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Transport technologies changing the wood supply chain

8 September 2016

Transport technologies changing the wood supply chain

Wood transport and logistics within the forest industry is going through a major shakeup. Smart technology such as robotics, automation, cloud computing, big data analytics and improved connectivity within the supply chain is reshaping how leading companies are adapting to and operating in the 21st century.

Road transport is a key focus for improved safety and productivity in the wood supply chain. Todays intelligent truck has been described as being more similar to a smartphone on wheels than a traditional vehicle. The technology is already here and being used. Today there are about 175,000 online-connected Volvo trucks on Europe's roads. They’re able to send information about when they need maintenance and some of the necessary service work can even be administrated remotely. Tomorrow’s intelligent truck is expected to revolutionize productivity in the wood transport industry.

One area of keen interest at the moment is driverless or autonomous vehicles. The pace of change, like the other technologies listed, is rapid. Two years ago, autonomous trucks were science fiction. They’re now on the road. The system that Freightliner and Mercedes (cousins of the Daimler family) have been showcasing in Europe and in America over the past year is conditional autonomy. It’s very similar to an aircraft’s autopilot where trucks are taken to their cruise speed before being switched into autonomous mode. Trials are well underway by various manufacturers and it appears that the technology aspect isn’t that complex. Trials for New Zealand’s first autonomous vehicle test by Volvo and the New Zealand Traffic Institute were announced only this week and have been set down for November.

Vehicle Platooning is also on the radar of all major truck manufacturers at the moment. In April this year, a demonstration of semi-autonomous trucking called the European Truck Platooning Challenge was completed. The trucks in each platoon were connected via Wi-Fi. This enables them to be synchronized and therefore driven much closer to each other than would be possible with just human drivers on board. As well as safety advantages, there are increased fuel efficiencies, up to 10% from the European testing.

Trials are also underway in the US at the moment with one of the global leaders in this space, Peloton. Peloton is a market leader in truck platooning systems development and deployment in the US and other regional truck markets. Peloton will be presenting on both autonomous vehicles and the opportunities with truck platooning at this region’s two yearly technology update for forestry and wood transport companies, Wood Flow Optimisation 2016. The implications of this technology along with autonomous vehicles, for road haulage, the freight sector and wood products industry are expected to be massive.

“In addition to opening your eyes to innovative new technologies impacting on our own supply chain, a raft of case studies, in-forest applications and on-road trials are going to be presented as part of the two yearly tech update, Wood Flow Optimisation 2016” says FIEA Director, Brent Apthorp. “Automated measurement of log truck loads, electronic log docketing systems, new designs around log trailers and log restraints, digitising data collection and truck movements and practical insights into optimising harvest crews and log deliveries,” all form part of this latest series”.

Full details on the Wood Flow Optimisation 2016 event that runs in Rotorua next week on Wednesday 14 and Thursday 15 September can be found on the event website,

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