Friday Offcuts 16 June 2017
Artificial intelligence (AI). It’s not a “senior moment”. We’re in fact right now in the middle of an artificial intelligence boom. Another term being bandied around at the moment that you may have heard about is “deep learning”. It’s already been used in forestry. NASA is using it for example to work through satellite images to figure out just how much land covered by trees across the United States. Files used in the NASA's Earth Exchange project could be several petabytes in size. To put this into perspective, one petabyte is equivalent to 1,000 terabytes, and a one-terabyte hard drive could hold about 500 hours of movies or 17,000 hours of music. It’s about using AI to handle increasingly large amounts of data (a focus for many forestry companies now with the data from remote sensing having to be processed and analysed) that are being collected.
In some recent research, a Kiwi company says that New Zealand’s growth rate could double between now and 2035 if emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are embraced. They’re suggesting also that AI is poised to transform business in ways we’ve not seen since the impact of computer technology in the late 20th century. Think about that for just a minute. AI, deep learning and systems for handling and processing large data sets being collected by an array of sensors for forestry operations are being built into this year’s ForestTECH 2017 series being designed for resource managers and inventory foresters at the moment. Further details will follow shortly.
To drive home the potential disruption to the workforce through the adoption of this new technology, according to a report released by the New Zealand Chartered Accountant Association, there’s a 95% chance that the number of accountants working in New Zealand will eventually reduce from 17,669 today, to just 19. This is due to the advances being made in automation technology. Fake news? In the media release this week it didn’t put a time frame to the prediction. Regardless of whether you think this statement far-fetched, we know that intelligent machines are already invading a wide range of professional disciplines. For you Mum’s and Dad’s out there, it’s interesting to see that 85% of New Zealanders surveyed believed that our kids should be preparing for technology-based careers, over traditionally focused jobs.
Finally, we’re looking forward to meeting many of our readers next week in Rotorua. Logging companies, contractors, harvest planners and really anyone who is involved in harvesting in this part of the world will be travelling into Rotorua for the two-yearly harvesting event, HarvestTECH 2017 event. The FIEA event SOLD OUT well over a month ago. The place is expected to be buzzing with well over 400 attending. As well as presentations over two days and a comprehensive series of exhibitions, indoor and outdoor, two one-day field tours to showcase new logging innovations with local contractors are also being run, one the day before the conference on Monday and the other, next Thursday. Travel safely and we’ll see many of you there next week. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
ASH to close mill in AugustA regional Victorian timber mill will cut 250 jobs and move to Tasmania after the owners say the Victorian government failed to make a "genuine offer" to keep its production on the mainland.
It’s been reported this week that Australian Sustainable Hardwoods' Heyfield Mill will close in August, ahead of its original September closure date, as the owners blamed VicForests for falling short in its promised log supply. The company said VicForests had suffered significant harvesting losses due to exclusion zones for the Leadbeater's possum.
"VicForests will have now failed to meet its contractual timber supply arrangements for four out of the last five years," the company said in a statement released on Wednesday. It's understood Premier Daniel Andrews' government offered more than AU$20 million to buy the mill - which the company says falls far short of its true value.
"No fair commercial offer has been forthcoming from the Andrews government and any suggestions that there has been any form of intense discussions or negotiations of any form with the government are simply wrong," the statement says.
"Government were neither serious about making a genuine offer for the mill, nor were they ever serious about addressing either the supply level and contract tenure needed to operate this profitable high-class facility."
Management said they had looked at "all options to keep the mill open". Instead, they will now begin negotiations with the Tasmanian state government to send the mill to Burnie, in Tasmania's northwest. Owners, union members, and affected staff will meet on Monday to discuss the closure.
Source: Australian Associated Press
PF Olsen wins National Safeguard AwardThe Safeguard New Zealand Workplace Safety Awards were held on Wednesday evening the 7th of June at a gala dinner at the Sky City Convention Centre in Auckland. These awards commenced in 2005, and this year 15 awards were presented in front of an audience of over 600 who celebrated the achievements of a wide variety of businesses and entities.
