Friday Offcuts – 31 July 2015

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Australia’s principal research organisation or national science agency, CSIRO has just released its innovation strategy. It’s designed to provide a roadmap over the next five years for boosting the country’s innovation performance. According to the recent media release, Australia at the moment is ranked 81st in the world when it comes to innovation efficiency. The approach to crowd source ideas and suggestions from more than 7000 people to help determine the direction of the new strategy certainly has to be applauded.

You’d have to question though whether the suggested strategic actions are in fact new or “ground breaking”. Is it just me or have we heard this before - the need to put the customer first, getting the researcher to collaborate across disciplines, sectors, science and business, the idea of increasing co-location with universities and other research organisations and putting a greater emphasis on international connections. You’ll need yourself to dig a little deeper (link to the new strategy supplied in the story below) to see if the blueprint is going to provide any new directions to enable the forest products industry to develop, innovate and compete.

As well as breaking news and your normal fix of emerging technologies, we’ve added an extra story this week that we think will be of interest. It relates to recent research on a large U.S. logistics company involved in tracking employee driver performance with fuel efficiency. The result was a recommendation that companies should perhaps think twice before adopting data-driven management tools. Fostering employee competition using data may in fact not boost productivity or performance. Check out the story below to learn more.

Finally, we’ve got a mix of other stories including a tough stance being shown by a court in northern Myanmar last week that used the maximum penalties open to them by sentencing 153 Chinese nationals to life in prison for illegal logging, an innovative way of getting in front of a younger audience to promote paper in North America (see video below), an update from New Zealand Transport Agency on the roll out of 50MAX permits aimed at increasing freight cartage with fewer trucks across the country’s roads and we cover a new kind of chip for electronic devices made out of wood pulp. Enjoy this week’s read.

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Science Master Plan for Australia’s Growth released

CSIRO has released its masterplan to improve Australia's record in innovation and help the country respond to global changes and digital disruption. In its strategy for 2015 to 2020, Australia's Innovation Catalyst, CSIRO outlines how the organisation will become a global collaboration hub and help boost the country's innovation performance.

DOWNLOAD Australia's Innovation Catalyst

"Australia currently ranks 81st* in the world when it comes to innovation efficiency - the bang for our buck we get when we transform innovation investment into results," CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said. "If that was a team sport ranking, we'd be outraged. As a country, we need to work together to improve this result.

"Australia's prosperity, health and sustainability is closely bound to our capacity for innovation - and CSIRO has a key role to play here. "CSIRO is Australia's largest patent holder. We're the people behind fast Wi-Fi, part of the global team which developed extended-wear contact lenses, designer polymers using RAFT technology and the Hendra vaccine - but this is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the value we offer the Australian people.

In a novel approach for the 90-year-old science body, it crowd-sourced ideas and suggestions from more than 7000 people including its research partners, other collaborators, its own staff and the public to help determine the direction of the strategy.

"For CSIRO the question is really, what does Australia need?" Dr Marshall said. "The crowd sourcing helped answer this question by asking people to consider a range of challenges and opportunities ahead and asking how we should respond." The organisation's new strategy has been shared with staff, and represents a new era for the national science agency.

"At the core of the strategy is the need for CSIRO to be a catalyst for change and growth in the innovation system in Australia. Innovation is a team sport," Dr Marshall said. "We must form new bonds and collaborate across disciplines, sectors, science and business. That is where profound innovation happens - at the intersection of these areas.

One of the greatest challenges for Australia has been the difficult road for inventions and technology to go from an idea to then being in the hands of the public. "To help, we have formed the CSIRO ON program - an initiative to fast track CSIRO technology and ideas into the market and to get it into people's hands more quickly," Dr Marshall said.

"This is what we call 'breakthrough innovation' where we will help reinvent existing industries and create new ones." Part of the push for greater collaboration and co-ordination by CSIRO will be increased co-location with universities and other research organisations and a greater emphasis on international connections.

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New Biosecurity Manual for the plantation timber industry

Plant Health Australia, with funding from Forest & Wood Products Australia and input from key technical experts, have just produced a Biosecurity Manual for the Plantation Timber Industry. This manual is designed to be used by foresters, contractors, forest managers and consultants. It highlights the basic biosecurity activities that can minimise the risk of introducing and spreading weeds, pests and diseases.

