Friday Offcuts 17 November 2017
Ground breaking work being led by the Human Interface Technology Lab out of Tasmania was also demonstrated. Delegates were able to strap on a VR headset and walk through a forest plot. Using virtual reality technologies with remotely acquired 3D point cloud data, the research is aimed at enabling foresters to visually characterize and measure individual trees in the office. Australasia right now is a global leader in this space. In addition to virtual and augmented reality, it was clear that new technologies such as AI, the IOT, machine and deep learning, robotics and automation are all now starting to make their presence felt in business, including forestry operations.
The message over the last couple of days is that the advancement and adoption of these disruptive technologies into local forestry operations is going to play out a lot quicker than we really appreciate. Our Melbourne event for the ForestTECH 2017 series will run next week.
From Australia this week came the welcome news that Southwood Fibre, which already has a sawmill and processing facility in the Huan Valley region of Southern Tasmania, has submitted a development application to the local Council. The plan is to build a AU$42 million export facility for woodchip processing. If approved, the plant will take up two years to build, will pump up to AU$55 million a year into the region and is expected to support 145 ongoing direct and indirect jobs once up and running.
In line with the technology theme we also cover this week the growth of vinyl cladding in the U.S. (believe it or not, it’s over six times more popular than wood siding), we take a look into the future of containerized shipping and outline a move in the US, in response to the devastating wild fires that tore across California this year, to explore the use of drones for fire response and forest management.
Finally, to really stretch the grey matter, we’ve got an update on some researchers that have been beavering away late into the night to refine the performance of the world's first and only RoboBee. It's like a UAV - but small and light. It's actually 1,000 times lighter than any other aerial-aquatic robot out there. It’s also a researchers’ dream. The project’s been going now for 25 years. You can check it out in this week’s video. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
AU$42 million woodchip export facility proposedA proposed AU$42 million export facility for woodchips in southern Tasmania is the missing link in the rebuilding of the sector, the forest industry has said. Southwood Fibre has lodged a development application with the Huon Valley Council for the facility at Strathblane, near Dover, which could create 145 jobs.
Currently bulk wood products from the state's south are trucked to an export facility at Bell Bay in northern Tasmania, where the product is processed and shipped to export markets. The proposal would see Southwood Fibre process certified plantation forests at the existing Southwood processing facility before being transported on forestry roads to a purpose-built loading facility at Strathblane, and then packed into vessels for export.
The chief executive of Southwood Fibre, James Neville-Smith, said it could generate AU$55 million of economic activity every year. "The forest industry in southern Tasmania has had significant headwind since the closure of the Triabunna mill, and there is literally hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of standing plantations in the ground that are worthless until such time as there's appropriate infrastructure to take that product to market," he told ABC Radio Hobart.
"It will go to the existing markets in Japan or China, there's a huge demand for the products at the moment and that's expected to continue to rise as plantation volumes in other areas of Australia and other areas of the world diminish so there's no doubt there's the market for it."
The Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) welcomed plans, saying the closure of the Triabunna woodchip mill had severely affected the industry. "This facility has been the missing link in the rebuilding of the Tasmanian forest industry and the Southwood Fibre development in very welcome," chief executive Terry Edwards said.
The company said there would be no wood chipping at the loading facility, but it had applied for a permit to process 800,000 tonnes. The proposal is expected to create 135 jobs during construction and 145 jobs on an ongoing basis when complete.
Excellence in safety celebrated at inaugural safety awards
Morelands was recognised for their work in improving the safe carting of logs in the Green Triangle. They were the first company in the region to introduce webbing straps, reducing the potential for shoulder and upper body injuries. Furthermore, over the past 20 years they have been actively working with log trailer manufacturers to improve trailer stability, reducing the number of rollovers regionally and nationally.
Harvestco’s Rick Murphy also received a major award for “Safety Leader of the Year”, for his unwavering commitment to improving safety. Rick’s dedication to both strategic and operational safety has seen Harvestco become the first forest industry supply chain company to reach internationally recognised certification for Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems (AS/NZ4801).
Celebrity MC Sam Kekovitch hosted the night with nearly 200 people in attendance to applaud their efforts and the others who were honoured for their work in improving safety in the local forestry industry.
