What is the optimal mileage of the forwarder? And where are the landings best placed? Researchers at Mistra Digital Forest have developed decision support that provides quick and precise answers to these questions – so that planners and machine operators make the right decisions with regard to economy, and the environment. Now the research can have a greater impact on the industry.
Many factors come into play when the optimal route for a forwarder is being planned. Having the shortest possible distance is important, both for the economy and the climate because it keeps fuel consumption down. But how hilly and wet the terrain is also affects fuel consumption, and the more moist the soil, the greater the risk of residual damage.
Researchers at Mistra Digital Forest have now further developed Bestway, the decision support which weighs all these parameters together to propose the optimal route.
– The whole point of our model is that we start from a number of different sources to find a suitable route, and that the process is fast. These are decisions that are often made by the forwarder driver in real time, and our model must also work in the same way, says Erik Willén, process manager at Skogforsk, who worked on the project within Mistra Digital Forest together with Victoria Forsmark.
Reduced the total distance by 17 percent
The method uses depth to water maps and digital elevation models that present the topography in detail. That information is then combined with laser estimates of the volume variation of the forest, and with data on protected areas and other considerations. Information about the outer limits of felling is added in. Data on mandatory crossings, such as watercourses, and new areas of environmental concern can also be added.
– It is easy to think that the forwarder only drives short distances, and to question whether it is even possible to save money there. But at a felling of about 1000 cubic meters, the forwarder has to drive about 50 times. So, you can understand the economic potential, and how important the choice of route is so that the machine doesn’t cause serious abrasion to the ground, says Erik Willén. Good decision support contributes to great economic and environmental gains.
In a comparison with actual forwarding sections over 13 fellings, the best optimised proposals resulted in a reduction of the total forwarding distance by 17 percent.
Landing optimisation is further streamlined
Evaluations at BillerudKorsnäs, Mellanskog and Södra have shown that Bestway’s potential increases if it can also suggest the best location for landings, the place by the road where timber is temporarily stored before transportation to the industry. Therefore, the research group has developed a method using geospatial data, that gives suggestions for one or two landings, and even presents the length the landings. Amongst other things, the proposals take land slopes, road crossings and watercourses into account.
Johan Söderholm, BillerudKorsnäs has tested the method:
– On the areas I checked, the landing proposals are well positioned and so are the forest roads. We seem to save several kilometers of terrain transport on a couple of the areas. Sometimes it doesn’t quite match the existing planning – often because we have chosen to use old forest roads. But when you are out there, you understand the logic and they look like really good solutions.
At Södra skog, Joel Persson has made an initial evaluation of a dozen areas felled earlier, that were subsequently put through Bestway, with landing optimisation.
– It looks good! In several cases, it could be that a landing actually used in the felling also matches the proposal from Bestway, but the model proposes another landing to further optimise transport. The theoretical figures show that on average, we could save several kilometers of terrain transport per area, says Joel Persson and continues:
– One strength of the decision support is that it can help us and our members to think outside the box. It is easy to get stuck thinking of the old forest road layout and landing location. Proper placement of the forest road and landing can also enable felling at a time that would otherwise have risked ground damage. With concrete figures, it will be easier to evaluate a route that differs from the most obvious one, and to evaluate the effects of various alternatives.
3 steps to more efficient operation
Ready for implementation
Decision support can be implemented in the existing technical support used by the forest planner, and the machine operator. The research is industry-specific – since the researchers presented their results, two innovative service companies have already launched applications of this kind.
The next possible step is to combine additional decision support. For example, Skotstöd forwarding support. It provides suggestions to forwarder drivers on how off-road transport should be organised in the most efficient way possible, based on harvested products – also a project within Mistra Digital Forest.
– This is a good example of accessible research that can already contribute to more efficient forestry today, says Erik Willén.