On the surface, logging and sawmilling might seem quite simple, but the reality is a complex science with a multitude of factors that impact bucking, sorting, and manufacturing. And, due to the difficulty in making sense of the variables when attempting to identify opportunities, dollars are being left on the table. FPInnovations’ latest technology, WoodValue, is an advanced decision support tool that is helping forest companies maximize their output and revenue by improving the log purchasing process with better information.
Three years ago when the Quebec government changed its allocation of forest land use and opened more up as harvesting options for wood products, sawmills were challenged with evaluating the suitability and value of these harvest areas during the bidding process. With the industry lacking tools to support their decision-making, FPInnovations stepped in and developed a tool specifically to deal with the new fibre options. This first stage of development simulated the conversion of logs into lumber by using Optitek, a sawmill simulation software developed and owned by FPInnovations.
When FPInnovations’ membership caught wind of the model, they expressed an interest in adapting it for western Canadian conditions. In British Columbia, to supplement forest companies’ fibre sources and to operate at mill capacity, log purchasers seek additional volume from private lands and sellers. Targeted at these log purchasers, WoodValue’s second phase of development has focussed on helping them determine which potential forest harvest areas are more suitable and profitable for their specific customers.
“The value of this decision support tool is it identifies unrealized or missed opportunities in a way that is difficult to do with existing methods,” says Catalin Ristea, Manager of Advanced Decision Making, Smart Manufacturing. “Industry members participating in the WoodValue prototype trial are already finding they are able to extract more value from the same investment.” Detailed analyses of the inventory and of the mill’s historical operations data have been built into the tool. Consequently, it’s a more accurate and robust approach to predict the conversion of trees into finished lumber grades, allowing for a clearer understanding of the true value of each log sort.
Comprehensive Data for a Customized Approach
The complexity of the decision making that sawmills and log purchasers are faced with is tied to the many unique characteristics of each manufacturing environment and their capabilities, as well as the product set to be produced. The strength of FPInnovations’ WoodValue comes from customization of the model; customization that takes all of those factors into account on a mill-by-mill basis. Once the model is adapted to the distinctiveness of a specific mill, it easily analyzes any fibre input.
Comprehensive forest inventory data defining the quality of the trees in the harvest block (for example, small end diameter, wood length and species) is imported into the model and automatically transforms the information into potential log sorts that are the best fit for that sawmill. The model then looks at the production costs of processing the logs into finished lumber grades and finally calculates the estimated net revenue per cubic meter. Complicated to do manually, but only requires a few mouse clicks for WoodValue to generate three comparative scenarios for a single cut block.
Bridging the Gap
Still in the prototype phase, users in Quebec and B.C. are already realizing the tool’s worth. Mills have been encouraging their log buyers to adopt WoodValue in an attempt to move towards standardization and more objective decision-making. “Speaking the same language” will help mitigate some of the divergence that exists between forest operations, forest management and sawmilling. “We see WoodValue in helping to bridge the gap by bringing more information from downstream to better align the market need guiding the production of lumber products with the raw material availability,” explains Catalin Ristea. Understanding the real value of the forests leads to better bids and better blocks for mills, translating into additional dollars for an edge up in a competitive market.
Today, log buyers are applying WoodValue in their daily practices and their feedback is continuously improving the model. Over the next fiscal year, the development team will be ironing out ways to make the model easier to use as well as completing a mode for limited inputs in cases where full data sets are unavailable. The hope is to commercially launch the product within the next year, when the group will truly begin to understand the extent of the industry need and demand for FPI WoodValue.
For more information, please contact Catalin Ristea.