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John Stulen, BEng '82

Mechanical Engineering | Out on a Limb

New Zealand may not pop to mind when you think of countries known for forestry, but John Stulen will tell you in a hurry that New Zealand has much in common with forest industries on the west coasts of Canada and the US. The weather and terrain are similar, and all face the challenges of steep slope logging with inherent threats to workers and productivity.

After years of bringing west coast experts to New Zealand for conferences, Stulen has turned the tables. In early March he brought forest industry contractors from New Zealand to British Columbia for the Steep Slope Logging Conference to discuss innovative new technology that mechanizes tree harvesting for greater worker safety and productivity.

The plantation-based forest industry in New Zealand has grown its harvest each year over the past decade, which has brought both challenges and innovations.

According to Stulen, “Workers with chainsaws have been largely superseded by equipment that cuts logs from full tree stems and now we’re putting workers into a safe machine on steep slopes.”

Stulen is a founding director of Innovatek Limited, an event and business association company that runs several forest industry associations throughout New Zealand and Australia. Before the company was founded in 1999 he spent more than a decade doing forest harvest research. He’d gone to New Zealand soon after earning his BEng. Mechanical Engineering from McMaster just as the 1982 recession was hitting Canada hard.

“As a young enthusiastic graduate I vowed to find a workplace and a country that held more opportunity at the time,” says Stulen explaining how he found himself in New Zealand.

Today his company runs all of the key conferences, seminars and workshops for people in the forest and wood products industries in New Zealand and Australia. For more than three years he’s also been working closely with the BC Safety Council.

“The conference business we’ve established over the past 16 years is heavily focused on helping companies to foster international competitiveness in the forest industries through innovation and technology,” says Stulen. He adds, “ My engineering degree has served me well, with our technology and innovation focus for our industry events.”

During his years at McMaster, John Stulen was an active member of the organizing committee for the Mechanical Engineering Society (MES).

“On reflection, my university and MES experience helped set me up for what has [become] a career in professional networking.”