Nestled in the wilds of the Canadian Rockies is a small town of farmers and lumberjacks. Quickhell is some 300 miles north by northeast of Vancouver, BC. And in accordance with Roger’s Rule of Remoteness, that is, the harder it is to get someplace, the more beauty it holds, you’ll find that it’s not easy to get to, or from. You would go there for the fishing and the skies, spectacular views and the friendly people. But industry? Hardly.
That hasn’t stopped BigBen Manufacturing. In the late 1980s, Ben Biggs decided he could help his fellow loggers by making a better grapple.1 For those of us used to using pliers to pick up parts from our machines, BigBen’s grapples pick up trees with a diameter of 10 feet (4m) weighing in at many tons. He’s made a place for himself by making his equipment easy to install, operate, and maintain.
More importantly, he innovates. In 2000, Ben was working with a customer on installing one of his grapples onto a large helicopter. The customer was having other problems with the hydraulic system. Being familiar with hydraulics, Ben offered to help.
What he saw encouraged him. Not only could he help the customer improve his hydraulic system, but he could also directly integrate his equipment into the aircraft. As a result, within a year and with much money invested, BigBen was awarded with a 337 license.2 Today, BigBen also has the Supplemental Type Certificate allowing his equipment to be installed on a particular type of aircraft, in this case the Chinook Helicopter.3
Ben Biggs and his Quality Manager, Tex “BO” O’Toole, have now made many of their grapples for industry around the world. In fact, BigBen grapples have actually flown on their own, for several seconds at a time. In operation, if something should go wrong, the pilot of the aircraft must be able to release the grapple from his helicopter. Ben has seen his equipment bouncing down the sides of a mountain and rolling into the ocean. Not a bad flight for a one ton machine without wings.
In the shop, BigBen relies on equipment that has the same operating philosophy as their own; built to be easy to install, operate and maintain. Their Zebra Muscle4 is on the lathe, and “… it does a hell of a job. We just let it run…” says Ben. “There was so much contamination in that chip conveyor … that *#@! duck tile gets so entrenched into everything … if you don’t recirculate it all the time you never get rid of it. It took about two weeks to get everything clear.”
Zebra Skimmers Corp. is happy to have customers like BigBen, not only because we both like to make products that work, but because we strive to make products that work better.
1You can see a typical grapple at http://www.treetow.com/
2The 337 license allows a manufacturer to modify a single aircraft to accept his product. The aircraft industry is highly regulated and safety conscious. This can stifle innovation except for the most persistent manufacturers.
3Find out more about the Chinook at http://www.boeing.com/history/boeing/chinook.html
4Find out more about the Zebra Muscle at www.ZebraSkimmers.com