Still room for hu­man and ma­chine im­prove­ment

Australian Forests and Timber - - PRODUCTIVITY -

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

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