It’s all about Digital Data in the Timber Industry - But Why?

, Co-founder and CCO of Timbeter.
Discussions about digital data and digitalization occur almost daily. Estonia during its EU presidency has stated the Digital Agenda as its priority area of focus. The Digital Agenda proposes to better exploit the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in order to foster innovation, economic growth and progress.

What does it mean for those of us at work? How can companies benefit out of digital data or why is this needed? There are several examples how can digital measurement help when it is utilized against traditional timber measurement – an industry sector where each region still uses its own rules and methods; and disagreements are quite common and lot of data is still being recorded on paper.

1. Quick and easy information sharing

Measuring timber is time consuming when done manually. In terms of efficiency the biggest challenge is the slow movement of data. Information from the forest or from digital calipers are usually received at the end of the working day or even the next. Only once this has been transferred can the next parts of the supply chain can begin their work: sales managers, logistics, accountants and so on.

Yet when information can be received in real-time, those involved in the next part of the supply chain can begin their work simultaneously. Plus, it is easier for those involved to react to any unexpected outcomes – for example whether there’s a shortage/surplus of some assortment or there are more logs with bad quality/cull – this information gets to the decision makers quicker. Of course there maybe some challenges with internet coverage onsite and hence the data reaches the intended recipients slower. Yet this is still a significant time saving on the timber measurement process.

Many Timbeter clients take advantage of the ability to share the link of the storage module where all their measurements have been listed – this provides a preliminary overview of the timber coming in and provides data for further decision making. Or several Timbeter clients use Timbeter’s data to collect the measurements from all forest storages to plan their logistics for the following day.

2. Reduction of possible human errors

Anyone who has dealt with a great amount of timber and the numbers involved know that it is easy to make mistakes – either writing down the numbers incorrectly or human error during data insertion. It’s very hard to spot a mistake on Excel spreadsheets. Even worse, mistakes can appear a couple of weeks later and then it gets even harder to detect the origin of the error.

With a digital measurement there’s a possibility to check every measurement – thus detect if any of the logs have been undetected or with the wrong shape. This can be done within the application and also on a computer – ensuring that all possible mistakes are quickly detected and corrected.

3. Maximization of the value/utilization and optimization of the cost

It is important to maximize the value of every single log. Meaning that certain assortments should be sent to certain saw-mills, logs with defects should be handled differently, and for pulp-and fuelwood only lower quality logs will do. Every decision made needs to base on highly accurate information.

With a digital measurement, all the information is available in real-time and therefore the most optimal decisions can be made. Different assortments, volumes, routes, destinations: all these are factors in the formula that needs to calculate the most optimal outcome.

For example: if there are small piles in different storages in the forest – quite often there’s a question over how many trucks are required to transport the material. From the cost side it is important that the volume is correct and the truck is utilized to its maximum.

4. Transparency – reduced disputes

As mentioned above, within each region, users have their own formulae and specifics regarding how they measure timber/lumber. Sometimes when companies test and compare the results with Timbeter and there are some differences - the problem is not in the measurement itself but in the various forms of JAS or GOST formulas, how the average diameter is being calculated (is it really the average or only the narrowest one), in rounding rules and so on.

With digital measurements, the rules are clear and straightforward and therefore the results objective and consistent. It’s always easy to re-measure the measurement and send it as digital proof. One picture says more than thousands words and this is certainly correct when it comes to timber measurement. It is very hard to prove anything when the timber has already been loaded to the bigger pile or even sent for manufacturing. With a digital measurement, clear proof exists and in case of a disagreement there’s tangible evidence to base your arguments on.

Typically in these instances, is that the stronger party (usually buyers) can dictate their own terms and the other party has to agree on. Already digital measurement is making the market more transparent and negotiations are now more on a equal level.

5. Long-term data

You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data (Daniel Keys Moran). In the timber and lumber industry, this is true indeed. Decisions must be based on data. When data is on paper or spread around various Excel spreadsheets, little of us have the time to analyze data throughout the year or more. Long-term data provides multiple options for analysis and forecasting that enables improved planning and profits. Accurate forecasting can only be achieved if your data is easily available and can be quickly accessed and processed.

The basic data-set is available for everyone to take advantage of in Timbeter’s storage module. In addition, we have customized many reports in accordance with customer requirements.

Furthermore, Timbeter validates the pile density coefficient in comparison to the average diameter. Within a couple of minutes there’s data available for around one-month measurements and it is easy to check if the results doesn’t comply with certain numbers, and detect the reasons behind that.

In the future Timbeter aim to have different patterns to validate the data and provide valuable data to our customers.

If you have an idea about this or specific need? Let me know, and let’s discuss.

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