Game Plan

Succeeding in the Upper Peninsula demands smart production planning

Three men walk in front of a large stack of cut logs.

To help with planning, Sanville Logging recently began using John Deere TimberMatic™ Maps and TimberManager™.

Logging in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is all about finding the most efficient way to move more wood in tough terrain and harsh weather. With tight market windows, quotas are constantly changing, so wood has to get to the landing and on trucks to the mill as fast as possible.

Imagine the following scenario. A logging company is in mass-production mode on a large pine job, laying down wood faster than it can be forwarded to the landing. Over the weekend the logging site gets blanketed with almost a foot of snow, burying 200 cords of wood. That was the scenario faced by Sanville Logging, Cornell, Michigan, last winter.

“In the past we might have spent days looking for that wood,” says Foreman Eric Poehlman. “But with John Deere TimberMatic™ Maps, the forwarder operator knew exactly where to go by looking at the GPS location of the piles on his machine’s monitor. That saved a ton of time. Without the technology, we would have not found all the wood, but using it we picked up every stick.”


The founders of Sanville Logging would not recognize the company’s current, state-of-the-art mechanized operation, which features two John Deere 1270G Wheeled Harvesters and two 1110G Forwarders equipped with TimberMatic Maps and the TimberManager™ mapbased planning system.

The company is still based out of the original family homestead built in 1898. “The turn of the 20th century was the ‘logging baron era’ of Michigan,” says owner Doug Sanville. “My grandma served as the logging camp cook and my grandfather was in charge of a section of the railroad — logging followed the railways back then. And everything was done with a broadax, a crosscut saw, and horses. My dad even had horses when I was young, although I think that was just a carryover from that era.”

In the late 1970s, Sanville’s father began running the family logging business. Sanville remembers accompanying his dad to the woods when he was very young. His first jobs included measuring and piling wood. As he got older, he graduated to running a chain saw.

In the late 1990s, Sanville left logging for a short time, opening an archery shop. “I enjoy hunting, but logging is in my blood,” he recalls. “It’s not the easiest path, but like other loggers, I’m out here because I love it.” In 2000, Sanville took over the company from his father and uncle.

Sanville Logging began the transition to mechanized logging during the mid-1980s. Today the company runs seven harvesters and six forwarders, including the 1110G Forwarders and the eight-wheel 1270G Harvesters. “We’re getting into rougher, more uneven ground,” says Sanville. “A lot of the easiest wood has been harvested in areas that are not ready for the next harvest cycle. The eight-wheel harvesters provide the flotation and stability we need in tougher, wetter, and frozen ground."

[TimberManager] has made my job so much easier — I don’t think I could go back to the old way of doing things.

Eric Poehlman, Foreman of Sanville Logging
Eric Poehlman
Foreman, Sanville Logging


Sanville Logging typically runs three crews, harvesting a mix of hardwood and softwood, depending on what the mills demand. Short market windows mean the company typically harvests today what the mill uses tomorrow, so it often needs to quickly transition from one product to another.

To help with planning, Sanville Logging recently began using John Deere TimberMatic™ Maps and TimberManager™. “Jim Bell, our dealer representative from McCoy Construction & Forestry in Escanaba, really spearheaded these efforts,” says Poehlman. “Without his endless help, we would not be where we are with it today.”

TimberManager allows Sanville and Poehlman to monitor production using a PC, tablet, or mobile phone without even being at the jobsite. “With multiple crews running, we can’t be at every site every minute of the day,” says Sanville. “Using TimberManager, we can view harvesting and forwarding progress in real time, which really helps us monitor and plan our operations.”

A forestry forwarder loads a grapple-full of wood from a pile onto the log bed of the machine.

Sanville Logging runs seven harvesters and six forwarders, including the 1110G Forwarders and the eight-wheel 1270G Harvesters.

Poehlman runs TimberManager on a tablet that he has mounted in his truck. “It’s worth its weight in gold,” adds Poehlman. “I don’t have to physically be at the job to know what is going on or play phone tag with operators. I can see what has been cut, what has been forwarded to the landing, and how much is left to harvest. This makes it simpler for me to line up trucks to move the wood as quickly as possible to the mills. It’s made my job so much easier — I don’t think I could go back to the old way of doing things.”

Operators love the system, according to Poehlman. Using TimberMatic Maps onboard the machine, they can see all equipment locations and the current logging situation in real time. Forwarder operators don’t have to hunt around for wood anymore. They can immediately see where certain species are located and choose the optimal route to pick up and transport a full load of a desired assortment to the landing. And in the morning, everyone can see exactly where they left off the day before.

Rain, snow, or sunshine, the wood has to get to the mills. “Using TimberManager I can guide forwarder operators to pick up at certain areas first before rain or snow comes in,” says Poehlman. “Through TimberMatic Maps, operators can see the precise GPS location, volume, and species of trees. So if I’m sending a truck to pick up hardwood bolts, I can direct the forwarder operator to display only where bolts are located and not logs, pulp, or anything else. This helps us get bolts to the landing as quickly as possible.”

As the job progresses, production data and logging routes are updated continuously, so everyone can see the actual, up-to-the-minute status of the jobsite. As timber is transported, operators can mark the map to indicate the exact volume of timber at the storage area. This makes it easy to plan for transporting timber to the mill and moving machines where needed.

“It really helps with logistics to know how much we are cutting in a day and when the job is going to be done,” says Poehlman. “I can have a lowboy ready, so we don’t have a machine sitting idle on a jobsite.”


Map creation is simple. TimberMatic Maps accommodates all common map formats from hand-drawn plans to PDFs. Standard satellite or topographical imagery can be loaded directly through a cellular connection onboard the machine. Using TimberManager, Poehlman can change map features and share updates via an online, cloud-based solution without having to visit each machine. “I’m no computer whiz and this technology is new to me, but it’s truly easy for me and the operators to use.”

Using the Areas of Interest or Points of Interest functions, supervisors and operators can easily mark hazards, obstacles, soft ground, or challenging terrain. “These are shared in real time, so operators can see if there is a steep cliff or wet area they need to avoid,” explains Poehlman. “I can also set cut boundaries with an alarm, so operators know if they are approaching the property line.”

Improving efficiency is the biggest benefit of TimberMatic Maps and TimberManager, according to Poehlman. “We have big quotas to fill and need our machines to run every day and be efficient as possible. And this system helps us accomplish that. It simply takes the guesswork out of everything.”

“Every minute counts when we’re out there trying to get top production out of these machines,” adds Sanville. “This technology helps us identify the who, what, where, and how of the job, so we can plan what we need to get done every day. It keeps us working efficiently.”

Sanville Logging Inc. is serviced by McCoy Construction & Forestry Inc., Escanaba, Michigan.