Friday Offcuts 8 February 2019
Think again. Sodra, the largest grouping of forest owners in Sweden and a major wood and pulp & paper producer has just taken their first step into robotics. They’ve introduced Clerk. It’s not in manufacturing but in their offices. Clerk is working now in an admin role. It’s the company’s first digital robot employee and they’re expecting it’s going to be the first of many.
We cover a story on Scania, who have been testing a new generation of autonomous transport at Rio Tinto’s operations in Western Australia. As we’ve reported on previously, Rio Tinto has pioneered the use of new technology and automation through their Mine of the FutureTM programme in the mining industry. It's hauled more than one billion tonnes of iron ore in the Pilbara using 80 autonomous trucks since it operated its first driverless truck about 10 years ago.
For wood harvesting, we’re looking closely at what they’re doing as there are close parallels between the two industries, particularly when it comes to safety in the workplace. They currently have the largest fleet of driverless trucks, the world’s first fully-autonomous heavy haul, long distance rail network, and fully autonomous production drills. Plans now are underway to introduce more autonomous trucks and other fully autonomous solutions for other transport applications across the company’s operations.
With drones, no surprise here really, but it appears that China is edging ahead of the U.S. and Europe in using drones for delivering goods. Following a recent trial, one of the country’s leading e-commerce companies has suggested that 50% of its packages are going to be delivered by drones. One Chinese logistics company has also now approved operation of commercial drones for delivery. With a maximum payload of 30 kg, the new service will be able to deliver everything from fresh food to clothing and electronics.
Finally, plenty of good news again on the timber building front. The Australian Building Codes Board, following some concentrated work and submissions by FWPA, has just released the preview version of the 2019 National Construction Code. It’s expanded the range of buildings, up to an effective height of 25m, in which fire protected timber construction systems can be used.
Approval has also been given in the U.S. for a 21 storey 72.6 metre apartment building which when built, will be the tallest mass timber building in the western hemisphere. In Australia, an entire block in downtown Melbourne, whilst not a mass timber building, is being proposed using “biophilic principles”. What’s that. Check out the story below. Timber-Architecture E-news has also reported that more than 23,500 m3 of CLT in 35 projects, was sold or processed last year in Australia. That’s around 23 sized Forte Living buildings, the first CLT building built in Australia in early 2012. The growth in the use of CLT across the country has been substantial – and continues to grow. Impressive. That’s it for this week. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
NZ & Australian fire updatesIn New Zealand, fire fighters are still battling the fire just outside of Nelson. As of yesterday, fire fighters had saved the Carter Holt Harvey sawmill near Nelson from destruction. But it was too early for managers to assess the damage to the surrounding forests mainly owned or managed by Tasman Pine Forests, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Forestry.
The latest available map of the fire area shows the fire came within metres of the Carter Holt sawmill. Civil Defence said there were still a number of fires burning and access to the sawmill and forest areas was cut off for most people.
The fire was called in about 2pm on Tuesday at Pigeon Valley, near Wakefield, about 30 kilometres southwest of Nelson at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. A state of emergency was called on Wednesday morning, with the fire spreading to cover 1,900 hectares with an approximate 22km perimeter by the evening. A Civil Defence spokesman said there was at least one house gone with others yet to be confirmed.
In Australia, as we’ve reported, the bushfires in Tasmania are having a huge impact on the state’s private forestry industry, with tens of thousands of hectares burnt. Private Forests Tasmania said that as of February 5, a total of 35,325 hectares of the private forest estate had been burnt in the fires.
The amount of non-industrial private forest burnt as of yesterday was 31,071 ha, dwarfing the non-industrial hardwood plantations burnt total of 483 ha. On the industrial front, the private native forest estate burnt was 4254 ha, while industrial hardwood plantation area burnt was 2756 ha and softwood 533 ha. These figures will be updated when the picture becomes clearer.
Tasmanian Minister for Resources Sarah Courtney said that it was too early to provide accurate numbers, but current estimates indicate more than 190 thousand hectares of both private and public land has been impacted from the recent Tasmanian fires.
National Construction Code adds approved timber buildingsThe Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has released the preview version of the 2019 National Construction Code (NCC) that increases the range of buildings, up to an effective height of 25m, in which fire-protected timber construction systems can be used. The new Classes add schools, retail premises, hospitals and aged care facilities to the previously approved multi-residential, hospitality accommodation and office buildings.
This change is based on extensive work and a successful submission by Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), which extends a Deemed-to-Satisfy solution that was secured in the 2016 NCC permitting, for the first time, construction in fire-protected timber building systems to an effective height of 25 metres (typically 8 storeys) for Class 2, 3 and 5 buildings.
