The magazine Canadian Forest Industries met with FPInnovations’ president and CEO Stéphane Renou to talk Forestry 4.0 . Here is an extract of the article published this month.
‘Our focus is on impact with speed’: Stéphane Renou talks Forestry 4.0
By Maria Church
FPInnovations launched its Forestry 4.0 Initiative last year with the goal of bringing burgeoning IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technology to the forest industry. Projects like log truck platooning, which researchers began testing late last year, fall under that umbrella – and there’s more to come.
CFI spoke with FPInnovations’ president and CEO Stéphane Renou to get a sense of where the initiative is at, what challenges they face, and what loggers and sawmillers can do now to embrace the new wave of technology advancements.
CFI: What are some overarching challenges faced by the forest sector right now that have led to the Forestry 4.0 initiative?
Renou: The first one is the labour shortage – getting people in the forest. Getting them in a safe operation, that’s the second big challenge.
Interestingly, the forest environment is probably the most difficult; it’s unpredictable. If you try to automate cars on a nice highway in California, that is one challenge. If you try to automate machines in the forest environment where things move around and we don’t know the quality of the terrain upfront – that is probably one of the biggest challenges of automation.
CFI: The initiative launched in early 2018; how have things been progressing so far?
Renou: It’s a learning experience for all of us. What we’re really trying to do is bring lots of technology that exists and is emerging in other sectors. Everybody has heard about IoT and Industry 4.0, which is all about data connectivity. We’re bringing them to the forestry world with the additional challenge of connectivity in much more remote areas. We don’t have Internet plug-in trees so we need to create data networks.
What I’ve really liked so far is focusing on the key things that we can do and getting those technologies through. Some technologies will progress on their own – the 5G network is progressing anyhow, so we don’t need to focus on that. We’re focused on the goals that we can achieve short term and then long term. We’re looking at tangible steps on the machine, so, for example, getting the machine manufacturers to create better decision systems for the operator because that’s one thing we can do quickly. It’s about what we can do now.
Our approach is to be agile. We’re not looking to create a long, 10-year plan with all the details. Let’s look at what can be done now, and what can be done fast, and which partner we can bring in to move the needle. It’s an agile way of looking for technology instead of doing it all in-house. Grab what’s out there, put it together, make a demonstration, learn and reiterate. That’s where things are at now.
Read the full article in Canadian Forest Industries here.