How a sawmill helped engineer a new machine

Wednesday 8 Aug 2018

The oldest of seven boys, Leo Eby grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania. Whenever his dad didn’t need his help on the farm, Leo would help out at his neighbour’s sawmill. Leo was more interested in the lumber business. In 1987, a neighbour’s sawmill was upgraded, so Leo and his older brother Arnold decided to purchase the old equipment. When they weren’t working on the farm, they were tinkering and running their new sawmill. The company continued to grow.

In December 1998 a fire destroyed the entire mill. They decided to rebuild on a new location on the farm and invested in better equipment and improved technology. Eby’s Sawmill now employs 50 people and produces about 15 million board feet annually.

Then Leo bought a TimberPro forwarder. “It became indispensable, but there were some things that I wished were better about it,” says Leo. However, Tigercat did not have a comparable product to suit his mill yard needs at the time. Leo came to the realization he needed to consider a replacement and soon.

“Over the years I had been observing Tigercat and kept in contact with Jerry and I noticed Tigercat’s high quality construction. If Tigercat made a machine in the same category, I definitely wanted to go with Tigercat, but at this point, it hadn’t been built yet,” explains Leo. “I knew that the only people that could achieve my goals was Tigercat. And even though I actually didn’t have any new Tigercat equipment, I knew they were on the cutting edge of good-quality equipment. I also knew Tigercat had a reputation for making equipment that is easier to work on.”

Along with Leo’s observations of Tigercat equipment, he valued his relationship with Jerry and the two of them kept in contact. “I just knew I had a good relationship with Jerry. He could answer any questions and he knew forestry equipment inside and out.”

Genesis of the 2160 loader forwarder – In early 2015, Tigercat delivered a loader mounted on an AC16 articulating carrier down to a Georgia-Pacific mill in North Carolina. Jerry and then- Tigercat president Tony Iarocci were planning a trip to visit this new machine and Jerry asked Leo if he wanted to join them. The local Tigercat representative invited Leo to go to North Carolina and talk to Tony (then president of Tigercat) to see if he could be persuaded to build a new mill yard loader. Leo walked him through what he was currently using, what he was not satisfied with and why.

Leo explained the application – he needed to unload trucks, load containers, and sort and move logs all over the yard. The machine also needed to feed the mill itself. “That is why it is critical that it has a high load capacity with good travel speed and no outriggers – to keep a continuous flow for the operator,” explains Leo. “I had Tony’s ear all afternoon and he listened very carefully. I’ll be forever grateful for it. Tony really had no reason to give me his time other than he’s just a nice man. It wasn’t like I was a big customer. There was no real reason for him to give me half a day of his time, but he did,” Leo expresses sincerely.

At the end of the conversation, Tony said to Leo, “I’ll tell you what. This is what I can promise you. I’m going to put two engineers on it and we’ll see what we can come up with. Give us six months.”

About six months later Tigercat and Tigercat dealer CJ Logging brought some early engineering plans down for Leo to look over and critique. “I told them this and that and what to change. Then I was invited to a meeting at the factory in Canada to discuss further details with them.”

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