The 2016 change, along with advice from the WoodSolutions Mid-rise Advisory Team (an industry-supported pilot program operated by FWPA in Melbourne and Brisbane) has led to a growing number of mid-rise residential projects considering and adopting timber as the primary building material.
“It’s been incredibly satisfying to see the market acceptance of timber in these projects and this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Ric Sinclair, FWPA’s Managing Director, “every week we hear from new designers and developers who are realising the cost and speed benefits of timber systems and are looking for more information.” “The timber used in every one of these new mid-rise projects displaces other materials, so it’s effectively creating new market opportunities for timber building system suppliers and added sales volume for our industry.”
Timber building systems include traditional stick or lightweight timber framing and the newer mass timber options, including cross laminated timber (CLT), laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and glue laminated timber (glulam). “One of the major benefits of the change,” Mr Sinclair said, “is that timber will now be an option for mixed use mid-rise buildings, the retail, office and apartment complexes that are growing in popularity in inner and middle suburbs as part of urban infill policies.”
“Developing and submitting proposals for change to the NCC is part of FWPA’s overall strategy of increasing the volume of wood products by simplifying the process of specification by designers. Across our five programs we are actively exploring opportunities to drive the use of wood and increase the social license of the industry as a whole.” Mr Sinclair said that he would like to thank Boris Iskra, FWPA’s National Codes and Standards Manager, and everyone else involved in preparing the evidence-based Proposal for Change submission.
“It’s a substantial piece of work that is critically assessed by the ABCB’s team of experts and public review, so the success we have had in having our proposals accepted reflect well on the professionalism of our people and industry.” Source: FWPA
EOI for WoodTECH: Australasia’s premier sawmilling eventThe two-yearly technology update for sawmilling companies in New Zealand and Australia is being planned with local industry and key technology providers. It runs in September 2019. Record numbers attended the last event in 2017 and exhibition spaces sold out at both venues. 2019 plans to be even better. Mark the date now into your diaries. Early expressions of interest (EOI) are now being sought for those who’d like to present at this years’ series.
Background: The WoodTECH series was reintroduced to Australasian sawmilling and wood manufacturing companies in 2017. After a decade of national training programmes falling over, saw-doctors groupings folding, mill closures and consolidation within the industry, local wood producers were keen on getting their teams together again at one central location. An independent forum to learn about new technology, new processes and systems, to exchange ideas and to network was being called for.
That’s where the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) stepped in. This had been a core component of their technology related events in the past. The WoodTECH series was set up with local industry and key national and global technology providers.
The WoodTECH 2017 technology series focussed on sawmilling or green-mill operations. It drew in a record number of over 400 delegates in September 2017. It was the largest gathering ever seen of sawmilling companies, saw-doctors and technology providers in Australasia. WoodTECH 2018 achieved similar support with the focus being on dry-mill or wood manufacturing technologies. Details of both events can be found on the WoodTECH 2019 website.
What’s going to be covered?
Again, an independent platform will be provided in both New Zealand and Australia for local companies to evaluate new innovations, technologies, processes and systems in sawmilling, scanning, saw maintenance and mill optimisation. Practical troubleshooting, maintenance, QC, saw alignment, training and recruitment sessions are also expected to be built into the two-day programme with short presentations, workshops, trade exhibitions and tech talks being planned.
So, if you would like to be considered as a presenter (you’d like to talk about new technology, systems or practices that are being employed which are making a real difference to a mills profitability or productivity, troubleshooting tips, case studies ... please contact email@example.com BEFORE Friday 1 March.
Södra announces its first robot employeeSödra welcomes Clerk, the company’s first digital robot employee. Södra was founded in 1938 and is the largest forest-owner association in Sweden, with a membership of close to 52,000 forest owners. The new robot, Clerk is a software robot that works in six departments and uses its expertise in everyday, repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
“Digitalisation is creating a myriad of exciting opportunities in our working day. Automation and robotics are prioritised areas for Södra to strengthen the Group’s competitiveness by freeing time up for our employees that they can then spend on tasks that create more value. The development of Clerk is a first step in this process,” said Hans Falk, IT Automation & Robotics Manager, Södra.
Clerk was developed in 2018 using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology. The aim is that Clerk will remove the burden of administrative and repetitive tasks from employees. Clerk is currently assisting six departments performing tasks that include invoice processing, book-keeping and the preparation of reports. A total of 12 different processes in the company have been robotised and Clerk works full time with these.
