23 January, 2017
PMD Forestry gets 'tree'mendous support from
Charlie Boucher, Team Leader
at Bell Swaziland and Petros Mnisi of PMD Forestry Total Harvesting Services
discuss the benefits of another Bell Logger.
Petros Mnisi of PMD Forestry
Total Harvesting Services in Swaziland knows firsthand how challenging the
timber contract harvesting business can be, but working alongside his son Vusi,
who is his operations manager, and having two Bell Loggers as hardworking
assets, Petros is once again fuelling his passion for forestry.
Petros grew up in the Hhohho
district near to the Maguga Dam and spent his school holidays working as an
inventory officer for the Mondi Group in the Piggs Peak area, taking down
diameters and cubic metres of timber. "You could say I literally grew up in forestry
and got to love everything about the industry," he says. "After matric, I
worked for the group for 18 months before they sent me off to Fort Cox in the
Ciskei to study forestry."
After graduating, Petros
joined Mondi full time to work back his scholarship over a three-year period. By
1995, he had the urge to start his own business in timber harvesting but
fortunately, an older colleague Tony Bold, cautioned him as to the many
pitfalls there could be in the start-up of such a business.
"Tony understood what I
wanted to do but he spent two years mentoring me in especially the correct way
of applying for loans and I will forever be grateful to him for that," Petros
says. "I was also fortunate to have other mentors, John Ferguson and Tony
Hulett, who taught me a lot about production and cable systems."
Petros registered his company
PMD Forestry Total Harvesting Services at the start of the new millennium and
his former employers Mondi, assisted him in buying two used Skidders and two
used Bell 220A Loggers from their fleet. Although used, they were in good
running order and he could get started straight away, employing 45 people to
fulfill contract-harvesting quotas granted him by Mondi Forests.
Members of his teams worked
as Skidder and Logger operators, fellers, log-scalers, cross-cutters, chalker-men
and supervisors. "Things went well for us thanks in part to the contracts we
were getting and the business grew in turnover, people and equipment," Petros
says. "In 2005, I joined forces with TLS, a long-haul timber transporting
company. In timber harvesting, when you extract the timber and stack it at
roadside, you only get paid once the timber crosses the weighbridge. My
thinking was that by joining forces with Tommy Steven of TLS, we could get paid
quicker as we could control how quickly the timber reached the weighbridge."
The joint venture went well
and there was rapid growth. According to Petros, the new company soon owned five
Skidders and six cable machines and each of these machines needed a Bell Logger
to assist with timber handling.
"I had in 2002 bought my
first John Deere 360D Cable Skidder and because of the terrain we mostly work
in I have always only bought Cable Skidders. Bell Loggers sell themselves and
are really the best machines to use for stacking, loading and sorting timber in
Africa as they has been purposely designed and built for African conditions,"
Petros enthuses. "They are such rugged machines."
PMD Forestry Total Harvesting
Services believe that Bell Loggers are the best machines for stacking, loading
and sorting timber in Africa because they are rugged machines that have been
and built for African conditions.
"Working with Bell Loggers in
any size, you get used to the ease of operation and that they just always seem
to be running, as was my experience first at Mondi and later in my own
Disaster struck the timber
growing areas around Piggs Peak in 2007 when fires destroyed timber plantations
running from West to East. Petros and his teams started harvesting the burnt
timber immediately afterwards so that forestry owners could at least get
something for their now damaged product. This harvesting continued without
stopping from 2007 to 2010 when market demand suddenly dried up and no one
wanted any more burnt timber.
"We stopped all our
operations in 2011 and sold our equipment to defray expenses and repay loans to
the banks," Petros adds. "Soon after the fires of 2007, plantation owners
started planting gum trees as these grow quicker than pine. So in October 2014 when
some adverts for contract harvesters started appearing, and my son Vusi was
completing his forestry studies at Saasveld and showing a keen interest in
timber harvesting, I suddenly sat up and took notice of the enquiries."
Petros spells out the
difficulty of restarting a timber contract harvesting business with no capital
and no equipment. "We were delighted to be shortlisted for obtaining a contract
but still, we had no equipment. Fortunately in the end having a contract in
hand and along with a business plan, we could confidently approach the likes of
the Swazi Bank and the Industrial Development Corporation of Swaziland who
assisted us with financing on two Bell 225A Crank Boom Loggers."
PMD Forestry Total Harvest
Services now employ 35 people who extract mostly timber for use as transmission
poles where lengths vary between 12 and 7 metres. Shorter timber goes to mine
support industries. Felling and extraction operations take place mainly in daylight
due to safety concerns with some loading of long-haul trucks taking place at
Petros goes onto to say that
when he and Vusi were researching the market, they looked at other equipment
besides that made and sold by Bell Equipment but in the end, decided to stay
with equipment that they knew and trusted, equipment that had fully fledged
technical and parts back-up on their doorstep in Swaziland and where the import
duties had already been paid by Bell Equipment.
are tasked with producing 2 500 tonnes of timber a month and we've hired in a
Skidder to help us with the task. The going is tough and we could really do
with another two Bell Loggers but we need to stabilise our cash flow first. It's
also good to be associated with Charlie Boucher and his team at Bell Swaziland
and they really look after us."
The Two Bell 225A Crank Boom
Loggers owned by PMD Forestry Total Harvesting Services, which are hard at work
to produce 2 500 tonnes of timber per month together with a Bell Skidder that
has been hired in to assist.
Source: Bell Equipment