Customers in Action

D&T Sawmill, Tracy Watkins Logging


December 04, 2015

“High production is key”

D&T Sawmill

For generations, the Watkins family has logged the woods of southern Tennessee and areas of surrounding states. Tracy Watkins grew up doing it, and so has his son Daniel.

“I worked in a business with my brothers, logging all over the Southeast,” recalled Tracy. “I would be gone a week at a time, and Daniel went with me and did whatever he could to help out. When he was really little, it was toting gasoline or whatever else he could carry.”

As he got older, Daniel worked after school, during breaks and over the summers driving skidders and operating other equipment for Tracy Watkins Logging, which his father founded in 1993.

“I always loved working in the woods, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” said Daniel. “When I graduated from high school, this became my career. Lord willing, this is what I’ll do for the rest of my life.”

Their own biggest supplier

Daniel and Tracy know that logging can be fickle due to unsteady markets. In order to get an upper hand on their own fate, the two founded D&T Sawmill about four years ago. Daniel oversees the logging operation while Tracy runs the sawmill, which is located in Grand Junction, Tennessee. Tracy’s daughter Laura Norton also works at D&T Sawmill as the secretary.

“Several years ago, logging started getting to a point where sawmills around this area were filled up during the summer, and we had to haul logs an extra 60 to 70 miles to get rid of them,” recalled Tracy. “Fuel prices were high and timber prices dropped. Things got tight. Fortunately, there was a gentleman who wanted to get out of his sawmill business. We saw an opportunity, bought the mill and moved it to our current location.”

“It ensured we would always have a relatively close place to take our logs,” added Daniel. “We started off with one saw and have since put in another one. About 90 percent of the wood we saw comes directly from Tracy Watkins Logging.”

Mainly hardwoods

Tracy Watkins Logging primarily works within a 120-mile radius of Grand Junction. The company typically runs one side, but on occasion, splits up its crew and works on two projects at once. On average, the company produces about 50 loads of logs per week.

“We like to keep things simple, so we don’t run a bunch of crews,” said Daniel. “We have an excellent group of people who know how to get a job done safely, effectively and productively. Some have been with the company a long time, such as our Logging Foreman, James ‘Little Ralph’ Mays.”

The crew mainly cuts hardwoods, including white and red oak, poplar, ash, gum, hickory, sycamore, birch and elm. It also handles pine and pulpwood. Tracy Watkins Logging hauls the timber to D&T Sawmill or to other mills with its own trucks.

“D&T only processes hardwoods,” Tracy pointed out. “Our predominant product is crossties, and we cut various sizes. In addition, we make lumber products, pallet stock, dust and chips. Customers tell us what they want, and we supply them with it.”

Barko, Komatsu keep production high

D&T Sawmill

Tracy Watkins Logging loads its trucks in the woods with a Barko 495ML Magnum knuckleboom. D&T Sawmill uses another 495 to unload and cut logs to length before they are sawed. The companies use Komatsu WA270 and WA320 wheel loaders to move logs. They also use a Komatsu PC200 for general purposes around the mill.

“High production is key when it comes to logging and sawmilling, so having solid equipment that stands up to the challenge is essential,” said Tracy. “Komatsu and Barko give us that. Our loaders are in near-constant motion, especially at the sawmill. They maintain uptime, are easy to operate and will carry a sizeable load.”

“The knucklebooms give us excellent production too,” added Daniel. “I like the fact that they are easy to move from one job to another, just like pulling a trailer. They have good power and are fuel-efficient. We’re really not dealing with huge logs, so the 495ML is the right size for us.”

Daniel and Tracy worked with Power Equipment Company Territory Manager Chad Roberts to purchase the Barko and Komatsu products, as well as CSI slasher saws to cut ties and lumber at the mill.

“Power Equipment takes great care of us,” said Tracy. “That’s why we have continued to work with them for more than 10 years. Chad helped us find the right equipment, and Customer Support Representative David Hicks calls on us to make sure our parts and service needs are met.”

Power Equipment covers complimentary scheduled service on the Tier 4 loaders under the Komatsu CARE program. “They track the machines, call us and come out and do the service when it’s convenient for us,” said Daniel. “It ensures the routine maintenance is done on time. It’s a great value.”

Honesty is key

Providing great value to customers has always been a point of emphasis for Tracy and Daniel Watkins. Tracy credits that for keeping Tracy Watkins Logging in business for more than 20 years.

“I think I’ve only solicited for business once,” said Tracy. “Nearly 100 percent of our work has come from people calling on the recommendation of someone we worked for before or repeat customers. I believe it all comes down to honest dealing. Do what you say you’re going to do, and don’t promise what you can’t deliver.”

“That extends to D&T Sawmill as well,” Daniel commented. “Our customers expect quality products, and we aim to provide those in a timely manner. That’s something we won’t compromise on.”