Congratulating all the nominees OFO’s Chief Executive Officer, Linda Sewell paid tribute to their achievements, and encouraged the regional industry to collaborate moving forward. “We had a vision to improve safety in our forests, and thanks to the hard work and innovation from our people and contractor partners we are getting there. I hope the wider local industry can build on tonight’s success. Although OFO has held the first awards night, I look forward to sitting at a bigger event next year celebrating excellence across the regional timber industry”.
Videos of the major award finalists can be found at www.onefortyone.com.
Photo: Craig Thompson (Harvestco) accepted Major Award: Safety Leader on behalf of Rick Murphy and Linda Sewell, CEO OneFortyOne Plantations, Photo courtesy of OneFortyOne.
How container shipping could reinvent itself
In 1967, the British Transport Docks Board (BTDB) commissioned McKinsey to assess a recent development from America: container boxes. The full report on which this article is based has been published by permission of the BTDB’s successor organizations: Associated British Ports and the UK Department for Transportation. The first ships built expressly for this new way of shipping goods had recently been launched, and a few US lines carried them on their regular service. Our report advised the BTDB to rethink everything in light of this new disruption. Today the industry is roiled by another one: digital technologies, big data, the Internet of Things. Let’s imagine it 50 years from now:
- Autonomous 50,000-TEU.Twenty-foot-equivalent unit: the measure of a container ship’s capacity. ships will plow the seas—perhaps alongside modular, dronelike floating containers—and the volume of container trade will be two to five times what it is today.
- Short-haul intraregional traffic will increase as converging global incomes, automation, and robotics disperse manufacturing footprints. Container flows within the Far East will remain huge, and the second-most significant trade lane may link the region to Africa, with a stopover in South Asia.
- After multiple value-destroying overcapacity and consolidation cycles, three or four major container-shipping companies might emerge: digitally enabled independents with a strong customer orientation and innovative commercial practices, or small subsidiaries of tech giants blending the digital and the physical. Freight forwarding as a stand-alone business will be virtually extinct, since digital interactions will reduce the need for intermediaries. All winners, closely connected through data ecosystems, will have fully digitized customer interactions and operating systems.
- A fully autonomous transport chain will extend from loading, stowage, and sailing to unloading directly onto autonomous trains and trucks, with last-mile deliveries by drones.
- Some customers prepared to pay a premium will want container-logistics providers fully integrated into their supply chains. Others will continue to demand the cheapest sea freight. Both will expect transparency and reliability to be the norm, not the exception.
For an industry enduring a deceleration in trade growth (exhibit), this is a daunting agenda. What can executives do to realize it?
First, shipping companies should invest in digital technologies to differentiate their products, disintermediate value chains, improve customer service, raise productivity, and cut costs. The risk is that tech giants and digital disruptors will capture most of the value from customer relationships by moving faster than incumbents.
Second, integrate. Next-generation innovations will have to be orchestrated across the entire value chain. Carriers and terminal operators share an especially rich agenda: bigger vessels paired with infrastructure investments for terminals, transparent ship arrivals and berthing, and larger containers. Integrated logistics providers could make freight forwarders irrelevant by mastering the complexity and the customer interface.
Finally, be bold. The shipping industry was built on the vision of strong leaders who dared to sail through the storms. Although it now once again faces a period of disruption—this time from digital technologies—there is a path forward for companies willing and able to seize the day.
Download the full report, Container shipping: The next 50 years (PDF–27 MB), for a more complete explanation of where the industry is going and how it could get there.
US to explore drones for fire response
“Wildfires continue to grow in intensity and frequency, and we want to ensure that we are using all available tools to prevent and contain them,” said Rep. Cárdenas. “While I have concerns about the underlying bill, progress is being made by adopting amendments like mine that promote much needed innovation in wildfire management. This amendment explores the use of drones to fight wildfires and manage forests. It will help add another tool to the toolkit in protecting American lives, homes, property, businesses, wildlife and forests from devastating wildfires.”
In October alone, wildfires in California killed 42 people, burned over 240,000 acres and destroyed an estimated 8,900 structures. When these fires are finally put out, they leave in their wake thick smoke, toxic ash and debris that pose long lasting risks to our health and environment.
Rep. Cárdenas’s amendment requires the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a study evaluating the feasibility, safety and cost effectiveness of using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, for the purposes of wildfire response and forest management. The amendment was unanimously adopted into H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017.
Source: Congressman Tony Cardenas
15 per cent of household joinery from imported flat-packs
Jim Houghton, Statistics and Economics Manager of FWPA, said that volumes were not larger than expected and the data could potentially alleviate concerns among domestic manufacturers, but that the key research objective was to fill a long-standing and problematic knowledge gap.
