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Resources & Utilities

Tracking the Trees and the Forest

Trimble technology brings real time visibility, control and security to the forestry supply chain

Ireland’s forest industry is poised for significant growth over the next 10 years. The country’s forest cover is about 11 percent, or 770,000 hectares, leaving sizeable space for expansion. It boasts the fastest growth rates in Europe, thanks to its temperate climate and tree species planted. And it has the largest importer of wood in Europe––the United Kingdom––on its doorstep.

Along with these opportunities, however, comes the challenge to manage the forest effectively, protecting the climate change resource from theft, identifying important areas for nature and people and delivering quality wood products to market. As the largest forest manager in Ireland, Coillte has been living this challenge every day. Through technology, Coillte has been planting innovative solutions to help the company manage its forests effectively and sustainably.

Coillte, a semi-state forest company with headquarters in Newtownmountkennedy County Wicklow, manages 440,000 hectares of lands––nearly 7 percent of the total land area of Ireland––and dedicates 20 percent of its holdings primarily for biodiversity. With a vision to manage the State forests on behalf of the people of Ireland and to deliver the multiple benefits from its forests, Coillte has put technology, security and sustainability at its core. One key development is the launch of its Smart Timber Security System (STSS) designed to innovate its supply chain to connect people and its forests in real time, ensuring the right information and the right products are delivered to the right person every time.

Upgraded in 2021, the STSS combines the WSX targeted forest logistics tool from Trimble Forestry with a telematics solution from ORBCOMM. Designed to meet Coillte’s sustainable stock management needs as well as the needs of its customers, the customized haulage, logistics and telematics (HLT) solution enables Coillte to better manage all branches of its supply chain––from customer orders, planning, harvesting, loading, transporting and delivery. Most importantly, the satellite-based system connects Coillte and 400 haulage trucks in real time, enabling the company to manage its log supply and distribution with improved visibility, flexibility, control, interactivity and security.

Once supply chain coordinators collaborate with the harvesting function and the Galway-based Trimble Forestry team to generate timber orders, hauliers use the WSX mobile app to download their electronic timber removal permit (TRP) which details the precise job order––logs to collect, amount to collect, and from which forest. When the driver arrives at the designated section of geofenced forest, an alert is sent to the WSX, prompting the tool to confirm if the driver is in the right place. Validated, the driver proceeds to loading where they can ensure they’re collecting the exact species, length and volume of logs ordered. The driver then proceeds to delivery. The WSX system is monitoring this forest floor-to-mill activity in real time, ensuring that harvesters know what and how much is moving from their lots, hauliers know they have fulfilled the order, and sawmills know what and how much is en route to their mill. With more confidence in the haulage process and optimized navigation, drivers can reduce rework, fuel use and their carbon footprint.

With 95 percent of Ireland’s timber haulage vehicles equipped with this integrated system, the solution’s detailed monitoring not only delivers real-time insight into Coillte’s forest inventory it also provides effective timber traceability and the platform to comply with the country’s plant health regulations––functionality they did not have before.

“With this system, we know precisely where any log was cut, its type, who hauled it and where it was delivered, which directly complies with the plant health passport system requirements,” said Des Phelan, Coillte’s distribution manager. “And should any driver be stopped by a forest service inspector, they can generate that passport data in the cab. That’s just one of the many benefits we get from a technology driven supply chain system that improves our efficiency, traceability, stock management and sustainability.”

The forest to customer traceability that the WSX system provides also gives Coillte a proactive capability to protect trees from harmful pests and disease. Because it can trace its inventory down to the individual tree species, the company has the accurate knowledge to identify any forest areas that are vulnerable and the responsiveness to rapidly close off specific sections if an outbreak occurs.

Ensuring Coillte’s forest products are continuously available from thousands of different harvesting sites requires complex and layered management. Having technology allows Trimble’s support team to see the trees and the forest and can help ensure Ireland’s sustainable resource will endure for generations to come.