A Canadian in Sweden: What does Elmia Wood offer us?

Doug Turner
August 04, 2017
By Doug Turner
Aug. 4, 2017 - Why would anyone working in Canada’s forest sector, want to travel halfway around the world to a forestry demo in a Scots pine forest in southern Sweden? Especially in June, when things are just about to get busy with the end of spring break up, and planting season just beginning? After all, what can Swedes (or their neighbours, the Finns and Norwegians) teach us about forestry? I mean, after all, the Swedish forest sector is facing a long list of challenges, including:

  • Who is going to work in the forest, with an increasingly aging work force?
  • How are we going to recruit from an increasingly urbanised population?
  • How are we going to train the recruits that we do get?
  • How are we going to reduce work place incidents and keep our people safe? And (let’s face it) get injury claims down, and worker insurance rates down as a result?
  • How are we going to access fibre on an increasingly fractured landscape with absentee ownership (the same urbanised, environmentally aware, population) and multiple stakeholder pressures?
  • How to get the right log to the right mill, and at the right price? (How can we get the logging cost down? How can we get the log haul cost down? How can we get productivity up?)
  • How do we harvest on steep slopes?
  • How are we to do all of this without losing our social licence through adverse impacts to the environment (forest soils, hydrology)?
  • How to manage all of our activities better? Which means how can we monitor it better? And to monitor it better, how do we measure it better? And because we are measuring it, how do we manage the data?
Does any of this sound familiar? Despite the different tree species and an ocean separating Canada and the Nordic nations, it seems that the Canadian forest sector shares challenges with Swedes, Finns, and other European nations. Once the commonalities are recognised, Elmia Wood 2017 starts to look like a forestry show that might offer some new perspectives on challenges, and how to meet them. After all, included in the 40,000 plus people attending were visitors from Canada, the U.S., Chile, South Africa, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, so there must be something to learn.

Some solutions to these mutual challenges included:

A semi-trailer equipped with five virtual reality simulators (three different forwarder simulators, a log truck simulator, and an excavator simulator) that is toured around colleges and high schools in Sweden. The simulators are being used in a direct appeal to the interests of tech-savvy urban students, giving an opportunity to experience of how sophisticated the forest sector has become. Further, forestry colleges are specifically seeking to recruit young women into forestry careers, including harvesting equipment operation, recognising that traditional recruitment efforts have ignored half of the population.

Training programs in technical colleges designed to take students from operators beyond pulling levers, to forestry technicians and future equipment owning entrepreneurs, promoting forestry from a short term job to an engaging career, with a career vision.

Training programs that maximise use of virtual reality simulators (harvesters, forwarders, construction equipment, trucks, even chainsaw simulators), allowing safe early student training, reduced carbon footprint, more efficient and effective use of harvesting equipment later in training, and inbuilt instructor monitoring of student progress. And the more effective the training, the safer and more productive the novice operator should be.

Public engagement by forest owner cooperatives and research institutions, demonstrating good forest stewardship, with knowledge transfer encompassing the full spectrum of interest levels: kids to great grandparents. Knowledge transfer being the best aid to understanding of forest management, and access to forest lands for timber harvesting.

Serious emphasis on ergonomics, from Komatsu’s lifestyle training for operators and forestry technicians (nutrition, hydration, exercise, relaxation and sleep), through cab and machine designed to minimise physical discomfort and vibrations, to modification of machine design to enable vehicle inspection and basic maintenance from the ground (no more crawling over a machine in the rain or snow to inspect or lubricate).

John Deere’s Intelligent Boom Control (IBC), with the harvester or forwarder crane automatically compensating for changing crane geometry as the operator moves the harvester head or grapple, reducing operator crane control manipulation. When combined with a harvester or forwarder cab that aligns to point at the crane tip, the combined effect is to greatly reduce operator fatigue and improve productivity.

Many manufacturers demonstrated expanded payload, large forwarders, designed to increase payload per individual machine cycle. To compensate for increased ground pressure, John Deere presented a long rear bogie forwarder option, offering a longer footprint through greater track area and reduced ground pressure. Ponsse presented the 10w (for 10 wheel) option for three forwarder models, with three wheels on each rear bogie, designed to balance machine weight and reduce overall ground pressure.

Alucar, Exte, and Laxo sought to improving net truck payload through custom designed truck frames, and light weight timber bunks and restraint systems, all designed to minimise unloaded vehicle weight, and maximise revenue generating payload.

Keeping operators in the cab of the truck as far as possible: you can’t slip on the steps if you don’t leave the cab, and you can’t wrench your back throwing a wrapper if using a mechanized, automatic tensioning, wrapper system. Hiab presented their HiVision system for use with Loglift or Jonsered timber cranes: the driver/crane operator doesn’t leave the cab but operates the crane controls from the passenger seat using 3D headset connected to cameras on the crane. Result: safer operator, and a lighter unloaded truck achieved by eliminating the crane seat and ladder.

Improved engine reliability, and reduced fuel consumption and emissions through engine design and development, and improved engine management software for both harvesting equipment and trucks. Logset debuted an hybrid engine equipped harvester (a concept demo’d at Elmia in 2005).

Almost all of the major equipment manufacturers were showing off harvesters and forwarders equipped with winch assist/tethered systems. Ponsse’s cooperation with Herzog Synchrowinch included winch equipped harvesters and forwarders, but also debuted a remote operated winch system mounted on a ‘retired’ harvester base – the first winch assist manufacturer to offer both an integrated winch and an anchor winch option?

Traditionally, Sweden is not a typically a place you find cable harvest systems, but a number of cable crane and yarder manufacturers had made their way to Sweden from Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia to demonstrate their products. Particularly eye-catching were Koller Forsttechnik’s mountain harvester range, Konrad Forsttechnik’s Mounty mountain harvester, and MM Forst Technik’s SyncroFalke yarders, all of which combined a tower yarder with a processor crane: hot logging at the yarder tower! I was advised that if I wanted to explore more of European approach to cable logging, it might take a visit to Austrofoma 2019.

A number of companies offered cell phone apps that enable you to timber cruise and scale with your smart phone.

Treemetrics took this innovation to a whole new level, presenting a vision of full spectrum, integrated, forest and information management with their ForestHQ product. This vision begins with obtaining accurate forest inventory using terrestrial LiDAR system (weighing one kilogram) generating information to be stored in the ForestHQ database, where the forest inventory is integrated with tree valuations, forest management plans, and real time monitoring of harvesting operations, an operations forester can monitor real time production data and value recovery against value recovery predicted from the measured inventory, the silviculture forester can plan regeneration activities, and the woodlands manager can monitor the overall implementation of the management plan. The fourth industrial revolution coming to a forest near you?

This was just a taste of what Elmia Wood offered in terms of innovations and solutions, and over four days I still did not see it all. Was it worth the visit? I think so. But you could always judge for yourself, the next Elmia Wood is in 2021 – see you there?


Doug Turner Ph.D. RPF (ABCPF & CAPF) is a forest planner, researcher, and harvesting geek, working in the forest industry in Alberta.

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