PF Olsen won the award in the Best Collaboration Between PCBU’s category, for “initiating a project involving multiple PCBU’s to clarify and improve the expectations on forest contractors and for forest service providers when they come onto a working forestry site.“
A PCBU is a person conducting a business or undertaking. In forestry, a number of PCBU’s can work in the same or adjoining area. This contracting chain typically involves a forest owner or manager, contractors, subcontractors, and specialist service providers for activities such as refuelling, repairs, training, auditing etc.
Two incidents, both involving service providers, highlighted the need for further focus on the 3C’s to consult, co-operate and co-ordinate where there are overlapping duties between PCBU’s. At the same time, Sheryl Dawson CEO of McFall Fuel approached PF Olsen letting the Company know that it required more clarification on what was required around interactions with contractors and when they as service providers would come onto forestry work sites. The forestry guidelines were good, but very general and it was clear that a collaboration between the PCBU’s would be helpful in determining these requirements.
A project management team, a sub-committee of PF Olsen’s Central Safety Committee (CSC), was established in July 2016. It comprised PF Olsen staff and contractors, one other larger forest owner and a range of service providers e.g. Gough Group, Waratah NZ, Bridgestone NZ, Truck Stops NZ and McFall Fuel. These service providers have a national reach, making the project work useful for the whole of the industry.
This sub-committee then set about clarifying the various possible interactions and exactly what the contractors would provide to – and would require from – each service provider prior to site entry. This included forest owner permits, written procedures for each task, hazard and risk assessments, site inductions, communication protocols and relevant emergency procedures. A draft guidance was circulated amongst staff, contractors and service providers for feedback. This team then developed a training guideline to ensure a thorough understanding of the more complex provisions.
PF Olsen’s Health and Safety Manager Nic Steens presented this guidance along with risk management training to 330 individuals around New Zealand, including all staff, senior contractor representatives and their service providers. This training has enabled safety systems to be updated in line with the HSW Act 2015.
We have received very positive feedback from service providers, especially who interact with other forest owners, about the quality of their interaction with other PCBU’s in the forests we manage. One of the project’s greater benefits is that the PCBU’s now understand how they should act at a forestry worksite, and in particular what constitutes appropriate safety behaviours. They are also appreciative of the clear protocols around how to cease work when it deviates from their own safety and risk management systems.
PF Olsen thanks the many contributors to this achievement and while we are proud to be recognised as an industry leader in health and safety, the key driver is our goal toward zero harm and improving safety in the forest industry.
Source: PF Olsen
Extracting wind-blown timber by helicopterThe role of large-scale disturbance events is recognised as the major driver in the development of New Zealand’s indigenous forest types. Cyclone Ita, in April 2014 stands as a once in a generation event because of the sheer scale and geographical spread of the damage.
It caused major damage to an estimated 40,000ha of indigenous forest across the West Coast region of New Zealand. Damage ranged from scattered individual trees within stands, to the total devastation of hundreds of hectares of forest.
To utilise fallen timber a legislative change was required by government as the Conservation Act explicitly prohibits the removal and sale of timber.
The Act specified a finite time-frame and upper limits on volume, as well as excluding salvage operations from forests within National Parks, Ecological Areas, and the South-West New Zealand World Heritage area.
The Act was also specific in limiting machinery to existing formed roads to protect soil and hydrology and minimise damage to vegetation. This effectively ensured that with the exception of trees fallen on immediate road-sides, all log extraction would be undertaken by helicopter.
Jon Dronfield, Resource Manager for NZ Sustainable Forest Products as part of next week’s HarvestTECH 2017 event in Rotorua will be outlining the rather unique operation of extracting by helicopter, salvage windthrow from West Coast forests.
The vast majority of volume has been extracted in log form by medium lift helicopter. There has been no requirement for road construction and flight distances for high value Rimu remains viable out to 2 kilometres if required. Existing roads and landing sites are utilised so investment in infrastructure is minimal.
The operation has generally been managed by separated lift preparation and extraction phases. A number of challenges were faced in preparing the logs for extraction. With the grapple weighing 80kgs they looked to target loads of not more than 1450kgs. Unlike ground-based operations, wind (too much or too little), temperature (which affects blade purchase and ability to lift), landing sites, log loading … have all impacted on the harvesting, extraction and economics of the operation.
