Simulator role highlighted in special forum
It was something unique, something long overdue, and something highly beneficial ... it was, in fact, the first Forestry Simulator Lead Users Forum.
Held early in November at Waratah’s Melbourne distribution centre (and planned and run by Waratah Asia Pacific and Africa), the forum was designed to concentrate on “upskilling” the forestry workforce.
Over the past few decades a number of training providers have either had donated or purchased various types of forestry simulators.
These owners and providers can own and manage small software packages right through to full system platforms that cost in excess of $100,000.00 worth of investment.
However, over time, the after sales support for upgrading and maintaining the product falls away because of distance from the manufacturer. It’s not a core business of the local supplier and there is a genuine lack of peer support.
The original new trainers themselves in many cases move on to more senior roles, the training packages become aged or, in some cases, not applicable to today’s needs.
In some situations government changes to industry training funding can have a large effect on the target audience in providing off-the- job or new entrant training with these simulators.
Other industry effects -- such as the mining boom, export downturn -- can also play a major part in establishing baseline courses that consistently deliver training packages and competent entrants into the industry.
Advancing user compliance
“One driver that is not changing, though, is the increased dependence on mechanisation and advancing user compliance in forest operations,” said Jules Larsen, Waratah’s General Manager Distribution and Operations (Asia Pacific and Africa).
“The expectation of the forest owner has always been to have machine owners and operators to provide quality logs of the highest value with consistent production and to perform this safely.
“We, as an industry, are slowly changing and coming to realise that not only for our existing employees but new employees we need forms of offsite training available to us to upskill staff,” said Jules.
“We cannot continue to expect new machine operators to get in these machines and learn as you go. We cannot expect forest owners to let this continue to happen forever either,” Jules said.
Vital for worker retention
“We cannot ever achieve this offthe-job training availability without committing to and investing in local training providers. They are not only the key to recruitment but also vital for retention by continually reinvesting in our existing staff.”
Forest Simulators can provide that off-the-job training effectively, providing platforms that enable realistic and replicable tasks that can presented at any time.
“We have Forest Simulators in training hubs all over the region and we should be utilising these more effectively to improve industry quality,” said Jules.
“Our aim with the Annual Simulator Forum is to create a means of refreshing the physical training tools, scoping the latest training needs, sharing training packages and, most importantly, building a strong network of support,” he said.
Invited to the forum were a wide range of industry simulator representatives who are not only great coaches and skilled trainers but who are also passionate about the people in the forest industry.
Representatives from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand attended the Melbourne forum, all prepared to share and leverage skills and experience to help the forestry industry.
Special guest was Simo Tujula the John Deere Technology Consultant from Finland.
Simo presented the latest developments from around the world in Forest Simulator training and set out some examples of how we can locally apply some of these tools to help trainees in this region.
Attendees got to see and run first hand a wide range of simulators and software packages, including everyday data management skill training right through to competency based programs for Forwarders and Harvesters.
The first half of the forum was devoted to sharing previous experiences and regionally targeted packages. This format gave the greatest insight for everyone as to the actual gaps, scope and opportunities within the region.
Over the course of the forum it was clear that many of those gaps were able to be easily closed and quickly become opportunities.
“It was a great event and hats off to Waratah for their initiative,” said Andy Cusack LITA Mt Gambier.
Shot in the arm for industry
“It was a great networking opportunity and everyone learned a great deal from the event. I believe the plan is for more to come in the future and this can only be a shot in the arm for the industry and everyone connected with it.
“Computerisation is beginning to play an even bigger part in modern day forest harvest and haul and the better equipped everyone is the better for the industry. Again, Waratah deserves credit for the top job they did,” said Andy.
Another of the attendees was David Priem, Manager, TAFE NSW Forest Industry Training Centre, who said there were three important outcomes from the event:
• the installation of TeamViewer on the simulators now enables the Forest Industry Training Centre to send a simulator to any location and provide real-time harvesting training from wherever the trainer happens to be. That is, it breaks the problem of needing the trainer to be on-site, at-least in the early phase of operator training,
• we were shown how to use the Terrain software so that appropriate harvesting scenarios and landforms can be constructed for training purposes, and
• planning is under way for the rollout of Calibration training at key sites in-conjunction with partner trainers such as the TAFE NSW Forest Industry Training Centre. Waratah is already planning next year’s forum and is aiming to make it even bigger and better.