Quality and Value Coordinator Joan Lang left the comfort of an established career in interior design to become a logmaker and has never looked back.
“I started at the end of 1999 in a crew up north. Back then it was very hard, it was a like a different age.” When Joan applied for her first job the contractor (Kevin Goodman of Ribbonwood Logging) visited her and her husband to check that they both understood what Joan was getting into. Joan recalls that getting picked up by the crew van at 4:30am just wasn’t the done thing for a woman on her street. “There were no other women in the bush then.”
“I just loved it. I had my share of blisters and other challenges – steel toe capped boots and high vis were not like high-heeled shoes and linen pants I’d been used to! But I just never looked back. I seem to have a knack for it because I’ve moved reasonably quickly from working on the ground in a harvesting crew to managing all of NML quality and value recovery.”
Joan developed her expertise in value recovery and worked her way up to a value recovery and harvesting supervisor position with Carter Holt Harvey before moving to Nelson.
Joan has loved her eight years with NML and currently works with 20 crews. “It’s great. It’s the environment you work in. It’s the people. Every crew is like a little family. They have their ups and downs of course, just like families. I go out to each crew and make sure that they’re cutting the right logs out of the trees and that they’re getting the best value that they can.
“Anyone can cut logs but we need to make sure that we’ve got the best quality so all the prune’s recovered, all the mill’s recovered and all the export’s recovered. I’m also a trainer/assessor. I provide training in areas that need work or work with new guys that come into the system and make sure they meet our standard.”
Mechanisation has had a big impact on Joan’s part of the business. Currently three quarters of the crews she works with are mechanised. “Mechanisation means that the logs are cut up by a mechanised processor, in our case most of them are Waratahs, and QCed (quality controlled) and then stacked. In a manual crew someone will physically go up and down the log with a tape and mark and cut each individual log.
“I got a mechanised processing fitness plan in shape because there was no standard really. That’s what’s helped us with our value recovery. Our value recovery is very good.”
In order to do that Joan had to learn how to drive a Waratah herself. “I have to make sure that the operator understands the machine and how to calibrate it because if it’s not calibrated properly it won’t cut the right length and it won’t cut the right diameter. I’ve made sure that all the Waratahs in our system use TimberRite optimising software which give us better recovery. I have someone that works for me who audits the machines on a quarterly basis to make sure the machine knives and the measuring wheels are fit for purpose.”
Joan’s come a long way from the early days when her career change caused such a stir. “Now I go to my grandchildren’s sports days with my high vis on and they like it because they can see me. I’m just very lucky I’ve got a fantastic, supportive husband who said, “If you want to give it a go I’ll back you.” He didn’t worry that I would be stuck in a truck with 11 smelly guys! Now people are really interested when I tell them what I do.”
Mentoring the younger women who are starting with the company is really enjoyable, says Joan.
“I think it’s a great job. It’s very varied. It’s never dull and I’ve been doing it for 20 years. I’ve always loved it but I really love it since I’ve come to Nelson. This is a great company.
“The thing that makes this company different is they really care. Forestry’s had a lot of bad publicity but we’re driven from the top down to make sure that everyone goes home well and happy, and just a little bit tired…I’ve never loved anything so much – besides my husband, children and grandchildren.”