is a one-crew contractor in South Georgia that works primarily for one timber dealer.

Often, small contractors like Circle S think they have no need to track their data with a computerized system because they can keep track of all of it in their heads or with rudimentary hand calculations. But can they really? Now that Glenda has all her data in her computer system, she can pull up a tract report showing how many dollars she spent on fuel to harvest a particular job, and she can easily see what those dollar figures represent on a per ton basis because her tract tonnage is right there on the same report. 

Not only that, she can tell her husband exactly how much they have spent on parts and repairs on a particular machine over a given date range, or how much they have spent on fuel from one equipment unit or truck to the next. If she runs a report showing that a particular set of trucks are making the same trips from a given job to the same set of mills, yet one truck is consistently burning more fuel, they can begin to ask the right questions to get to the bottom of the problem. Maybe one truck needs some additional maintenance performed to improve its fuel efficiency, or maybe one driver needs to be coached about his driving habits to help improve the fuel efficiency of the vehicle.

"The software has made my life so much easier," says Glenda. "I handle my load tickets and my bills one time, and that's it. Then I have all my information sitting in the computer and not in piles all over my office. I can select my date range and my equipment units or trucks or tracts, and pull up the data I want to see immediately."

Calculated Gains

Logger's Edge Software is designed with loggers in mind, as these three Canadian contractors can attest.

(December 2007 edition of the Canadian Forest Industries)

Read some of the excerpts:
According to Kelly King from West Pine Contractors in Quesnel, BC: "A logger with a multi-phase operation would be crazy not to have some method for tracking his production and costs in this day and age, whether it is computerized or not. This just makes it so much easier than when we tried to track the information through spreadsheets."

Kelly relies on The Logger's Edge to compare his phase-by-phase costs per cubic metre across all the blocks he has harvested in a season. He also uses the data from the software to compare how his overall costs per phase for the season compared to those same costs from a year ago.

Nighthawk Timber of Timmins, Ontario, also finds that they are spending less time re-handling certain types of information. For example, they do a fair amount of hourly work, especially during the summer months. They used to enter their time sheets into one system, and then re-handle those same sheets to calculate the hourly charge-outs. Now, they simply enter the time sheets into The Logger's Edge once, they set up their employee pay rates, as well as the equipment charge-out rates, and the software generates the corresponding reports needed for both payroll and invoicing automatically.

The investment in Logger's Edge was well worth it for Jason Schuurman, of J.D. Schuurman Contracting in Alberta. He had originally intended to hire a part-time bookkeeper to help keep up with the office record keeping. Instead, he spent roughly $3,000 on the software, and kept up with the records himself.

Sharp Tool!

Logger's Edge Software is Designed for Logging Businesses

(January 2007 edition of the Southern Loggin' Times)

Read some of the excerpts:
After adopting Caribou's system, one logging company in Virginia was able to eliminate the costs of an outside bookkeeping firm by taking the employee and contractor payment process in house.  He insists that he couldn't do without Logger's Edge.

"Load-by-load, mile-by-mile, ticket-by-ticket, the data are all there.  Because they can see their performance week-to-week, I spend much less time answering questions on payday.  Plus, I can generate my trucker settlements in about half the time it used to take."

Dasher says using a system like LE is simply a smart business decision.  "I used to review my numbers only every two weeks. Now, I review them every two or three days.  If a crew's tons are down, I see it right away and can investigate it immediately."

"Caribou's support is great," contends Amy Coleman. "If I call with a question or an issue, I can share my desktop securely with them right over the internet, and they can see exactly what I'm looking at, and take control of my machine if they need to. There's no need for them to come to us. They provide assistance instantly with their remote support tools."

North Woods Standout:

Dick Walsh Forest Products Named Timber Harvesting's Logging Business of the Year

We are proud to announce that one of our customers --- Dick Walsh Forest Products from Park Rapids, Minnesota -- was awarded the Timber Harvesting's 2006 Logger of the Year Award.  Follow the link below to the left to read the full article, and see how the Logger's Edge has benefited the Walsh business.

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Jodi [Walsh of Dick Walsh Forest Products] is very high on computer software used in the business.  "One of the best changes we've made in a long time is buying Logger's Edge software," she says.  "I called Boise and told them I needed a better way to track deliveries and they referred me to this Canadian company.

The program paid for itself in three months.

She uses the program, developed by Caribou Software, to track timber contracts, keep up with production by product categories, track deliveries and record actual trucking and equipment costs.

You can also read what some of our Canadian clients have to say about our software and support in an article published in the Winter 2006 edition of the Interior Logger and Trucker Magazine.

When Loggers Meet Computers:

(Winter 2006 edition of the Interior Logger and Trucker Magazine)

Read some of the excerpts:
"The biggest thing for us is that they will tailor the program to meet our needs," she [Sue Hagarty of Roga Contracting in Kamloops, BC] said.  Right now we are facing a lot of big issues, such as the bugs and the resulting light loads.  They have helped us and our need to deal with that issue.  As well, they understand the diversity within the industry – the Coast is different from the Interior, and the Interior is different from the North."

"The fuel rebate reporting system is absolutely excellent," she [Janice Himech of John Himech Logging of Houston, BC] said. "In fact, it is such a good system that the Victoria taxation branch actually complimented us on it!"

"We can reconcile statements and it generates a very professional detailed pay statement that I can attach to my stubs," Janice said.  "I know the truckers really appreciate this."

Janice said the support received from Caribou staff has been "stellar".

Says Theresa Phillips of Pitka Logging in Vandorhoof, BC:  "Caribou is always there when I need a hand, either by phone, fax or internet.  I often work in the evenings which makes it difficult when I have problems. I had a problem which I needed help with, but was playing phone tag.  One of the ladies, (Jennifer), knew that I often work late and went way out of her way to post an extensive "self help" instruction page to You don't often find support like that."

Equipment Costing: The Devil is in the Details

Read some of the excerpts:
"Logging companies invest literally millions of dollars in processors, skidders, and other types of heavy equipment to run their operations. But from an economic standpoint, making an investment in such capital equipment only makes sense if the revenue generated by the equipment exceeds the cost. All too often, loggers face the spectre of bankruptcy as a consequence of failing to measure their costs correctly. Just ask any of the auction companies that do so well selling used equipment."

"While calculating your equipment costs might seem tedious, it really is vital because many mills “estimate” equipment costs in order to set logging rates. Specifically, they estimate the costs per productive machine hour that a contractor should be able to achieve for each machine involved in harvesting a cut block. They then convert the hourly cost to a cost per output (e.g., cubic metre), based on an estimated production per hour ratio. This ratesetting exercise theoretically ensures that the contractor earns enough to cover his equipment costs."

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