An electronic copy of this manual is available from the Plant Health Australia website and the Farm Biosecurity website or by clicking here

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Sawmilling experts converging on Australia and NZ

WoodTECH 2015 will be running for local sawmills in September. Registrations have been flowing in with again most major sawmills from both countries converging on Rotorua and Melbourne for the two-yearly technology update.

This latest technology series will provide an essential and independent update on an array of exciting new wood scanning, sawing and mill optimization technologies as well as some innovative human resource practices best suited to local processing operations. As with previous events, it’s being designed with local mills for both senior management as well as production and operational staff.

World leading suppliers of sawmilling technology from outside this region presenting at WoodTECH 2015 include; Comact, Canada, USNR, USA/Canada, HewSaw, Finland, MiCROTEC, Italy, ScanMeg, Canada, AriVislanda, Sweden, CalSaw, USA, Switchback Systems, Canada, WaneShear Technologies, USA, Brunson Instrument Company, USA/UK, SiCam Systems, Canada and JoeScan, Canada.

Some of the keynote presenters at WoodTECH 2015 include;

Ronald McGehee: Ron is a leading innovator and well known in sawmilling circles around the world. He has more than 30 patents and numerous inventions to his credit. After finishing University Ron, working for Ukiah, became a one-man engineering and sales “department” for lumber mills throughout North America and Canada. Ron’s first design breakthrough came in 1982, when he invented and patented a lubrication system that eliminated the need to water-cool circular saws. The small Ukiah shop grew into a multi-million-dollar business, which Ron’s father sold to Harvey Industries in 1987. To this day, all sawmill manufacturers supply a lubrication system based on Ron’s invention.

He sold the successful Maxi-Lube system and founded the McGehee Equipment Company, where he designed a revolutionary cutting machine. In 1998, Ron sold this company to CAE Inc. and remained with CAE McGehee for three years, as President. In 2004, Ron founded 2RS in order to bring a new linear edger to market. His newest venture, WaneShear Technologies, was formed in order to build a revolutionary new edger that can process lumber at a rate of 60 pieces per minute, regardless of piece length. The first WaneShear, hailed as the world’s highest-production edger system, was shipped to Alabama in May 2012.

Stephen Falk: Switchback is a Canadian company specializing in getting teams working together – reducing injuries, improving communication and shifting negative cultures within a crew, site or company. They have worked wonders with forestry crews in B.C. and were rated top presenters at this year’s Forest Industry Safety Summit that ran in both New Zealand and Austyralia.

The objective for Steven Falk and Switchback at this year’s WoodTECH 2015 event is to get both management and production staff to better understand how to harness the “power” of teamwork within the mill environment.

The event will be running in Melbourne, Australia on 16-17 September and again in Rotorua, New Zealand on 22-23 September.

Further information including the programmes for both venues and information on the discounted early-bird registration deal can be found on the event website,

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Improving performance with data?

Companies should think twice before adopting data-driven management tools designed to spark friendly competition among employees. While such tools may work well in company cultures that promote employee competition, they are likely to backfire in collaborative, team-based work environments and erode trust between employees and management, according to researchers from Columbia University and New York University’s Stern School of Business. They found the downside risk of data driven management is 3.5 times the upside potential.

The researchers conducted a study with a large U.S. logistics company that tracks employee driver performance on fuel efficiency. Half of the company’s work locations had recently adopted “lean management” principles, which are built on teamwork and collaboration and replaced a previous culture of individualism (“every man for himself”). At both the collaborative and individualistic locations, the researchers tested drivers’ reactions to posting a public performance ranking with each driver listed by name for all to see, a performance ranking listing just driver ID numbers so each driver could identify only his or her own score, and no performance ranking.

Drivers in the individualistic environments responded positively to public performance rankings listing drivers by name. These drivers improved their fuel efficiency by 3.75 per cent. But drivers in the collaborative environments responded negatively to public performance rankings listing drivers by name, reducing their fuel efficiency by 13.4 per cent. This cost the company up to $1 million dollars over the course of one year. There was minimal driver response to performance rankings in which drivers were listed by ID number and not identified by name.

“Our research suggests that data is not a panacea for getting more out of employees,” said Professor Claudine Gartenberg with NYU’s Stern School of Business. “Companies with a collaborative work culture may see significant decreases in productivity and performance if they try to use data to foster employee competition.”

“The key take-away from this research is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” said Professor Steven Blader, also with NYU’s Stern School of Business. “You can motivate employees in two ways: by promoting individual competition, or by encouraging employees to work together to help the organization succeed. It is important to tailor the motivation of employees to the company culture. Doing so is critical to building trust with workers.”

