Melinda Morben

Melinda Morben, manager of operational logistics, Island Timberlands.

Logging and Sawmilling Journal recently published a story about Melinda Morben, manager of operational logistics for Island Timberlands, in their January 2016 edition, titled Diversifying the Industry Workforce—with more women.

We’ve included an excerpt of the article below, shared with permission, or you can find the original article here.

Melinda Morben knows all about saying “yes” to opportunity in the forest industry—and she is encouraging other women to look at employment opportunities in Canada’s forest industry.

This past January, Morben made a presentation at the Truck Loggers Association convention in Victoria, where she spoke on the topic of the industry employing more women, as a way of expanding the workforce.

Based on her own positive experiences, she is encouraging more women to look at working in the forest industry.

“I think the industry has been accepting of women,” she says. “People have been respectful and I’ve had really supportive people that have helped me.”

The perception about the forest industry is that it’s a logger’s world—and that logger is a big, burly guy. But to some degree, that is a stereotype, and it’s changing. When it comes down to it, if you can do the job, you can have a go at it, says Morben.

“You always have to prove yourself in the forest industry—that’s just the way it is,” says Morben. “People don’t care if you’re a man or woman—it’s all about whether you can do the job.

Melinda Morben has worked at Island Timberlands for five years now.

While she was considering getting an MBA at one point, she is probably now getting the equivalent of an MBA in timberlands management at Island Timberlands. “I’m really excited to be in timber production,” she says. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount.”

At Island Timberlands, Morben has mostly worked in quality control, and managed the company’s Northwest Bay dryland sort. These days, she is manager of operational logistics, and works with a cross-functional team, that takes in several areas of the Island Timberlands’ business.

“With my experience in quality control, I’m able to bring knowledge about sorts and manufacturing specifications and a lot of our timber types and distribution hubs all over the company’s land on Vancouver Island.”

The team works to manage the customer process for the company, specifically helping to schedule the harvest, fully utilizing logging equipment, the capacity the company has, and what they can harvest each year in each area, she explains.

“And we are looking at how we can be more efficient,” she added. “We’re looking at our dryland sorts closer and making sure we are supplying them with the capacity to manage what they are handling as efficiently as possible.”

To backtrack a bit, Island Timberlands was formed in 2005. Industry icon MacMillan Bloedel had been purchased by Weyerhaeuser Company in 1999, and in 2005, Weyerhaeuser sold all of their B.C. coastal assets. Island Timberlands was formed as a result of the purchase of the B.C. coastal private timberlands. It owns 258,000 hectares of timber land, most of it on Vancouver Island, and is the second-largest private landowner in the province.

Island Timberlands supplies both domestic and international customers with timber, which drives their harvesting and sort operations, explains Morben.

“Because our business changes so quickly with our customer demand and our customer mix, we really have to be on our toes making changes. We do really well with our logging to be able to change quickly with the equipment and the company/contractor mix that we have.”

Of the approximately two million cubic metres that is harvested each year, about 1.5 million cubic metres is done by contractors, and 500,000 by company crews. The contractors closely co-ordinate what they are doing in terms of equipment purchases with what is coming up with any timber type changes for Island Timberlands.

The new initiative that Morben is part of helps the contract managers for the seven Island Timberlands geographical business units schedule and flow their wood efficiently. “We are doing that on an ongoing basis, balancing our wood and what our boom out-turns are going to look like.

“It gives us a broader equipment perspective so we can use our contractors and home crew, and equipment, more efficiently,” says Morben. “We want to be making good business decisions with the equipment we have, and where we distribute it. Overall, the goal is more efficient timberlands management.”

That also involves looking at the future, and what timber types and sizes Island Timberlands is going to have down the road.

“For our home crew, we’re looking to buy the right equipment size for that timber type,” explains Morben.

This has already resulted in some equipment changes. The operation as a whole has now switched over to Southstar processing heads.

“We have three new Southstars—and we’re liking them,” says Morben. “We did a lot of analysis—it was a good change for us.”

With her background on the logging equipment side, Morben was part of the team that made the decision to switch heads. For Morben, it has also meant re-connecting with Marcel Payeur, whom she first met during her time processing in the B.C. Interior. She says Payeur and his group at Southstar are delivering top notch service. “Of course the equipment itself is important to us, but in terms of service, you call the Southstar people, and they are here.”

Uptime and ease of service are important to Island Timberlands, as is the accuracy of the processing their heads must do, day-in, day-out.

“We have some pretty intensive manufacturing practices and specifications,” says Morben. “We can process anywhere from seven to 11 sorts out of a timber pile. We are really keyed into some unique timber markets.”

There can be a large number of sorts at the dryland sort; they could easily have over 100 open log booms, which means 100 timber sort codes. “A sort can be running 150 open booms, and we can be scaling 55 to 70 different sorts daily. We want to be very, very accurate with what comes in from the woods and the sorting.”

The Southstar heads have a well-established, user-friendly measuring system, says Morben, but the company provided more. “Southstar came in and designed a complete system for us that is very easy to use. They hear what we’re saying when we’re asking for something, and they’re giving us the service we need.”

Morben says their production guys are excited about using the new Southstar equipment.

In terms of the carriers, Morben says they have stayed with the Cat 325 machines.

All of the work, Morben stresses, is done with safety in mind. In 2014, the operation went 100 per cent accident-free.

From the safety side to the equipment purchases, Morben feels her past experience in the woods has been instrumental in furthering her career. And she is going to continue to focus on the opportunities—and encourages other women to look at the forest industry. “It’s a great industry to work in,” she says.

You can find the complete article on the Logging and Sawmilling Journal website.