Digital solutions do real good

The rapid development of digitalisation can perhaps be seen as the opposite of the long cycle times of Swedish forestry. However, both digitalisation and forestry have a lot in common and above all, they are both important keys to finding solutions to the climate crisis.

Since the autumn of 2020, Viveka Beckeman has been CEO of the Swedish Forest Industries Federation, the professional body that hosts the programme for Mistra Digital Forest. She believes in development rather than in romanticising the past, something she believes Mistra Digital Forest acknowledges.
– I think it’s exciting for the Swedish Forest Industries Federation to be the platform for this programme, since we want to be a sort of node for the whole industry.

Viveka Beckeman, CEO Swedish Forest Industries Federation. Photographer: Fredrik Persson.

She is convinced that the forest sector and the forest industry are the key that enables us to continue to develop both ourselves and our surroundings, without endangering the climate.
– I believe that it is essential for our sector that we are successful in ensuring that we are part of the developments, and are constantly moving forward. And that we succeed in taking advantage of the fantastic raw material that the forest represents, she continues.

In order to create the kind of legitimacy needed to run a modern, sustainable forestry, the sector has to show that it can be done without jeopardising biodiversity, for example.
– I believe in digitalisation and technological development, in this context. This means that we constantly emit less carbon dioxide, we have smarter processes all the way along, and finally we successfully extract more forest raw material. All of this shows precisely why the Mistra Digital Forest programme is so incredibly important, says Viveka Beckeman.

“When everyone comes together, we become both stronger and more competitive”

A good example of a digital project that has created great value, is the laser inventory carried out by Lantmäteriet in 2010, where the whole of Sweden was laser-scanned from the air. Among others, this has helped BillerudKorsnäs to become more efficient in their thinning work.

Göran Andersson, BillerudKorsnäs.

– After the laser inventory, an aid was developed where areas for thinning could be found utilising data from the inventory. Thanks to this, we can plan for thinning more easily, and constantly maintain a high level of production, something that is important when we are all actively working to create a more sustainable future, says Göran Andersson, forest manager at BillerudKorsnäs.

Of course, BillerudKorsnäs is already working with a number of digital tools, in particular they help the company to keep track of forest holdings.
– Generally speaking, we run a business over large areas and we are constantly handling large felling volumes. Without digital tools, it would be virtually impossible to do this with current staffing levels. Access to these sorts of tools is crucial for our efficiency and our competitiveness, Göran Andersson continues.

Göran Andersson has been active for many years, and has seen the industry become digitalised. One aspect he currently finds challenging, is maintaining the competence of everyone involved at a sufficiently high level.
– It is sometimes difficult to keep up with updates. New digital and technical equipment is constantly coming on line. It is important to get the whole chain involved, from white-collar workers to those who actually sit in the forestry machines, and do the work. This is also a feature that is identified in the programme, which is great, he says.

There are several companies collaborating in Mistra Digital Forest, something that is probably contributing to its success.
– The forest sector has shown that when everyone comes together, we become both stronger and more competitive. This is a way for Sweden to be at the forefront when it comes to technical and digital development, and perhaps even to take first place, says Göran Andersson.

Elisabeth Nilsson is a programme board member of Mistra Digital Forest. She sees the forest as particularly interesting and important as Sweden stands out with its high number of knowledgeable private forest owners.

Elisabeth Nilsson is a board member of Mistra Digital Forest. Photographer: Petter Blomberg

– We live in a changing world where the Nordic countries have tremendous opportunities, so now we must be smart and take full advantage of them, says Elisabeth Nilsson.

Dialogue is the most important aspect when designing programmes like this, she believes – not only with the larger companies, but also with individual forest owners.
– What works for them? It is important that we find solutions that are practically feasible for the individual forest owner too, and for smaller businesses, who don’t have a staff of technicians and engineers to help them, says Elisabeth Nilsson.

With Elisabeth Nilsson’s long experience, she knows that there are many questions that need answers, and that is precisely why research is important. Viveka Beckeman at the Swedish Forest Industries Federation agrees.
– This is a fantastic programme. The sector is involved, financing is secured. Now the important thing is to continue to attract talented researchers to these forest areas. The more research that is done in these areas, the better it will be, Viveka Beckeman concludes.