The researchers noted that their findings apply to any efforts companies make to boost competition among employees.


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50MAX roll out over NZ

With the help of our partners in local government, The NZ Transport Agency continues to make great progress in 50MAX, helping to get more freight on fewer trucks. The latest Councils to come on board to the 50MAX-one-network permits are Napier City Council and Central Hawkes Bay District Council. The Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) agreed with the Transport Agency will allow partial access to their networks with a limited access 50MAX zone available from 1 July 2015. This allows for 50MAX access on local council roads to key industrial areas, transport routes and freight hubs with the potential to expand this network over time.

With these two councils coming on board the Transport Agency can now issue 50MAX permits on behalf of 82 per cent of local councils. Some of the remaining councils are issuing their own 50MAX permits, taking the proportion of councils either providing permits directly or fully delegated to the Transport Agency to over 90 per cent.

“We’re making great progress in growing the 50MAX network and I’m delighted with what has been achieved by the end of the June 2015 financial year,” Freight Portfolio Director Harry Wilson says. “Having over 90 per cent of local councils agreeing to allow 50MAX access in less than two years is a great outcome. This wouldn’t be possible without the support and collaboration of our partners within local government,” Harry says.

Since the introduction of 50MAX in October 2013 there have been more than 4500 permits issued and over 210 million kilometres travelled by these safer and more efficient combinations. The Transport Agency is in discussions with all the remaining Councils which have not signed up to the 50MAX-one-network permit system to see if they want to come on board.

“We are confident that as local councils see the benefits to their local communities of lifting the productivity of local freight movements they will join up to 50MAX,” Harry says.

Source: NZ Transport Agency

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Culture change the key to forest safety

For Les Bak forest safety is about respect, sharing knowledge, keeping it simple and getting workmates to look out for each other. "You can change beliefs but the way to get long term passion is to improve values."

A decade ago Bak was managing health and safety for international forest company Weyerhauser over an area of Canada the size of the South Island when his bosses asked him to head to New Zealand to sort out safety issues across its 78,000 hectare Nelson/Marlborough estate.

From 1985 to 1994 the annual national average for workplace fatalities was five per 100,000 people, but for forestry the figure was 121 deaths per 100,000. One in every 10 forestry workers was seriously injured each year.

When Global Forest Partners bought Weyerhauser's Nelson/Marlborough forests and Kaituna mill in 2007 Nelson Forests Ltd was born and Bak was made the company's health and safety manager. Bak fits the role like a glove. He knows loggers, the industry, the pressures and, in the last ten years, has helped transform forestry skids into work places where safety is not just a manual in the corner of the smoko shed - it's part of every action.

Key has been the handover of responsibility to those on the ground; acceptance that knowledge shared is knowledge learned by all; empowering loggers to speak up on problems, hazards and suggesting safer ways of tackling jobs and to acknowledge when they are having a bad day. More >>

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Engineers create wood-based electronics circuits

A group of engineers have created a new kind of chip for electronic devices that's made out of flexible wood pulp and can biodegrade in a matter of weeks.(photo: a semiconductor wafer, Zigy Kaluzny | Getty Images).

It's hoped that the development could someday help reduce the environmental impact from America's growing volume of discarded electronics. The flexible and transparent circuit also can be used in wearables and "smart" textiles.

Part of the problem with e-waste stems from types of materials used. For instance, the silicon or gallium arsenide-based chips that make up much of the guts of electronics contain materials that do not decompose well and can leach chemicals into soil and water supplies.

"If you open up a mobile phone, you have a battery and you have chips," said Zhenqiang Ma, one of the authors on the study. "The hardest things to recycle are the chips themselves." Another route to reducing e-waste, and to conserving potentially precious ingredients, may lie in developing biodegradable alternatives.

Ma and his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin and the USDA Forest Products Laboratory used a substrate made out of wood pulp, called "cellulose nanofibrillated fiber," and combined it with only the thinnest layer of silicon needed for the transistors that do the work on chips.

Cellulose nanofibrils have been around and used in other applications, but Ma and his team have demonstrated that the material can work at the frequencies that would make it useful for use in wireless devices.

The scientists say their material performed as well as conventional chip materials in their tests, and can biodegrade naturally over the course of several weeks with the help of fungi that are common in nature. The amount of silicon used is so minimal that it's far below the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, Ma told CNBC.