“We view this as a step in creating scope for more stimulating work tasks, being able to recruit the right skills and gaining more satisfied employees. The long-term vision is to ‘employ’ more digital employees in 2019, to increase the number of departments that these can assist and to view software robots as a natural resource for the future,” says Cristian Brolin, Chief Digital Officer, CDO, Södra.
Source & Photo: Södra
Timber frame 21-story apartment tower plannedA downtown Milwaukee apartment high-rise that would use high-grade timber, not steel, for its frame has won Plan Commission approval. The 21-story Ascent would feature 205 apartments and a building frame made with high-grade, engineered timber, instead of steel.
It would be one of the tallest such buildings in the world. The 238-foot (72.6-metre) Ascent would be the tallest mass timber building in the western hemisphere, said Tim Gokhman, a New Land director. It would eclipse an 18-story mass timber university residence hall that opened in 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
New Land hopes to start construction fall of 2019 and complete the project by spring of 2021. It also needs Common Council approval. For more on this story, go to the Journal Sentinel.
Forestry contractors losing sleep over staffingIn the second half of 2018, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology conducted a forestry contractors business review in collaboration with the Forestry Industry Contractors Association (FICA). More than 130 crews were represented, originating from a wide spectrum of operations from across New Zealand.
Approximately 18 per cent of contractors told us the threat of losing key staff and skills were keeping them awake at night, with almost 60 per cent identifying skill shortages as a significant business risk. Insecurity of work also rated high. More than 85 per cent of participants indicated business in 2019 was expected to be similar or slower compared to 2017/2018.
The next business review will run from 8 - 24 February and will include several key questions shared with participants:
- Do contractors prefer diverse roles in their crew or should operators be specialised?
- What is the general level of job satisfaction among crew members in New Zealand?
- Which factors are currently driving the contractor business?
- What new skills are expected to come into the sector over the next five years?
Forestry contractors who are interested in these questions are invited participate in a 2-minute review by following this link.
Additional information can be obtained from Toi Ohomai’s Forestry Operations Programme Manager; Richard Stringfellow ( Richard.Stringfellow@toiohomai.ac.nz).
Source: Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology
Scania and Rio Tinto trial autonomous truckCommercial vehicle manufacturer, Scania, is testing a new generation autonomous transport system at Rio Tinto’s Dampier Salt operations in Western Australia. The first phase of the trial started August 2018, involving a Scania XT 8x4 autonomous tipper working separately from Dampier’s active operations.
During this initial stage, a safety driver reportedly rides in the vehicle to observe the truck’s performance and will intervene if required. In subsequent phases, Scania expects additional autonomous trucks will be added to develop vehicle-vehicle awareness and intelligent fleet supervisory controls.
“We’re pleased to be trialling this technology in trucks that are smaller than our traditional haul trucks,” said Rio Tinto Head of Productivity & Technical Support, Rob Atkinson. “This has the potential to give us more flexibility in the way we operate in a number of areas across Rio Tinto. We have seen automation create safer and more efficient operations in our business and this is a next step in evaluating options for delivering further improvements through the use of technology,” he said.
“Mining sites given their high vehicle utilisation rates are ideal for testing new autonomous technology,” said Head of Scania Mining, Bjorn Winblad. “The industry can reap the safety and productivity benefits of automation, and the experience gained here will be instrumental in developing fully autonomous solutions for other transport applications. It is very encouraging to note that the truck has been performing in a safe manner and in accordance with expectations with regards to the operations,” he said.
According to Scania, Rio Tinto has pioneered the use of automation in the mining industry, with the largest fleet of driverless trucks, the world’s first fully-autonomous heavy haul, long distance rail network, and fully autonomous production drills.
50% of deliveries to be made by droneIf you don’t think drone deliveries are going to take off (excuse the pun), think again. While the U.S. and Europe inch closer to drone delivery, China is racing ahead. China’s leading e-commerce company, JD, has launched an agressive trial that the company says will lead to 50% of its packages being delivered by drone.
Xinhua.net reports that New Year’s gifts are being delivered by drone to rural areas ahead of China’s Spring Festival. “Though online shopping has become common in China, remote villages face delivery problems. In early January, UAVs were introduced to Guang’an as a possible solution,” says Xinhua.
Guang’an, an agricultural area in the Sichuan province, was the first city to trial delivery drones in China’s rural southwestern region, but JD hopes to expand the program quickly to other cities. “According to the city’s delivery volume, three flight routes connect the city’s downtown central delivery station with three major suburban transfer stations…” reports Xinhua.
