It’s A Tigercat Eh, Y’all (Logging and Sawmilling Journal, November 1993)

The Canadian built machine is a market hit-in the southern US

This article originally appeared in Logging and Sawmilling Journal, November 1993. Reprinted with permission.

— Allan Haig-Brown

Identify a market need, then service it to the max.  You could call that the Tigercat Industries’ credo.

The Brantford, Ontario-based has earned a rapid market acceptance for its drive-through harvester in the southeastern United States.  More than 40 rubber tired Tigercat 726 Harvesters have been sold since the company was established early in 1992.

“It’s been a lot of work but we’re doing well,” confirms Tony Iarocci, Tigercat’s president.

The company name, by the way, has nothing to do with the Canadian Football League franchise in nearby Hamilton.  It emerged from a think-tank as a name likely to be remembered. In any event, the machines are painted yellow.

The 726 harvester looks a little like a front end loader. “It’s a machine that needs favorable terrain conditions, you need to drive to every tree,” says Iarocci. The machine is not designed for the hillier terrain typical in northern parts of North America where a swing boomed machine on tracks is more suitable, he adds. But the Tigercat is right at home in Virginia, the Carolinas, Florida, Georgia and parts of Texas.

“We chose to develop the market in that part of the U.S. where the forest industry was not as badly hurt by the recession and where we saw a need for a heavier duty machine,” recalls Iarocci. “Loggers told us machines could stand to be improved to reduce downtime and increase the life of the machine.”

The centre section of the Tigercat harvester is beefed up along with oversize pins and bearings at the articulation joint and boom assembly pivots. Loggers also told the Tigercat researchers they could use more horsepower so the machine’s functions could be performed simultaneously.

The 195 HP Caterpillar engine has its pumps, transmission and steering cylinders located toward the rear of the machine. The rationale is easy access for servicing and the orientation distributes more weight to the rear axle. The harvester has a 21 inch ground clearance (with 28L x 26 tires) and operator all-around visibility is emphasized. This includes a skylight in the cab roof. “Our strength is in sound engineering,” summarizes Iarocci.

The machine’s hydraulic system can be plumbed to accept various felling heads for trees up to 22 inches in butt diameter. Iarocci says customers use both sawheads and shears on the machine. He notes that the majority of logging contractors in the southeast are primarily harvesting saw logs with smaller wood used for pulp.

An additional contributor to Tigercat’s ready market acceptance was the incorporation of familiar and proven machine components.  It helps when introducing the harvester to a dealer or end users.  They can see for themselves that structural things like the frame and boom, says Iarocci. Using brand names, not obscure manufacturers, for components like the engine, transfer case, hydrostatics and air circulation makes potential customers more comfortable.

Tigercat Industries now has about 30 employees at its Brantford manufacturing plant. The company jobs out various fabrication work in the region and purchases components from around North America.  He notes a few Caterpillar dealers in the southeast were interested in selling Tigercat machines after handling a discontinued line of wheeled Cat feller buncher.

Tigercat’s latest offering is a smaller version of the 726 specifically designed for thinning operations. The first two Tigercat 720 prototypes recently left the plant, again to the U.S. southeast.

Iarocci believes the machine will have applications in pockets of Canada. Both the 720 and 726 could prove viable machines in terrain-friendly areas of the country, where the land is level, not hilly. He cited areas around Grand Prairie, Alberta, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and Thunder Bay, Ontario as possible regions. But he does not anticipate a major thrust into the Canadian market in the near future.