Ma said he doubts manufacturers that make conventional chips will voluntarily replace their current materials with wood-based alternatives in the near future, since they have little incentive to bear the upfront costs of retooling. As with other so-called green technologies, such as LED lighting and solar panels, the government may have to create incentives to induce companies to invest in wood-based chips.

In the meantime, there are other opportunities for commercializing the technology. The wood-based material is more transparent than glass and more flexible than silicon, Ma said, so it could be used to make chips for devices that can be curved or bent, such as wearables and "smart" textiles. Ma said his team has already applied for patents, and the technology is ready to be licensed.


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Illegal logging penalties just got a lot tougher

A court in northern Myanmar last week sentenced 153 Chinese nationals to life in prison after convicting them of illegal logging in a case that has already strained relations with Beijing. Two Chinese minors received 10-year sentences for the same offense, while a woman in the group received an additional 15 years on a drug charge, said Khin Maung, the lawyer for the defendants. Life terms are generally treated as 20 years in Myanmar's judicial system.

Myanmar's army in January arrested the Chinese and some Myanmar nationals in Kachin state near the Chinese border, also seizing 436 logging trucks. Chinese loggers in Myanmar send wood to China even though timber exports were banned in 2014. Analysts say the timber can be exported because the loggers make deals with local ethnic minority warlords and, according to some critics, local Myanmar military officers.

"As China has risen to become the world's biggest importer of timber products, it has also emerged as the leading destination for illegally logged timber, especially logs and lumber," the British non-profit researcher, the Environmental Investigation Agency, noted in a 2012 report. It said the quantity of timber shipped from Myanmar to China had declined over recent years, but smuggling was continuing and still a threat to Myanmar's forests, among the richest in Southeast Asia.

The loggers were sentenced under a 1963 law calling for jail terms of 10 years to life for anyone who steals or otherwise misuses or abuses public property. Khin Maung said one of the two judges in the court in the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina announced that the maximum penalty was being applied because "he deemed effective punishment should be meted out." He said his clients have 60 days to consider an appeal.

The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar told the state-run Beijing Times that it protested the sentences as too severe and that it had made solemn presentations with Myanmar over the matter. The embassy said the workers had been deceived by criminals from both China and Myanmar to engage in illegal logging.


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US$29.7 million funding for new forest science centre

The state Legislature has approved US$29.7 million in state bonding to help fund the Oregon Forest Science Complex at Oregon State University. The project aims to boost economic growth and create jobs while also supporting development of environmentally friendly wood construction, OSU officials said.

The bond money, which will be matched by private funds, will help pay for construction of a new classroom and laboratory building and a state-of-the-art advanced wood products laboratory designed to support Oregon’s manufactured wood products industry and wood-building design companies, OSU officials said.

“With this project investment, the state of Oregon is doubling down to lead a new national effort to advance the science and technology of environmentally friendly wood construction,” College of Forestry Dean Thomas Maness said in a statement.

The new 20,000-square-foot research facility will be used to develop and test new wood-building products that could be manufactured in Oregon. The Advanced Wood Building Products Laboratory will include a high-bay lab, computer-controlled and robotic manufacturing systems and what OSU says is a unique strong floor for full-scale product testing.

The new facilities are scheduled to open in fall 2017, according to OSU. The new complex will be used by forestry and engineering students and faculty at OSU and also by students and faculty in the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts.

Among the innovations already being developed at OSU are cross-laminated timber panels, environmentally friendly adhesives, innovative connection systems that shorten construction time, and new applications of wood-based composites, OSU officials said.

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10 of the best wooden skyscrapers

Wood in architecture usually brings to mind saunas, flooring or intricate interiors, but there are architects taking its use to new heights.

Since Canadian architect Michael Green published his 200-page thesis on the case for using wood in multi-storey buildings, more and more wooden skyscrapers have been winning tenders and getting built.

The link below provides some wooden plyscraper “eye candy”. Listed are ten of the most striking 'plyscrapers'– past, present, and potential – that are proving the case for the material’s use for a solid structure as well as a pretty finish. Click here


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Iconic Comic-Con event platform to push paper

The paper industry — like the mining sector — has its ups and its downs. It has its boom and bust cycles, too. From the softwood lumber dispute to shrinking paper usage to stiff global competition, North American paper-makers have to find ways of showing their continued relevance in this digital world we live in.

That’s why Domtar Corporation’s stunt at San Diego Comic-Con recently was so spectacular. Domtar, which bills itself as “the Sustainable Paper Company,” operates pulp and paper operations across the continent, the largest in North America and the second largest in the world.

