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Robotics and automation changing the wood supply chain

30 August 2016

Robotics and automation changing the wood supply chain

Logistics within the forest industry is going through a major shakeup. Smart technology - 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.

Wood Flow Optimisation 2016, a technology series being run in both New Zealand and Australia in mid-September by the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA), will be providing local forestry and wood transport companies a rare insight into how these new technologies are being integrated – from the forest through to the wood processing operation or port.

In the last couple of weeks’, we’ve heard about the giant steps being taken in New Zealand’s forestry industry with in-forest trials using teleoperation technology. It’s being used to harvest wood off steep slopes and it’s believed to be a world first. It’s providing out of harm’s way operation of a purpose-built tracked feller-buncher from the safety of a separate operator cabin and console. In addition to improving worker safety, remote controlled felling has the potential to change just how wood harvesting is being undertaken on steeper terrain.

Having a similar impact on the wood supply chain are rapid advances being made in loading and transporting wood. Like remote felling, virtual reality goggles have been unveiled by Hiab. With some clever goggles and cameras, the operator is able to operate the log loading crane remotely in the relative safety of a truck cab. The objective, like remote felling where the ultimate goal is to have “no worker on the slope, or no hand on the chainsaw”, is to have the operator out of the truck and operating the crane remotely from a distance.

“In addition to opening the eyes of the forestry and wood transport industry to innovative new technologies impacting on the wood supply chain, a raft of case studies, in-forest applications and on-road trials with driverless and autonomous trucks are going to be presented as part of the two yearly tech update” says FIEA Director, Brent Apthorp. “Automated measurement of logs, electronic log docketing systems, new designs around log trailers and log restraints, digitising data collection and truck scheduling 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 on 14-15 September can be found on the event website,


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