“Two full-time UAV flight controllers are responsible for the UAV service before a delivery man picks up the parcels at the transfer stations and delivers the packages to customers. A round trip between the central station to a suburban village usually takes an expressman an hour by tricycle, but it only takes a delivery UAV six minutes to fly across the mountain road,” said a flight controller surnamed Xiong.
Chinese logistics company SF Express is the first company in China approved to operate commercial drones for delivery. The drones have a max payload of 30 kg, more than enough for delivery of everything from fresh food to clothing and electronics.
While in China as elsewhere low altitude drone flight is regulated, drone delivery solves a critical problem for the country: giving access to delivery services to areas of the country with less robust road and transportation infrastructure. China is proving itself a powerhouse of drone manufacture and technology development, with the world’s largest drone manufacturer, DJI located in Shenzhen along with a large network of drone manufacturers of all types.
Investing in resource modelling and remote sensingSociety is undergoing enormous disruption due to the continuous adoption of new digital technology and the forest industry is poised to take advantage of some of these. But successful replacement of longstanding and proven technology and forestry systems and meeting new information needs doesn’t happen by chance, and there is considerable risk to avoid failed implementations, waste of money and resources through duplication of effort.
The level of expertise required to take advantage of new technology is considerable and constantly changing proving challenging for individual companies to know where best to concentrate their future investments in their systems.
Accordingly, the University of South Australia (UniSA) has been engaged by Forest and Wood Products Australia to develop an investment plan for Resource Modelling and Remote Sensing to establish a blueprint for research, development and extension for the Australian plantation sector from 2018 to 2023, with an outlook to 2028 and beyond to 2040.
It is critical for the usefulness of the plan that industry and developer intensions and needs are captured and UniSA has developed a survey to assist with this. Further details on the project can be found here. If able to assist in the survey, please click here. The survey will close on Friday 15 February 2019.
Source: University of South Australia
Meeting the forestry labour challengeLately, there's been a number of articles about forestry and the need for more planters. At Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand), we've subsequently received enquiries from people interested in planting, which is encouraging.
We are not shying away from the fact that labour is a challenge for the forestry industry. But where there are challenges, lie opportunities. Forestry is one of this country's most important industries. We have an opportunity with the government's renewed focus on forestry and the goal to plant one billion trees by 2028, to build on this and create a sustainable sector that offers real opportunities in the regions – both through job creation and economic growth.
One of the major aims of the One Billion Trees Programme is to create employment opportunities, particularly in the regions. Currently, around 1000 workers are working in the forest growing industry each year. As the programme ramps-up and the planting rate increases, we're estimating the number of workers will need to nearly double by 2023 to support tree planting, nursery production, logistics and administration.
Te Uru Rākau is working alongside the industry and other government agencies to ensure there's sufficient labour for the upcoming planting season. Part of this is about understanding what the workforce needs to look like. A survey of the industry is underway which will provide better data about the labour needs in the short term.
During 2019, Te Uru Rākau will be working closely with the industry, landowners and other key stakeholders to help set the strategic direction for forests and forestry over coming decades. One element of this work will be a multi-year plan to attract, develop and retain the workforce needed to create the conditions for a sustainable sector that has momentum to grow and adapt.
We are currently focused on working with the industry to ensure they are able to provide the opportunities for low-skilled workers so they're ready for the upcoming planting season, and helping employers to understand how to attract and retain workers by ensuring fair and safe employment conditions and clear career pathways.
We've held well-attended forestry employer information sessions throughout the country which were run by Forest Industry Contractors Association, with Work and Income, Immigration NZ and the MBIE labour inspectorate all working together. In the longer term, we are looking at how the sector can create opportunities for those not currently in employment to develop a career in the industry.
Part of the issue is around seasonality of jobs. Planting only occurs in the winter months, so the sector needs to be looking at other opportunities to create sustainable employment, particularly for young people who are either unemployed or not receiving education or training. This involves working with other agencies to ensure vocational training systems supports the needs of the forestry sector.
Of course, there are forestry contractors and companies who are leading the way in recruiting and retaining staff by offering year-round employment, and linking up with other employers with complementary work seasons, and we'll be encouraging the industry to continue exploring these options. More >>
Colour ingrained into the wood with new technologyStaining or painting timber is the traditional way to add colour to wooden products, but that colour is only surface deep. Any scratching or resurfacing can remove the colourful layer and affect the aesthetic of the wood. The full thickness colour technology developed by Scion fixes colourful dye throughout timber in a range of bright colours.
The full thickness colour technology colours every fibre in a piece of timber. At present there is nothing like this product on the market and, when coupled with wood hardening, the improvements could increase the value of New Zealand’s soft pine-based wood product industry. This would also increase onshore processing and spread benefits across regional New Zealand through job creation.
