By Dan Pelton
To recall the early 1990s is to remember a refrigerated economy cooling down from the overheated 80s.
Business was bitten by an overall decline in commerce and those involved in the forestry industry took an especially hard hit; construction slowed and there was an overall move to lessen the need for paper products.
At the time, it wasn’t difficult to surmise that launching a forestry equipment business would be a tough task.
Yet, in 1992, visionaries went ahead and founded Tigercat in Brantford, Ont. It is now 2017 and the designer and manufacturer of forestry equipment and specialty off-road industrial machinery is thriving and celebrating its silver anniversary.
Tigercat was the brainchild of current CEO Ken MacDonald. At the time, he was running MacDonald Steel, a component fabricator for several established mobile equipment manufacturers.
He was joined by company president Tony Iarocci and his 20 years of experience in engineering, sales and marketing at Koerhing Waterous; a maker of pulp mill equipment and forestry machinery.
Iarocci admits there was skepticism regarding the enterprise’s chances, but adds that forestry and heavy equipment manufacturing has always been a cyclical business.
“The fact the economy is in a slump actually serves as a motivator to embark on new ventures,” he recalls. “Ken MacDonald’s vision, the superior manufacturing capabilities of MacDonald Steel and my background in logging equipment were elements pointing to a high probability of success.”
Aided by MacDonald’s ability to fly his own airplane, the pair focused on the southeastern United States, contacted numerous logging contractors and compiled significant market research.
Iarocci said they identified “an opportunity to provide loggers with a better drive-to-tree feller buncher.”
Tigercat tackles new expectations
Consensus among the loggers was that this type of machinery was falling below their expectations; particularly in terms of mechanical reliability and longevity.
“We also met many prospective dealers and customers who were anxious to sell and use more productive and more durable equipment,” says Iarocci.
Tigercat addressed the loggers’ needs with the 726 feller buncher. Its virtues included an automatic variable speed that promoted fuel efficiency and an automatic reversing cycle to more effectively purge dust and debris.
The 726 feller bunchers also garnered accolades for their fast travel speeds and overall productivity.
Still, bringing a strong product to market does not guarantee business success. Potential customers will shy away, if they feel there’s an inadequate after-sale service system in place.
Fortunately, the good word about Tigercat machinery spread quickly and established dealer networks, which enthusiastically embraced the product line.
“News of the excellent performance and build quality of the first few machines spread fast” recalls Iarocci, “and this worked in our favour in attracting established equipment dealers throughout the southeast United States.
“These pioneering dealers helped us to address the support concerns of those first customers, and we have continued to develop an ever-broadening product line to attract the best dealers in the industry to support our customers around the world.”
Business enterprises that are continually successful have one thing in common. Despite their accomplishments, they know they must always do better. Tigercat is no exception.
For example, the company expanded and strengthened its American market niche with the first serial production hydrostatic skidder in 1996, and the launching of a new knuckleboom loader the following year.
In 2017 for example, Tigercat’s trend to a new and improved product line continues.
“Tigercat’s objective is growth,” states Iarocci. “We continue to add to our product offering by designing new models.”
He cites the prototype Tigercat 1185 Harvester; a heavy duty, premium quality, eight-wheel drive harvester designed for high production applications, steep slopes, tough terrain and demanding operating conditions.
“We will continue development of off road industrial machinery for specialized, niche applications in several industries including oil and gas, land development and construction and the utilities sector,” Iarocci said, “wherever mobile machinery is needed for challenging environments or severe duty applications.”