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Taking the pulse of change BY SANDRINE MARRASSÉ


ometimes the significant shifts in an industry are best seen by looking at the way a particular role has changed over time. We spoke with Quality and Value Coordinator for Nelson Management Ltd (NML)* Joan Lang about the massive changes she has seen in her role over the past 10 years. Joan’s work involves the management of 1.2 million m3 of log handling for NML annually. Her job is very much boots on the ground, as she oversees all of the harvesting crews and spends most days of the week out in the field. “Basically I am involved with everything from when the tree hits the ground to when the logs get put onto a truck ready to go to our customers,” says Joan. There are two forces at work when it comes to log management and value recovery – the company trying to get the maximum return on investment (ROI) for every tree that it grows and the end customer trying to get a specific quality and grade of timber product at the other end of the process. Maximising ROI increases value recovery and also minimises waste. Recent technological advancements have transformed this area of forestry, including increased mechanisation, computerisation and software development. When Joan started with NML ten years ago, the company had 15 manual harvesting crews and three mechanised crews. “Now we have two manual crews and 17 mechanised crews. “We’ve reduced how many times we touch the log, as we have increased mechanisation on our landing sites. We have improved health and safety by reducing the number of people on the ground. “Once the trees are felled they are extracted to a landing via a hauler or a skidder (ground-based crews use a skidder), and from here the stem goes through the mechanised processing head (which is attached to the boom of a 64

Joan Lang performs quality control work on a skid site

loader) and is cut into piles of logs. “The loader operator then picks up that pile of logs and lays them on a quality control deck to be inspected and branded by a Quality Controller (QC), before the logs get stacked. “When I started we had to check every single log because our machines weren’t measuring reliably. Now we’ve refined the process to the point that we only have to check 10 percent of our logs on average. “We also randomly audit loads of logs by taking them to a scaling yard and check every log to ensure that the customer is getting the quality product that they’ve ordered. This process can also alert us to any problems regarding customer specification.

“What’s changed in my approach is that I want to fix any problems before they get to that point. Our business plan has been to address these kinds of issues at the crew site before they get to the final destination. To do this I work closely with the mechanised processor operators. My team check around 175 logs per day on any given crew site. By improving quality at the source we see the gains on the skid site and overall quality improves immeasurably. At the moment we have a five percent reject rate which would have been unheard of 10 years ago.” All log data is uploaded daily from the mechanised processing machines to reporting software, aptly named STICKS. The data can then be accessed via the programme and used to monitor and

Wild Tomato September2017  

WildTomato is Nelson & Marlborough's magazine. We focus on inspiring journalism, stunning photography and beautiful design. www.wildtomato.c...