Waratah says tech training crucial
THE MOVE TO A BROAD-BASED, NATIONWIDE PROGRAMME FOR training people to operate complex machines in the forest can’t come soon enough for Waratah.
The harvesting and processing head manufacturer says the increase in mechanisation across the industry is putting pressure on the ability of equipment suppliers like itself to provide training essentials. And it’s only going to get worse, the company says.
“Compared to others in this space, we are quite well resourced and we have the support of a large international organisation, but the demands for training are stretching us to the limit,” says Jason Huitema, National Customer Support Specialist for Waratah Forestry Services.
“With the increase in mechanisation the current training essentials are exceeding what we can provide,” he says. “This is only going to become more of a problem with further increases in mechanised felling and processing with our existing work force not to mention trying to attract new people to our industry.
“I certainly think it’s a good time and opportunity to table the current mechanised training needs/gaps. We (Waratah) seem to be in a very unusual situation at the moment regarding mechanised harvester training and filling this need.
“Today’s harvester operator is required to be proficient with Windows operating systems, be able to edit cut plans, turn lengths on and off, change dollar values in the price matrix section, perform daily/weekly length and diameter accuracy checks to ensure harvester is meeting monthly audit requirements set by the forest owner, save and send production data daily/weekly via email while meeting production targets. All that, as well as getting to grips with the operation of the head itself.
“Most of our harvester deliveries today are full optimised and use digital callipers, data transfer, colour marking paint system – due to these high end automation requirements we will quite often have an ‘Application Specialist’ on site for new deliveries for up to a week to help operators move to this next level.
“We need to move away from these event-based on-site training needs and more to structured prerequisite-type classroom training before the operator gets to the forest floor. That’s why we think the training crew proposal now being discussed within the industry needs widespread support. It’s in everyone’s best interests.”
Mr Huitema says the current situation has become frustrating to everyone involved and he believes we are now at the point where contractors, forest owners and suppliers have had enough and “need some form of structured training in a non-production environment”.
There are harvesting simulators now available in both the North and South Islands where potential harvester operators can practice and become confident with the technology.
“We are committed to industry training and will continue to provide ongoing support to all training providers through the use of training simulators and all high-end automation, but it has now reached the point where it has become an issue that requires a pan-industry solution,” adds Mr Huitema.