“The lack of reliable data relating to this corner of the market had the potential to result in poor business decisions and inefficient planning. We hope this research will equip the industry with the tools it needs to make better informed marketing and production decisions,” he said.
In the past, trade data relating to flat-pack imports had been flawed due to factors including: a lack of available detail around potentially relevant import codes; the majority of imports being measured by value and without volumes or prices; and the wide variety of different products within the category.
Tim Woods, Managing Director at IndustryEdge, which conducted the research on household joinery in 2016, said the methodology developed for this project would help in other studies on imported products, with figures on flat-pack imports to be updated over time.
“The methodology developed to shed light on this previously uncharted area of the market will continue to have a life beyond this project,” he said. To read the Residential Flat-Pack Joinery Import Market Study report in full, click here.
Chinese hardwood chip imports heading for record highShipments of hardwood chips in the Pacific Rim have increased for six consecutive years and reached a record-high of 22.9 million odmt in 2016. Last year was also the year when China took over Japan’s role as the world’s largest importer of hardwood chips - roughly half of all hardwood chips traded in the Pacific Rim were destined for Chinese ports in 2016.
Based on import volumes to China in the first nine months of 2017, it is likely that Chinese imports will hit a new record high of over 11.5 million odmt in 2017, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ).
There have been a number of alterations in the trade flows of hardwood chips in the Pacific Rim over the past decade based on price fluctuations, chip quality preferences and changes in business relationships. The major changes over the past five years have been Vietnam’s expansion in exports to both China and Japan, Australia’s increase in shipments to China (equal to Vietnam’s volumes in the 2Q/17), Chile’s diversion of volumes from Japan to China, and Japan’s increasing reliance on hardwood chips from Vietnam and South Africa, at the expense of Australia and Chile.
The top-five trade flows of hardwood chips in 2016 were (more details in the WRQ):
1. Vietnam – China
2. Australia – China
3. Vietnam – Japan
4. Chile – Japan
5. Australia – Japan
During the first half of 2017, hardwood chip shipments from most of the major supplying countries in the Pacific Rim have gone up with the notable exceptions of Australia, Thailand, Brazil and Uruguay, which reduced their export volumes by between four and twenty-one percent as compared to the first half of 2016. The biggest increases in chip supply to Japan and China year-over-year have been from Chile and Indonesia. Chilean chip exports are likely to reach a new all-time high in 2017 and the country will remain the third largest chip exporter in the world.
Source: Wood Resources International LLC, www.WoodPrices.com.
NZ Carbon market update“NZUs settled at $19.25 on Friday - holding the highs for the year. It’s gone a bit quiet as we sit up here but this market will punch higher in the short term simply because we see few sellers coming to market – which is unusual given the price level” says Nigel Brunel, Director - Institutional Commodities, OMF.
“NZUs remain cheap in the short, medium and long term. There will be more demand coming as we head into the end of Q4 and the beginning of Q1 where emitters have to finalise the year’s emissions. In addition, settings move from 27 million tonnes to 33 million starting in six weeks”.
“We expect our government to return from Bonn and start ratcheting up ambition for our ETS which will see the price cap raised or removed, a cap on emissions, possibly a phase in of agriculture and a phase out of grandfathering. NZUs look like a market where “you never stop out, you never take profit.”
“The annual climate change negotiations in Bonn (COP23) are well underway with the second and final week about to begin. This is the government-end of the conference and the most important part of all COP negotiations. The number one take-away so far is that most of the USA remains committed to curbing global warming (being states, cities, businesses and universities) adding Washington is “unable to stop us”.
Scion a winner in national science awards
Scion forest pathologist Dr Nari Williams was presented an early career researcher award for her work in forest diseases, particularly Phytophthora. Her work to combating Kauri dieback, red needle cast and crown rot, is part of a research programme that brings together researchers from New Zealand’s primary sector CRIs, universities and overseas organisations. She leads this programme to defend our forests and horticultural crops from present and future Phytophthora diseases.
Forest research veteran Dr Dave Cown (photo), was awarded a lifetime achievement award for his work in wood science and understanding the sources of wood quality variation and how to control it. In the 40 years Dave spent at Scion (then Forest Research Institute), Dave was responsible for creating the Wood Processing Research Group that developed the drying schedules now used by most of the softwood industries across the southern hemisphere, such as the Dryspec™ Control system.
