How AFRIDS gets the right wood, to the right mill, at the right time
BACKGROUND & BUSINESS PROBLEM
Lim Geomatics is a Canadian technology firm with an international portfolio of innovative GIS projects. We specialize in building web and mobile applications powered by the ArcGIS mapping platform.
Millar Western Forest Products is a privately held Canadian forest products company that has been in business for more than a century. The company harvests 2.5 million cubic metres of timber annually and processes pulp and lumber at manufacturing facilities in Whitecourt and Fox Creek, Alberta.
AFRIDS is a web-based forest inventory management system from Lim Geomatics that provides foresters with a set of user-friendly tools for managing forests and planning more profitable harvests. The software harnesses cloud technology and is an integral part of an enterprise geospatial platform designed for the forest industry.
The Cost Planning Module (CPM) applies all the valuable forest inventory statistics available in AFRIDS to compare the costs of executing various harvesting scenarios. Forest managers can upload information from any number of harvest blocks and calculate the most profitable way to get different types of wood out of the forest, directed to the right mill and out to the consumer. The planning scenarios run with the CPM can vary from a few weeks all the way up to several years.
Effective planning is an integral aspect of successful forestry operations. Companies have to meet their commitments to mills on the one hand and act as responsible stewards of a natural resource on the other. MWFP started using AFRIDS in 2016 as part of a broader effort to better utilize a valuable Lidar data set provided by the Alberta government. Chad St.Aman d, a GIS analyst with MWFP, has a long history of working with Lim Geomatics to develop new geospatial tools for the forest industry. He approached the firm about building on the capability of AFRIDS by adding a cost planning tool that could accommodate highly configurable data sets.
ANALYSIS AND RESULTS
St.Amand first used the CPM to run a 10-year analysis of different harvesting scenarios, which indicated the possibility of dramatic operational savings. “We’re talking millions of dollars. The numbers are staggering at the end of the day,” said St.Amand.
Running the big-picture analysis with the CPM in AFRIDS also saved him time. It would have taken a GIS analyst up to five weeks to evaluate a similar set of harvesting scenarios using the previous MWFP workflow. It took St.Amand three days to crunch the numbers with the CPM. “Instead of spending weeks or months on doing old school analysis, we can look at information in probably days or hours, which has huge value,” he said.
St.Amand described how the management team at MWFP quickly grasped the value of the CPM because it translated geospatial data and forest inventory metrics into actionable information about which harvesting scenario yielded the biggest return on investment.
AFRIDS and the CPM help to realize the value of Lidar data by putting forest inventory metrics to work quickly and making the information accessible for the entire team. This sort of positive feedback loop encourages additional investments in data, which delivers further increases in the efficiency and profitability of harvests.
MWFP increased its investment in Lidar data in 2019 and is working with the developers at Lim Geomatics on an updated version of the CPM, which is set for release in 2020 and will include:
– Refined tools for forestry operations
– Increase of overall data accuracy from a 10% to a 5% variance
– Hauling and logistics capabilities
– Greater precision with finer details and specifics on current configurations