Still room for human and machine improvement
TWO MAJOR players in the forest machine business don’t entirely agree with the researchers’ findings. While there is some acceptance that more is possible from human factors both are adamant that there’s more to come in the way of technological advancements.
For Brett Jones, Komatsu Forest Managing Director, the research piece offered a perfect springboard for a concern he has had for some time now ..... training -- the human factor!
“The main concern I have with the industry in Australia is that we are not willing to invest the right amount into operator training. In many cases there is a lack of understanding of what a skilled operator actually involves. Production may be important but maintaining a machine in a good condition and knowing how to carry out minor repairs is just as important to the overall production cost,” says Brett.
Despite the in-depth research Brett said it seemed this research overlooked the need for a skilled operator to have a good level of maintenance skills and a good understanding of the equipment. When a harvester can cost up to a million dollars I believe there should be a bigger focus placed on training the person who is going to sit in the seat on a daily basis.
“If you were to combine this technical training with our MaxiFleet management system, then I believe the machine owner / operator would be well prepared for anything that may occur on any given day.
“MaxiFleet offers the owner all the basic data of the machine like most other systems but it actually goes one step further by allowing us to access the machine control system from the office. In this situation a KF tech or an owner can access a machine and carry out diagnostic testing through the control system without going to the machine. The only restriction is that there must be an operator sitting in the seat to allow you access and there must be mobile phone coverage to be able to have this level of access.
“I strongly believe this functionality will save a lot of time and money while increasing the overall production. This overall approach to being able to maintain the machine in a more managed fashion may be the next biggest step to actually reducing production costs.”
Regarding Harvesters, Brett strongly believes that there will always be further advances with the technology that will provide further increases to the current production rate, every year there is new technology being introduced and this will always be the case.
“As far as Forwarders are concerned, the capacity has increased over the last few years so these benefits are currently being experienced. Once again there will also be further technological advancements with the Forwarder, like automatic crane positioning.
“There are already many forms of semi-automatic systems currently in operation or are being developed even further. We will eventually see semi automation in the coming years taken to a whole another level,” he said.
“During a recent visit to the Komatsu factory it was very interesting to see what was in the development pipeline. We may not be going to the moon but there are some real advancements not that far away,” Brett said.
Norbert Schalkx, Ponsse’s Area Director - Asia-Pacific, Africa, Spain & Portugal, said that while the article is an interesting literary review on human factors implications on productivity, some of the quoted material was rather outdated. “This says more about the research world than about the inability of manufacturers to put existing knowledge into practise!
On the claim -- the next wave of productivity improvement will come from human factors -Norbert agreed and added that it will be more and more challenging to increase productivity through basic machine design.
“However, the Ponsse Scorpion harvester, launched at the Elmia Wood in 2013, was designed around the machine operator, taking into consideration the “internal performance shaping factors” and the “stressors”, affecting the human factor which the article talks about.
“With the operator being literally in the centre of the harvester, with its unrestricted visibility, excellent machine stability, ergonomic cabin, crane control, reduced shaking, trembling and noise, minimised distraction and fatigue factors, the operator can maintain high production levels throughout long working shifts. Due to its design features, the Ponsse Scorpion harvester model certainly leads to a big step in improving the productivity in e.g. Nordic spruce thinning,” he said.
“The article further states that human factors can improve the performance of harvesting systems by stimulating continued performance improvements. This is exactly what Ponsse is doing with its Ponsse EcoDrive Harvester & Ponsse EcoDrive Forwarder programs.
“EcoDrive continuously analyses the work efficiency of the operator for every work phase. It compares this to average values and it keeps track of the productivity trend and fuel economy. The machine operator can compare and improve his working behaviour instantly and gets reported on this.”
Norbert said while the researchers discovered that the correct abilities, skills, techniques and training alone were not sufficient to ensure the high performance of a logging system, he pointed out that Ponsse had further developed its Simulator Training methods and exercises for e.g. experienced operators. These operators can still increase productivity, by e.g. optimising the felling sequence of trees, positioning of processed assortments and subsequently reducing boom movement.
“Work organisation (and its human-technology interactions)”, as mentioned in the article, plays a big role in Ponsse Manager, which is the machine owner’s real-time tool to manage daily harvesting operations. Ponsse Manager was first launched in September in Finland, at the FinnMETKO exhibition. This year it will be available for Australian customers.
“Further semi-automated solutions and increased decision support will be available from Ponsse in the foreseeable future,” Norbert said.
Norbert Schalkx of Ponsse
Brett Jones of Komatsu