Their work played a vital role in growing the NZ$2.9 billion added-value wood products industry. Dave has also authored over 140 refereed publications, been on every major forestry journal editorial board and received many awards including the Distinguished Service Award from the International Union of Forest Research Organisations for his contribution to forestry science in 2013.
Scion's world-class Biosecurity Team picked up a team award acknowledging their hard work. Their research has resulted in successful management of several new-to-science diseases and development of a forestry biosecurity surveillance system considered by overseas experts to be the best in the world.
Their discovery of the pitch canker pathogen in plants held under quarantine avoided establishment of a disease that was predicted to cause over $400 million damage to the forest industry. The team also supported the successful eradication of three moth species that could have damaged forestry, horticulture and our native forests. More recently, the team’s work on determining the biosecurity risk of Phytophthora spp. on forest product exports showed that there was no risk to trading partners, preventing the potential loss of over $2 billion per year in trade bans or restrictions.
Wood lagging vinyl in US as exterior cladding
Wood or wood products accounted for only 4.4 percent and stone, rock or other stone materials accounted for just 1.3 percent.
Click here to view the full report.
Source: National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
Minute RoboBee new and improvedHere’s one out of left field for the geeks amongst you. A Harvard engineering lab has been building a better robotic bee for more than 25 years, and it can now do things that even real bees can't manage. For more than 25 years now, a quiet little design lab at Harvard has been working on a unique robotics project — perfecting the world's first and only RoboBee.
Research published 25 October in the journal Science Robotics details the latest iteration of the little bot, which was first conceived by mechanical engineering student Robert Wood in 1991. Since then, the RoboBee project has been a perennial work-in-progress for scientists and students at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically-Inspired Engineering.
Even in its most basic configuration, the RoboBee is a mechanical marvel. Its tiny polymer wings – designed to mimic real insect wings – are powered by small ceramic “muscles” that convert electrical pulses into kinetic energy, making the RoboBee the world's smallest flapping-wing aircraft.
Every few years, designers officially publish new research on various RoboBee models under development. (One version of the bot can stick to walls, for instance.) This latest version of the RoboBee is the most ambitious yet, as it can fly, dive into water, swim around, and propel out of the water.
Those are tricky manoeuvres for any robot, and it's taken years of development to get larger amphibious drones to manage the trick. But because the RoboBee weighs in at a featherweight 175 milligrams, the tiny machine must actually overcome forces of mass, volume, and surface tension that are completely different than what a bird-sized robot has to deal with. It also requires a multi-modal locomotive system that lets the bot both fly and swim.
The RoboBee is 1,000 times lighter than any other aerial-aquatic robot, and this difference in scale is what's kept decades worth of Harvard engineering students busy with the design. In the official announcement of the new research, Wood — now a professor of engineering and applied sciences at Harvard — said that the robot's extremely tiny size makes it a unique engineering challenge.
The RoboBee remains a kind of a perpetual research platform without any practical applications. But researchers might one day deploy aerial-aquatic robots to remote areas in order to gather biological samples on land, in the air, or under water. And, equipped with onboard sensors, the bots might map areas that larger devices or humans can't fit into — a task that could easily benefit search-and-rescue efforts.
Queensland industry welcomes AU$6 million commitmentThe Queensland industry has welcomed the AU$6 million program and policy commitments recently announced by the Liberal National Party (LNP) to support the forest and timber industry if elected. Timber Queensland Chief Executive Mick Stephens said ‘This program would go a long way to unlocking additional value and regional jobs from the industry over the next decade.’
‘We are pleased the LNP has consulted with industry and focused on a number of key policies to improve resource security and the business environment for innovation and investment. We particularly acknowledge the election commitment of AU$4 million to support a new Farm Forestry Centre to be established in Gympie. This would greatly enhance research and extension for private forestry activities, which can boost resource supply and deliver multiple agricultural benefits such as integrated timber and livestock production,’ Mr Stephens said.
Key initiatives announced by the LNP include:
- maintaining state research capacity for forestry and wood science technology;
- building on the 2012 Timber Industry Plan;
- AU$2 million to support softwood and hardwood timber supply chains, from growing and harvesting to log processing and advanced timber and engineered wood product manufacturing; and
- reinstatement of Forestry in the Department’s title and a stronger voice for the sector in Cabinet.
The LNP’s timber industry statement can be found here.