It’s been shown though that salvage can occur in a safe and viable manner without damage to the conservation environment. Jon will be discussing next week the particular challenges and outcomes from their helicopter logging operation. As well as helicopter log extraction, underwater logging in the lakes of Tasmania will also be covered for those who will be attending the harvesting event.
Practical workshops for local sawmills in SeptemberAs outlined in a previous issue, the two-yearly sawmilling technology event, WoodTECH 2017 will again be running for sawmilling companies in both New Zealand and Australia in September this year. An integral part of the programme will be an insight into the very latest in wood scanning, sawmilling, and mill optimisation technologies from around the globe.
“Again, it’s a who’s who of international saws and sawmilling technology that will be travelling into Australasia” says Mr. Apthorp. “We already have over 20 North American technology providers and a significant number of European suppliers that will be involved in WoodTECH 2017.
“What makes 2017 special is the series of workshops that this time have been set up for local mills” says Mr. Apthorp. “For the first time in Australia and New Zealand, a series of practical troubleshooting workshops have been designed for a much wider cross section of sawmill production and operational staff. They’ll be providing a unique insight into how sawmills can extract the best performance out of their saws, their machine centers and sawing operations”.
Workshops of between 60-120 minutes are being given on;
- quality & lumber size control
- troubleshooting and improving band-mill, gang and board edger performance
- selecting, operating and maintaining log carriage and optimiser (softwood and hardwood) operations, and
- saw-guide selection, installation, operation and maintenance.
“Based on discussions with local mills, we’ve rejigged the two-yearly update in both countries. The change in focus is to encourage sawmill teams – management, mill production, saw-doctors and maintenance staff – to take advantage of the line-up of world class international specialists being brought into the region to work alongside local mills” says Mr. Apthorp. “This will ensure that teams can collectively put the practical learnings into practice once back on site”.
Workshop presenters, who will be well-known to many working within the industry include; Nick Barrett, President, SiCam Systems, Canada, Joe Shields, Machinery Support Technician, USNR, USA, Marv Bernhagen, Vice President, Lewis Controls, USA, Chuck Boaz, President, Corley Manufacturing, USA, Ralph Wijesinghe, (Author of the Bandmill Book), Canada, Josh Bergen, Owner, Precision Manufacturing, Canada and Udo Jahn, General Manager, Modern Engineering, Canada.
Full details on the programme in both countries and each of the workshops can be found on the event website, www.woodtech.events. It runs in Melbourne, Australia on 20-21 September and then again in Rotorua, New Zealand on 26-27 September 2017.
AI could double NZ’s growth rate in 20 yearsAccenture has released research - Why Artificial Intelligence is the Future of Growth - which shows New Zealand’s growth rate could double between now and 2035 if emerging technologies are embraced.
Accenture New Zealand Technology Lead, Mary-Anne McCarthy says New Zealand could use innovative artificial intelligence (AI) technologies as a tool to transform our thinking about how growth is created, and significantly boost labour production.
“AI has the potential to boost labour productivity, driven by innovative technologies enabling people to make more efficient use of their time. There has been a marked decline in the ability of increases in capital investment and in labour to propel economic progress, yet long-term pessimism is unwarranted. AI has the potential to overcome the physical limitations of capital and labour and open up new sources of value and growth.”
For New Zealand to capitalise on the opportunities presented by AI, more must be done to develop AI technologies in the workplace and wider society, says Ms McCarthy.
“Focus needs to be on how AI and emerging technologies can be spread and scaled across society, such as AI’s ability to create a new virtual workforce, complement and enhance the skills and ability of existing workforces and physical capital, and thirdly, drive innovations in the economy”.
The research shows that New Zealand’s technology businesses are leading global players in facilitating the absorption of emerging technologies, just behind Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands. However, it also revealed that New Zealand is lagging behind many developed countries in terms of its readiness to integrate innovation and technologies in to the wider economy.
