On The P-r-o-w-l (Timber Harvesting, January 1997)

Tigercat leaps into the fray with strong machines; more new products forthcoming.

This article originally appeared in the January 1997 issue of Timber Harvesting.
Reprinted with permission.

— DK Knight

BRANTFORD, ON — From an obscure beginning in late 1991 in the basement of a large steel fabricator’s headquarter building, a new breed of cat is clawing quite a name in the North American logging equipment community.

Less than five years ago Tigercat Industries Inc. unveiled machine its first machine prototype, a drive-to-tree feller buncher tagged the 726, at Timber Harvesting Expo-Southeast near Quitman Ga. The odds were stacked against the company’s chances of success. It had no history, no distribution system and no experience with drive-to-tree feller bunchers. Furthermore, it was scratching to enter a price-sensitive market segment as the industry crawled out of a downturn.

According to Tony Iarocci, Tigercat president, the fledgling company overcame the odds by researching the market carefully, focusing on a single product, pulling together an engineering-driven group with strong forestry equipment credentials and designing a higher quality machine. Says the soft spoken Iarocci: “We felt confident that our engineering and manufacturing capabilities would lead us to success.”

Encouraged by the industry’s acceptance of the distinctive 726 and with sales surpassing all expectations, Tigercat attracted the attention of both potential customers and dealers, not to mention the competition. It expanded to design and manufacture additional models and to introduce new products.

Despite the fact that its products typically cost more, the company briskly emerged as a major player in a crowded, relatively mature markets. In fact, in the short history of North American logging equipment evolvement, perhaps no other manufacturer has grown so fast or introduced so many new products so early in its life.

Tigercat’s initial offering, which Iarocci says incorporated several precedent-setting design elements and a four-year center section warranty, was followed a year later by a slightly smaller machine, the 720, which remains the company’s best seller. Then came two

track machines, the 845 and the 860. Through 1996, Tigercat had manufactured and and sold more than 600 feller bunchers, most of them now deployed in southern US, forests.  That first 726, according to Tigercat, continues to fell and bunch for Williston Timber, Ocala, Florida.

Reflects larocci: “Time will tell, but we may have built a feller buncher that has two to three years more life than the industry is accustomed to. We have no indication as yet that it will not turn out that way.”

While upper management believed Tigercat had developed a technically superior machine design, it was soon evident that an effective distribution system was no less essential. At first it was a painful process, but as the 726 and 720 gained popularity and as the company added to its credibility, dealer development became easier. Eventually, dealers began asking for the Tigercat line. Tigercat’s dealer network now ranges from companies with single outlets to large entities with ten or more locations. As well, a mutually exclusive marketing agreement permits the company to distribute track feller bunchers in Canada through John Deere industrial dealers.

Tigercat’s assembly operations presently encompass 100,000 square feet combined in three facilities here and in nearby Paris, Ontario. The company employs 120, twenty of which are engineers. Tigercat’s assembly operations are supported by companion companies

MacDonald Steel, Manufacturer’s Metalfab and Dytech Resources, all located within an hour’s

drive. These well-equipped facilities encompass about 400, 000 square feet. In its 37 year history, MacDonald Steel has performed custom fabrications for Caterpillar, Hyster, Euclid, Clark, Koehring, Timberjack,  American Hoist, Champion SuperPac and Bomag, among others.

Iarocci is quick to praise the individual and collective abilities and performance of Tigercat’s personnel and lauds the positive attitude that abounds. “The team we’ve had the good fortune of putting together is dedicated, works hard and knows this business,” he says. “we have no hierarchy in this organization and we like for our people to work as entrepreneurs as much as they can.”

This freedom, he points out, generates a high level of energy and enthusiasm and results in rapid progress when it comes to designing new and improved machines and attachments.

Although Tigercat employs a proportionately high percentage of engineers for a manufacturer, its engineers do more than manipulate images on a computer screen and monitor fabrication and assembly. The Tigercat president explains, “Our engineers are more involved with the marketplace than is the traditional case. Most are free to hit the road at any time to communicate with our distributors and customers. Nothing beats getting information directly from the end user.”

Tigercat’s engineering strength is a blend of experience, youth and enthusiasm. For example, the most experienced member of the team is John Kurelek, whose list of credentials includes developing the industry’s first high speed sawhead while with Koehring Waterous, the same company Iarocci was affiliated with for many years. Interestingly, of the 20 engineers on staff, 12 are 30 years of age. Jon Cooper, point man for Tigercat’s recent skidder development project is 31.

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