‘The policy commitments made by the LNP are good news for the timber industry. Given its importance to regional Queensland, we are asking for bipartisan support from all sides of politics to a positive timber growth agenda,’ Mr Stephens said.
‘Full implementation of our election policy agenda could generate over 500 jobs and AU$80 million in output in the first five years, increasing to 1000 jobs and AU$180 million by 2050. This includes opportunities in southern and central Queensland as well as in Far North Queensland and Cape York’.
The Timber Queensland election policy agenda can be found here.
Source: Timber Queensland
Teen scientist wins with innovative drone design
Eighteen year-old Ivo Zell was amongst a number of teen scientists awarded as part of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Los Angeles, the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. He received $75,000 for his design, having been granted the Gordon E. Moore award, named after Intel’s co-founder.
On most of today’s aircraft, the wing lift (i.e. the upward force that keeps an aircraft off the ground) tends to drop off towards the wingtips. Early last century, two German brothers proposed a different lift pattern might be more effective. Their theory predicted increased stability if lift distribution was bell-shaped, rather than the standard elliptical shape. In other words, more lift would be generated near the aircraft’s body.
As this theory was never tested, Ivo decided to construct his own aircraft using the concept. He used software to design a small plane with bell-shaped distribution of lift, and a 3-D printer to create the internal structure from lightweight plastic, which he then covered with thin sheets of the equally lightweight wood, balsa.
The finished model has a wingspan of around 1.23 meters and, despite the plane’s motor putting out just 400 watts of power, it is able to fly easily at speeds of up to 160kms per hour. Ivo is able to fly the model using the simple radio controls that guide many of the other available model aircrafts, with the added benefit of increased stability without the need for a sophisticated computer to control it.
ISEF has been honouring young researchers in this way since 1950, with the awards created and run by the Society for Science & the Public (SSP). Now sponsored by Intel, the 2017 ISEF event brought together students from 78 countries, regions and territories.
“Congratulations to all our finalists, as well as our top three winners on their extraordinary research projects,” said Maya Ajmera, President of SSP. “As our world grows increasingly complex we need [their] innovative, transformative ideas to identify new solutions to our world’s most intractable challenges.”
Source: Science News For Students, FWPA
Using people analytics to drive business performancePeople analytics—the application of advanced analytics and large data sets to talent management—is going mainstream. Five years ago, it was the provenance of a few leading companies, such as Google (whose former senior vice president of people operations wrote a book about it.
Now a growing number of businesses are applying analytics to processes such as recruiting and retention, uncovering surprising sources of talent and counterintuitive insights about what drives employee performance. Much of the work to date has focused on specialized talent (a natural by-product of the types of companies that pioneered people analytics) and on individual HR processes.
This is what makes the recent experience of a quick-service restaurant chain with thousands of outlets around the world so instructive. The company focused the power of people analytics on its frontline staff—with an eye toward improving overall business performance—and achieved dramatic improvements in customer satisfaction, service performance, and overall business results, including a 5 percent increase in group sales in its pilot market. To read more, click here
Canada launches Nafta challenge of lumber dutiesCanada is using a trade deal Donald Trump has threatened to scrap to formally challenge a U.S. decision to slap duties on softwood lumber.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland announced on Tuesday the request for a dispute panel review under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The challenge is being led by government as well as several provinces and lumber companies including West Fraser Timber Co. and Canfor Corp.
The U.S. confirmed tariffs on the lumber this month, though at levels lower than earlier indicated. Countervailing duties of 14.25 percent and anti-dumping duties of 6.58 percent will be levied on Canadian lumber, the Commerce Department said on 2 November.
Freeland, in a statement released by her office Tuesday, called the duties “unfair, unwarranted and deeply troubling” for Canadians, echoing previous statements on the lingering dispute. “We will forcefully defend Canada’s softwood lumber industry, including through litigation, which we are launching today.”
Canada gave formal notice of its challenge in a letter to the U.S. Section of the Nafta Secretariat, dated Tuesday. The fifth round of Nafta talks begins Wednesday in Mexico City, and the Trump administration has already proposed eliminating the Chapter 19 dispute panels being used in this challenge from the agreement.
For further coverage of the Canadian challenge click here.
Buy and Sell
....and one to end the week on...inner peace
If you can start the day without caffeine,
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. We're looking forward to catching up with
Australian resource managers and inventory foresters next week. Cheers.
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