Calling the technology ‘full thickness colour’ is not something the research team take for granted. Dr Elizabeth Dunningham explains the team has been working with a variety of different dyes over six years to achieve what is now a consistent, bright and non-leaching colour suitable for anything from furniture to flooring.
“Initially we focused on natural dyes that had softer hues but they wouldn’t fix in the wood. We turned to a range of commercially available food dyes, then fabric dyes, and over the first three years, looked at four types/classes of colourants and 36 individual colouring agents in all.”
The research team is now looking at combining the colour technology with wood hardening technology. The added properties would make New Zealand’s soft radiata pine more competitive in a wider variety of interior applications especially uses that require higher resilience such as skirting boards and outdoor furniture.
Market research results showed that the unique look of the full colour thickness wood was interesting to all stakeholders interviewed, especially those from international markets. The biggest advantage of the full colour thickness product was the unique ‘look’.
Described as naturally translucent and grainy, the guaranteed consistency of this look was a positive feature, as was the ability to pre-colour wood that could create potential for increased efficiency in the manufacturing process.
Summit Forests announces new Head of ForestsSummit Forests New Zealand Limited has announced the appointment of Richard Cook to the newly created Head of Forests role, commencing on 11 February 2019. Richard has worked in the forestry industry in New Zealand and Australia since graduating from the University of Canterbury with a Bachelor of Forestry Science. Richard was most recently employed as Southern North Island Regional Manager for PF Olsen Ltd.
Summit is in a strong growth phase. It’s a forest owner, manager, and log exporter, with forests in Northland, Eastland, and the Whanganui region, and the head office based in Auckland. Summit is firmly supported by its parent company Sumitomo Corporation which is a Japan based multi-national operating in over 66 countries in various industries. Sumitomo has a proud 100-year trading history with the wider group, which spans back over 400 years. Source: Summit Forests NZ
Plans for Melbourne’s new biophilic officesAn entire block in central Melbourne encompassing council offices and the former Commonwealth Bank building would be remodelled under plans being considered by the City of Melbourne.
The AU$232 million Bourke Street Precinct Redevelopment project, to be designed by Designinc, would see the aging Council House 1 replaced with new premises, while the heritage-listed Commonwealth Bank building would be refurbished. A series of new public spaces, connected by a series of laneways, would also be created, including a multi-tiered meeting space known as “the forum.”
Melbourne mayor Sally Capp said the redevelopment would create a “new landmark for Melbourne” that would set the standard in terms of sustainable urban design.
Designinc said the proposed building’s facade expression would “reference the experience of approaching and entering a forest.” “The Little Collins Street and Royal Lane upper facades are envisioned as the canopy layer of the forest, expressed in a colour and material tone to reflect weathered bark,” the statement reads. “In contrast, the podium layers and public commons represent the understory, with a natural timber scaffold structure.”
Designinc’s design statement says that the forum would be designed in line with biophilic principles. “[It] is envisaged as a space that blurs the boundaries between indoors and outdoors,” the statement reads. “The aim is to connect people to nature and provide an uplifting sanctuary for those using the space that has a positive impact on wellbeing and health.”
The double-height space would feature extensive planting, use local, natural materials and feature lighting modes that could be set to mimic daylight to optimise circadian health. Designinc said the buffer garden would “collect and absorb water, harvest the eastern sunlight and provide naturally ventilated work spaces.”
Subject to approval, the development is expected to begin construction in early 2020 for a 2024 completion.
Nelson Forests' acquires Manuka Island estateOneFortyOne (OFO) has received confirmation that the Overseas Investment Office has approved Nelson Forests’ acquisition of Manuka Island estate in New Zealand. The completion date for the purchase will be mid-late February.
The Manuka Island estate, currently owned by Merrill and Ring, is approximately 2000 hectares of forest in the Wairau Valley near Blenheim.
“The Manuka Island acquisition reflects our intention to continue to invest in the regions where we have an established presence. The acquisition complements our recent purchase of Nelson Forests and is a great fit for their estate,” says OFO’s Chief Executive Officer, Linda Sewell.
“Manuka Island will be a natural extension of our existing operation,” says Lees Seymour, Managing Director of Nelson Forests. “We are excited about the employment and regional economic development opportunities that the purchase will provide for Marlborough, in addition to our strong presence at Kaituna sawmill and through our forest activities in the region.”
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... the great tomato story
An unemployed man is desperate to support his family of a wife and three kids. He applies for a janitor's job at a large firm and easily passes an aptitude test.
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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