Also, the rate at which AI is becoming deeply ingrained in New Zealand’s economy, sparking organisational and social transformations, is behind that of most other developed countries, according to the research. Accenture New Zealand Technology Lead, Mary-Anne McCarthy says there a number of steps that New Zealand can take to realise the potential for AI as a key driver of economic growth.
“The next generation needs to be prepared for the advent of AI. The division of tasks between man and machine are changing, and policy makers need to re-evaluate the type of knowledge and skills imparted to future generations.”
Currently, technology education goes in one direction: that is, people learn how to use machines, but increasingly this will change as machines learn from humans and humans learn from machines. With this, more technical skills will be required to design and implement AI systems.
It’s vital to update and create adaptive laws to close the gap between the pace of technological change and the pace of regulatory response, says Ms McCarthy. “AI is poised to transform business in ways we’ve not seen since the impact of computer technology in the late 20th century. It’s up to New Zealand to grasp the opportunity and run with it,” says Ms McCarthy.
For the ForestTECH 2017 series ( www.foresttech.events) planned for November this year, virtual and augmented reality along with machine learning and AI will be a core component of the programmes currently being designed. The technologies are already being rolled out in precision agriculture and increasingly being looked at by forestry researchers as part of the remote sensing research currently underway.
NZ forest industry leader passes awayMartin Hyde who was well known throughout the New Zealand forestry and trucking industries, passed away suddenly on 9 June 2017. A service was held yesterday afternoon outdoors under the Sails at the Redwood Forest in Rotorua.
Martin was the General Manager for Rotorua Forest Haulage Ltd, a privately-owned transport operator working across the North Island of New Zealand and operating predominantly in High Mass freight. The company had been at the forefront of trialling a number of HPMV vehicles (see update in another story in this week’s issue) in the forestry and allied sawmill freight sectors.
Martin had been involved in the NZ forest industry for over 30 years, principally in logistics and transport roles. He had been an active executive member of both the Log Transport Safety Council and Road Transport Association of NZ.
Outside of his business interests, Martin was actively involved in rowing, where he had officiated at countless regattas where he made a wonderful and positive contribution to the sport. He was a Karapiro Rowing Chief Umpire and Board member.
The forest industry’s thoughts are with Martin's family, friends and work mates.
Improving wood quality testing in young treesAustralian softwood forest growers are set to benefit from a new two-year research program with the potential to significantly increase wood quality. By improving genetic selection for wood quality factors such as timber stiffness, it could result in increases in returns of hundreds of dollars per hectare. The researchers will exploit emerging tools to measure wood quality non-destructively on young standing trees in radiata and southern pines, and will test tens of thousands of trees across many field trials.
Traditionally, tree genetics programs have been mostly about growth, form and tree health, with only a subset of trees assessed for wood quality properties such as timber stiffness which have been more expensive to test for. However, the technology for testing wood quality traits on large scale without destroying trees is advancing and becoming more cost-effective.
FWPA has co-funded the Southern Tree Breeding Association and its industry collaborators to test the effectiveness of different wood quality assessment tools, including basic density, acoustic wave speed and resistograph (a tool which can provide quantitative sample data from resistance to a needle-sized drill).
The General Manager of the Southern Tree Breeding Association, Dr Tony McRae, said the commercial impacts of improving wood quality genetics in breeding could be significant if the technology can be applied to young trees on large scale. He said the timing is right, with a wave of new generation genetic material coming on line.
“Wood quality is a major determinant of economic value in softwood plantations,” he said. “A one unit (GPa) increase in timber stiffness for radiata pine is estimated to be worth on average almost $570 extra in net present value per hectare to an integrated enterprise growing and processing structural timber.”
The data collected in the research will be incorporated into the industry-wide TREEPLAN evaluations for radiata and southern pines.
Source: Forest and Wood Products Australia
Red needle cast heads SouthA Dunedin forest remains closed to the public after a pine tree disease not previously found on New Zealand’s South Island's lower east coast reached the city. City Forests chief executive Grant Dodson this week confirmed the forest at Cedar Farm, above Port Chalmers, was closed following the discovery of red needle cast in the plantation.
The disease attacked pine trees and could cause defoliation in some trees, which typically recovered the following season, but could also kill trees already weakened by other afflictions, he said. The disease was detected during regular biosecurity surveillance, and close to 100 trees had since been cut down and disinfected to contain the outbreak, he said.