In an effort to show that paper still matters in the age of the Internet, Domtar took it to the people. The company created a mascot: A massive eight-foot sheet of paper (with the hastag #StartedOnPaper printed on it) and took it to Comic-Con, one of the world's largest pop culture events where more than 130,000 fans gather every summer for the event.

Fans seemed to love it. It’s a little odd to see fans in costume excited by a person dressed up as a sheet of paper, but go with it.

Source: northern

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Pallet wars: corrugated industry vs wood pallets

Pity the lowly wood pallet. Nobody thinks about it. But it does so much work. Most merchandise in supermarkets and big box stores is shipped on wood pallets. There are roughly two billion wood pallets circulating in the U.S. But now, the wood pallet is under attack. What’s wrong with them? Well, for starters, tons end up in landfills.

A group called Change the Pallet says there’s a better way to ship goods. It’s a group funded by the corrugated pallet industry, which wants shippers to use more of its product. Adam Pener is with Change the Pallet. Pener says corrugated pallets are lighter and more compact. He says they weigh up to 80% less than wood pallets, and you can fit more goods into a truck by using them.

He says after IKEA switched to corrugated pallets, its truckloads were lighter, and the company used fewer trucks overall. That saved big on fuel and carbon dioxide emissions. “Three hundred thousand metric tons of CO2 emissions reductions,” Pener says. “Which is a very big number.”

However, John Bradburn is Global Head of Waste Reduction for General Motors. He says GM uses corrugated pallets when it can. But there are cons, too. “The corrugate will absorb moisture,” he says. The pallets have to be stored indoors, so they don’t get soggy. Also, Bradburn says corrugated pallets are sometimes not strong enough for heavier stuff – like canned goods or some auto parts.

Change the Pallet is asking states and major universities to tell vendors to use corrugated pallets. They figure, once a few of them are on board, big corporations will fall like dominoes.

Source: The Working Forest

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Agricultural robot shipments nearly 1 million units by 2024

Around the world in recent years, there has been an increase in the agriculture industry’s level of interest in the development and deployment of driverless tractors, aerial surveying of farmlands, data collection, field management, and cow milking systems. Moreover, the demand for robots involved in various agricultural processes like harvesting, pruning, weeding, pick-and-place, sorting, seeding, spraying, and materials handling has increased significantly.

According to a new report from Tractica, annual shipments of agricultural robots will reach 992,000 worldwide by 2024, up from just 33,000 in 2015. The market intelligence firm forecasts that some of the largest application segments will include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for agricultural purposes, soil management robots, materials management robots, driverless tractors, and dairy management robots.

“Demand for agricultural robots is being driven by a number of global trends,” says research analyst Manoj Sahi. “Key economic and demographic factors influencing market development include population growth, increasing strain on the food supply, availability of farm workers, the challenges and complexities of farm labor, the cost of farm workers, shrinking farmlands, climate change, the growth of indoor farming, and the automation of the agriculture industry.”

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Buy and Sell

...and one to end the week on.... Greece issues

It hasn't taken long for the jokes to start doing the rounds. Sent in by a reader this week.

1. Some years ago a small rural town in Spain twinned with a similar town in Greece. The mayor of the Greek town visited the Spanish town. When he saw the palatial mansion belonging to the Spanish mayor, he wondered aloud how on earth he could afford such a house.

The Spaniard replied, ‘You see that bridge over there? The EU gave us a grant to construct a two-lane bridge but by building a single lane bridge with traffic lights at either end, I could build this place.’

The following year the Spaniard visited the Greek town. He was simply amazed at the Greek mayor's house: gold taps, marble floors, diamond doorknobs, it was marvellous.

When he asked how he’d raised the money to build this incredible house, the Greek mayor said, ‘You see that bridge over there?’

The Spaniard replied: ‘No.’

2. As of this week, all new Euros are to be printed on Greece-proof paper.

3. What are the first three letters of the Greek alphabet? I.O.U.

4. I'm investing in a new currency...the George Foreman Euro. Same as the other Euro, but no Greece.

5. Alex Tsipras has said that Greece will "bounce back". Just like its cheques.

6. My son wanted to know what it was like to live in Greece, so I took his pocket money off him.

And one more sent in recently by an Australian reader. How's this for common sense?

And on that note, enjoy your weekend break. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
PO Box 904
Level Two, 2 Dowling Street
Dunedin, New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 470 1902
Fax: +64 3 470 1904
Web page:

This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at

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