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The Log - Issue four - A forest logistic system for the Australian forest industry

log truckAn important problem in forest operations is the daily transport of logs or chips from different coupes being harvested, with known supplies, to destinations such as pulpmills, sawmills, sorting yards, and ports. The basic decisions a transport manager has to deal with each day are the origins from which each product demand should be satisfied, the trucks and loaders at origins and destinations to satisfy all demands, and the work schedule for each truck. The basic objective is to satisfy the demand for different products at each destination and maximise the utilisation of the harvesting equipment at each origin, while minimising transportation costs and waiting times within technical, policy and labour constraints.

Log transport by trucks costs the Australian forest industry over one million dollars a day. Trucks are expensive and operational costs are high. It is therefore important to organise log and chip transport efficiently, so the trucks are not standing idle or travelling unloaded any more than necessary. Many forestry transport managers are aware that their fleets could be better organised, perhaps with computer-aided dispatching and scheduling systems or with global positioning systems (GPS). Reports from overseas and from other industries claim impressive savings in transport cost, well over 10–15%.

Just a few companies in Australia use manual or computerised systems to dispatch trucks. Decisions are made by experienced dispatchers based on log stock information provided by loader drivers, orders from customers, and knowledge and experience of the transport operation. Dispatching is a very stressful job as order information changes constantly throughout the day, and the dispatcher must make instant decisions with long-range consequences, and which in many cases turn out to be sub-optimal.

To facilitate the decision-making process during dispatching and to help forestry transport managers organise their fleets and plan log and chip facilities, Research Fellow Mauricio Acuna developed a truck scheduling system called FastTRUCK, which plans the whole day in advance, listing every pickup and delivery for every truck in the fleet. FastTRUCK creates the schedules by a simulation and a metaheuristic (simulated annealing) process minimising the number of trucks required and the waiting times at origins and destinations.

FastTRUCK screenshot

The second version of FastTRUCK is being tested by Program Three industry partners. Andrew Widdowson, ITC’s National Harvesting Manager, has expressed his appreciation to Mauricio and CRC Forestry Program Three for the logistic model that has been completed and provided to the company. Andrew has pointed out that:

“the truck scheduling model developed for ITC has enabled my company to undertake an in-depth analysis of truck and chip-dump capacity requirements and, from this analysis, make several key decisions with regard to both the chip terminal design capacity and truck fleet requirements. The resulting savings to ITC have been significant. I would be certain that the Transport Model will provide similar logistical benefits to the wider Australian blue gum industry …”

Mauricio Acuna

Research Fellow
Tel: 03 6226 7927