However, it was likely Dunedin and Otago would have to get used to the disease now that it was here, Mr Dodson predicted. 'We think we've got it all, but it was inevitable that it would come down this way. It was just a matter of when. Should it become established, expert advice has been that it is unlikely that it will become a major problem due to our rainfall and other climatic factors”.
Needle cast events had been recorded in New Zealand forest plantations since the 1950s, but red needle cast had emerged in the North Island only in 2008, information from Scion, a Crown Research Institute, said. A Ministry for Primary Industries spokeswoman said notification was not necessary as red needle cast was considered 'an established species' in New Zealand.
Councils signing up to higher productivity truckingCouncils around New Zealand are signing up to higher productivity trucks on their networks, with 23 having granted access for vehicles at the new 45/46 tonne limit. Allowing heavier trucks wider network access was a key part of the Land Transport Rule 2016: Vehicle Dimension and Mass, which came into effect on 1 February 2017.
Until 30 November, vehicles that are approved for operation at these heavier weights can use pre-approved routes without a permit, as shown on our new 45/46 tonne map. Local roads in areas not included on the map will required a permit during the transition period before 1 December 2017. The map is updated as Councils allow access so operators are advised to regularly check for changes.
Under the new rule, 7-axle combinations with a minimum wheelbase of 16.8 metres can carry up to 45 tonnes, while 8-axle combinations with a minimum wheelbase of 17.4 metres can carry up to 46 tonnes.
From 1 December 2017, vehicles operating at these new limits will be deemed general access, being able to access all roads except those posted as capable of only carrying lower weights. The two-stage approach gives local councils time to complete bridge inspections to identify any route restrictions required at 1 December 2017.
“We know the transport industry is keen to get on with moving more freight on fewer trucks with these greater weight allowances, however we need to ensure that our partners who look after local roads are ready for this change,” says Graham Taylor, National Network Optimisation Manager at the Transport Agency.
“As always, we need to balance the benefits from increased productivity against ensuing safety and protecting infrastructure.”
Source: NZ Transport Agency
Global demand fuelling NZ forestry export growthStrong demand from key markets is driving up export growth in forestry products, New Zealand’s Associate Primary Industries Minister Louise Upston says. The latest Ministry for Primary Industries’ Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries (SOPI) shows strong growth in the forestry sector.
“Forestry exports are expected to grow 6.4 per cent to NZ$5.5 billion in 2017, before increasing further to NZ$6.3 billion by 2021 as increased volumes of wood become available for harvest,” Ms Upston says. Strong demand for logs and sawn timber from key markets such as China and the US are keeping prices high while favourable exchange rates are also contributing to strong returns for exporters, the SOPI shows.
Demand is expected to remain strong, as increased construction activity in China and the US, combined with China’s bans on harvesting native forest should ensure continued demand for New Zealand logs and sawn timber.
“With a bright outlook for forestry production and exports, the Government continues to invest in improved harvesting techniques. This investment is primarily through the Steepland Harvesting Primary Growth Partnership programme, which also encourages afforestation by allowing previously unsuitable land to be planted with production forestry,” Ms Upston says.
Planting is encouraged through other programmes such as the Afforestation Grants Scheme, the Erosion Control Funding Programme and the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change research programme.
Drones that can stay aloft for five daysIn the event of a natural disaster that disrupts phone and Internet systems over a wide area, autonomous aircraft could potentially hover over affected regions, carrying communications payloads that provide temporary telecommunications coverage to those in need.
However, such unpiloted aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are often expensive to operate, and can only remain in the air for a day or two, as is the case with most autonomous surveillance aircraft operated by the U.S. Air Force. Providing adequate and persistent coverage would require a relay of multiple aircraft, landing and refuelling around the clock, with operational costs of thousands of dollars per hour, per vehicle.
Now a team of MIT engineers has come up with a much less expensive UAV design that can hover for longer durations to provide wide-ranging communications support. The researchers designed, built, and tested a UAV resembling a thin glider with a 24-foot wingspan.
