Impressive performance of Komatsu 931 harvester
Jason Welch knew early on that a desk job wasn’t for him. Working in the woods, however, was in his blood. His father, Walter, began driving a logging truck throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 1952, so Jason decided to follow his lead and head outdoors.
“I finished two years of college, but spending the rest of my life sitting inside didn’t appeal to me,” recalled Jason. “So, I started buying equipment. Twenty-two years later, I’m still out here in the woods. I think it was a good decision; I’ve enjoyed it.”
He started Jason Welch Custom Skidding with only a skidder. Eventually, he added a harvester to his fleet and began cutting trees and skidding on his own. It remained that way until his oldest son, Cody, joined him. Today, Jason runs a harvester while Cody operates a forwarder. When they have logs to haul, Walter takes care of it.
“If anyone has more miles in a logging truck than my dad, I’d like to see it,” said Jason. “It’s neat to work with both my son and father. I know Dad feels the same way; he’s 72 and says he would have retired years ago if he didn’t get to see us everyday.”
With the growth of the operation, Jason rebranded the Bark River company to Welch’s Logging. Aside from quality time with family, having three generations working together has benefited the business. Welch’s Logging serves as a subcontractor for larger firms, so having the ability to provide harvesting, forwarding and hauling is a convenience for its customers.
“We may not be the biggest company, but with one call to us – instead of three calls to three different people – a customer knows we can handle harvesting, skidding and hauling,” explained Jason. “It’s an advantage for us.”
One customer who sees the benefit of the logging firm’s arrangement is MVA Enterprises owned by Mark Anderson. He has called on the Welch family to harvest trees for his company sin ce 2004.
“It’s a good arrangement for everyone,” said Jason. “In one shot, he takes care of a job, and we know that we are going to be busy. It’s a relationship that we value. Mark’s the best.”
Komatsu increases productivity
Despite being a small company, Welch’s Logging is able to post serious production numbers thanks to its new Komatsu 931 harvester with a C144 harvesting head. Jason worked with Roland Machinery Company and Sales Rep Brad Jackson on the purchase and has been impressed with the improvement in performance compared to his previous Komatsu setup.
“I had a Komatsu 911 harvester with a 370.2 head, and I loved it; I used one for eight years and didn’t think there could be anything better,” recalled Jason. “Then I was on a job and worked next to a guy with a C144 head and he was crushing our numbers.
“I tried everything I could to match his production for two months, but I couldn’t,” he added. “I’d start jobs two hours before him, and he’d catch me by 3:00 p.m. So, I crunched the numbers, and it made sense to upgrade. The machine pays for itself in production. I couldn’t be happier that I made the decision to switch.”
With its new Komatsu setup, Welch’s Logging cuts between 11,000 and 12,000 cords annually. In addition to high production numbers, Jason says he appreciates the outstanding service he receives from Roland.
“Brad and everyone at Roland do a great job to keep us up and running,” stated Jason. “Forestry Specialist Bert Johnson is amazing. If I have an issue, Bert can usually take care of it over the phone. That is great for us, because we operate in some remote areas. If we have to wait for a technician to come to us, it’s going to take a long time. Downtime is a killer for us, but Roland helps minimize it.”
Jason was so impressed with his 931 harvester that he entered it in Bark River’s Fourth of July parade last summer. It earned the company a blue ribbon.
“It was a lot of fun; our little procession diagrammed our business model,” joked Jason. “Each machine had a sign on it. The harvester’s read I cut it; the skidder’s said I skid it; the sign on dad’s truck read I haul it; and my mom and wife were in a convertible with a sign saying I spend it. It got a good laugh, and we won first place.”
Enjoying the moment
Jason knows that the dynamic the generational trio currently enjoys won’t last forever. Eventually, Walter will retire, and Cody will want more responsibility. While change is inevitable, Jason isn’t rushing it.
“Eventually we will have to make some modifications, but I’m going to appreciate the opportunity I have being in business with family while I can,” said Jason.
When Jason looks down the road, he sees the potential for growth, but it will require reviewing numbers to ensure that Welch’s Logging can continue to offer a quality, total package to customers.
“I think we have the opportunity to expand, but finding the right employees would be key,” admitted Jason. “When dad retires, we’ll need a new driver, and if Cody begins to run a second harvester, we’ll want to add someone to run the skidder. If we can find the right people, we’ll do it.”