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The Log - Issue Three - Snippets from Andrew Wye's trip to South America

6.5 year old eurograndis harvesting south america

6.5 year old Eucalyptus urograndis trees

Last year Forest Enterprises Australia (FEA) sent Andrew Wye and Darryn Crook to look at harvesting and processing systems in Uruguay and Brazil. A highlight of the trip included seeing eucalypts with growth rates exceeding 35 cubic metres in mean annual increment (MAI) something that Australian foresters see very rarely. Andrew reports here on some of his observations on the harvesting and processing systems observed on his tour.

Machine life – Currently in Australia it is common for forestry machinery to be changed over at 5000–10 000 hours operating time (5–6 years) and deemed to be past their usable life at this time. By comparison, in South America the same machines have accumulated an average of 20 000 hrs in a similar time frame. If we can change the current Australian culture from operating the machinery on a single-shift to a double-shift or a 24-hour operation harvesting costs will decrease as a consequence of spreading fixed costs over a greater number of operating hours within a similar yearly time frame.

Technology – Inventory and harvesting technology now allows us to reasonably estimate tree size (piece size) and volume per hectare. Forestry companies in Uruguay and Brazil use inventory and harvesting technology to pay contractors by the cubic metre. Using this technology, it could be possible to shift to paying contractors in Australia based on wood volume rather than weight allowing flexibility in leaving trees or pulpwood timber on landings prior to transport and avoid issues of weight loss compensation to the contractor and reap the benefits of carting lighter wood.

green harvester andrew wye

Harvesting 7 year old Eucalytpus grandis trees

Safety – All operations visited had a high level of safety and were accredited under the International Standards Organisation (ISO) occupational health and safety management standards. Australian companies could benefit by moving towards compliance with this standard even if not yet accredited. As a minimum harvesting companies could identify the weaknesses in their occupational health and safety systems by analysing the process required for compliance to the ISO’s standards.

Company harvesting capacity
– Forestry companies in Brazil and Uruguay are moving back to company /estate-owned harvesting operations, as opposed to employing contractors for this purpose. The benefit of this is that they do not need to recover profit as part of the harvesting operation. In addition they get economies of scale by reducing the overall cost of compliance with ISO and Forest Stewardship Council standards by having a one off compliance cost instead of contractors all incurring individual compliance costs.  The companies use their operations to benchmark costs and build up relationships with suppliers to drive innovation and change if needed.

Waste Uruguay - andrew wye

Recycling and waste managment system in Uruguay

Waste management – Forestry companies in Uruguay and Brazil have a commitment to waste management in their operations as displayed by the deployment of waste management systems to collect waste and separate it into its recyclable components (glass, plastics, oils, paper, etc.). This could be implemented in Australia, but we would need to have appropriate infrastructure where the separate products are actually collected or can be disposed of appropriately and are not just removed together at a later stage. The initiative of company / estate-owned harvesting operations in Uruguay and Brazil would assist in underpinning the success of this activity.

Harvesting – In Australia the feller buncher is used in cut-to-length (CTL) systems, but this is not the case in South America. We need to understand why this is the case, as use of feller bunchers adds cost to the operation not covered by the increased productivity. Also, harvesting operations in Brazil and Uruguay only use wheeled harvesters. We also need to understand why using tracked harvesters is so popular in Australia, especially considering that a forwarder collects the CTL logs and most ground conditions in Australia are trafficable to wheeled machines.

Planning – In Brazil, planning is taken to the micro level with snig tracks, landings and log extraction directions marked in the field to optimise log extraction. This could be implemented in Australia with GIS technology. Short-term gains of using this planning process will accrue to the harvesting contractors, while long-term gains will accrue to the land owner as a result of reduced ground disturbance benefitting future rotations. Uruguay plants buffers of different species in corridors of large blocks to break up harvesting impacts visually and also to prevent erosion by wind. It should be investigated whether plant buffers could be used in Australia.

Andrew Wye

General Manager, Smartfibre Pty Ltd
Tel: 03 6334 7811