The vehicle can carry 10 to 20 pounds of communications equipment while flying at an altitude of 15,000 feet. Weighing in at just under 150 pounds, the vehicle is powered by a 5-horsepower gasoline engine and can keep itself aloft for more than five days — longer than any gasoline-powered autonomous aircraft has remained in flight, the researchers say.
Forest Harvesting Optimisation project input soughtFeedback Sought on Draft Units and Skills Sets
A project is underway in Australia to review and update units of competency from the FWP Forest and Wood Products Training Package, in line with current forest harvesting optimisation technology and the impact on utilisation processes.
Draft units of competency and skill sets are now available for industry feedback.
Feedback is being sought on the content of 10 proposed new units of competency, 12 improved existing units and the structure of 2 new skill sets. The draft units and skill sets will be available on the Skills Impact website for stakeholder consultation until COB Friday 30 June. The feedback will inform the work on the next version of draft units which will be available for industry validation in late July.
Potential New Project
Please note that the need to develop the following new units and skill sets for cable logging and chipping was identified during the development phase of this project.
1. 3 new units for wood chipping operations
- Operate excavator with log grapples for feeding logs into mobile chipper
- Operate a heavy production flail and chipper combination
- Operate a flail debarker
2. 1 new skill set for in-field chipping
3. 1 new skill set for cable logging
This additional work has been documented in the Issues Register to be considered by the Industry Reference Committee as a potential future project.
Visit project webpage to provide feedback.
The Global Forest Industry in the 1Q/2017Excerpts from the Wood Resource Quarterly (www.woodprices.com)
Global Lumber Markets:
- Globally traded softwood lumber reached an all-time high in 2016. WRI estimates that 118 million m3 of lumber was traded last year, or 10 percent more than in 2015. Imports to the US account for about one-third of globally traded lumber and have almost doubled in five years. China accounted for about 17% of import volumes in 2016.
- Lumber production in North America in 2016 was up six percent from the previous year, reaching its highest level since 2007. The biggest rises in production were in the US South and Eastern Canada, while the increases in western Canada and the western US were more modest. This trend continued during the first two months of the year with production on the continent being 1.5% higher than in the same period in 2016.
- Domestic lumber prices in both Finland and Sweden continue to be close to their lowest levels in ten years in US dollar terms.
- Prices for imported softwood lumber to China have been in a steady upward trend during 2016 and 2017 with the average import price in March 2017 being 13% higher than 18 months earlier.
Global Pulp Markets:
- Demand for chemical market pulp was up by over six percent during the first three months of 2017 as compared to the same quarter in 2016. Chinese demand was up the most, 22%, while Western Europe was the only region where consumption was down in early 2017.
- Prices for most pulp grades have increased in early 2017 because of a combination of tight supply and continued strong demand.
- The BHKP price has gone up the most this year, having increased almost $90/ton to $740/ton in just four months, while the price rise of NBSK has been a more modest $30/ton from January to April.
Global Biomass Markets:
- Wood pellet imports to Asia reached an all-time-high in the 4Q/16 when Japan and South Korea together imported 630,000 tons of pellets. Although import volumes were down slightly in the 1Q/17, they were still 43% higher than in the 1Q/16.
- Over the past ten years, there has been a clear shift in fibre-sourcing for pellet manufacturers in the US South from logs to residues.
Source: Wood Resources International, www.woodprices.com
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... unique football delivery
Delivering a ball for football cup final. Drones are slowly creeping into more aspects of our daily lives. Soccer fans in Portugal must have realized as much by now, after a man standing on top of a hoverboard/drone hybrid flew around the stadium before delivering the match ball to the referee. The result was an opening to the 2017 Portuguese Cup final between Benfica and Vitória de Guimarães that’s as surreal as there’s ever been. See it for yourself in the video below:
And one more for you. After years of scrimping and saving, a husband told his wife: “Honey, we’ve finally got enough money to buy what we started saving for in 1979.”
“You mean a brand-new Mercedes?” she asked eagerly.
“No,” said the husband, “a 1979 Mercedes.”
And on that note, have a great weekend and we look forward to catching up with many of you in Rotorua next week. Cheers.
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