Area procurement forester Drew Battle talks about Battle Lumber’s family-rooted sawmill business and expanding harvesting operations, including the recent addition of a C640H clambunk skidder.
— Samantha Paul
Area procurement forester, Drew Battle of Battle Lumber.
Drew Battle’s grandfather, Wayne Battle, started Georgia-based Battle Lumber in 1962, initially producing 3x3 furniture squares and transitioning into pallets manufacture in the late 1960s. “We grew that side of the business, I reckon, up through the ‘80s and then started producing a little bit of grade lumber,” tells Drew. During that time, Battle had some small-scale company-owned logging crews, but eventually exited that side of the business to focus on grade lumber production.
In 1993, Battle commissioned its state-of-the-art mill to produce grade lumber for export to markets worldwide while continuing to use the lower-grade material to produce pallets. Battle exports to nineteen countries, with product going to China, the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean. “We’ve extended all over the world,” says Drew.
One of the secrets to Battle’s success has been answering the market’s call. That’s meant learning to be the best in many different specialties and not being afraid to expand and adapt to meet the needs of a diverse customer base. It has resulted in the creation of many divisions within the company, including grade lumber, timber resources, dry kiln, pallets, and industrial products. “We’re into a lot when it comes to lumber,” states Drew.
C640H making it way to the landing along the log mats.
The harvesting side
Four years ago, Battle Lumber started up in-house harvesting crews again. “One of our large contract loggers was at the age of retirement. He was looking to get out of the business and didn’t have a succession plan. We decided at that point to purchase him. And since then, we’ve kept adding equipment.” Currently, Battle is running fifteen harvesting crews – five company crews and ten contract crews.
Battle Lumber has 32 pieces of Tigercat equipment on its harvesting side and three 880 loggers in its mill yard operation. The newest piece of iron is the Tigercat C640H clambunk skidder. “It has been added to one of the larger shovel crews, working bottomland tracts.” On the job site, the C640H complements two Tigercat T250 loaders and two 635 skidders. “We use the C640H for the long pull distances,” says Drew. “We’re seeing a trend of tracts nowadays being harder to reach, with poor road systems, and we’re having to pull wood longer distances.” Drew will utilize the C640H when skidding distances are over a half mile (800 m).
We're into a lot when it comes to lumber.
— Drew Battle
T250D loading a truck headed back to the Battle mill yard.
“That’s our standard. When we get to the half-mile pull, we’ll use the clambunk. It’s more cost-effective to pull it than build a road.”
Drew also uses the clambunk skidder when they are short an operator. “If I’ve got a guy out, where I’m running two 635s, and they’re keeping up with the loaders, I can put somebody on the C640H on the shorter pulls to make up for that person being out. It can pretty much do what two skidders can do, and we find that very beneficial with the current labour force.”
Battle also owns a C640E clambunk skidder, so the crew members noticed the changes made to the H-series model. Drew comments on the upgraded cab, referencing the 220° Turnaround® seat. “It’s an advantage, and it’s more comfortable for the operator; less stress on the operator’s neck and back. They’re also more productive, being able to face completely backwards and with less risk to run off the mat. Before, we would have to put turn-around spots in the mat, and now we don’t.” The operators like the joystick controls, stating that the throttle on the joystick is very convenient. “The cruise control is very beneficial,” says Drew, “especially when you’re going four miles [6 km] an hour down a mat.”
Support from Tigercat Dealer Allwood Equipment and the quality of the machines has kept us with Tigercat.
Tigercat S855E shovel logger loading the C640H.
Battle purchased its first Tigercat machine, an 880 logger, in 2014. Soon after, they bought two more 880s, all three for use in the mill yard. “After that, anything that Tigercat made that we could get, we bought,” states Drew. “Support from Tigercat dealer AllWood Equipment and the quality of the machines has kept us with Tigercat.”
Battle Lumber is about 80 miles (130 km) from the AllWood Equipment dealership. The logging crews work in a 180-mile (290 km) radius around Wadley, Georgia. “The travel time can get pretty tough on AllWood, but they’ve always done everything they could to support us no matter where
we were, even if it took putting a mechanic up in a hotel,” Drew explains. “We have a very good hands-on shop manager here, so we do a lot of our own maintenance and work on the equipment. But we also have the full support of Tigercat in AllWood. I mean, Allen [Coleman] and Jamie [Smith] are accessible 24/7. I can call them at three am on a Sunday. And if I need something, they’ll make it happen.”
It's more cost-effective to pull it than build a road.
Today Battle Lumber employs three generations with a total of ten family members assisting in all aspects of the company including sales, timber procurement, operations, and finance. Battle takes great pride in having multi- generational family employees throughout the company and many long-term employees that are like family.
Now with three sawmills, the company continues to grow and adapt where needed. “We’re constantly building and diversifying. We’ve got some big dry kiln projects going on as we speak. We just finished installing a new automated log merchandising system that complements the mill we built in 2015. We’ve always looked to improve efficiency and yield in our mills, so that’s not going to change.