Friday Offcuts – 23 January 2015

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Robotics, automation and digital technologies. They’re changing the way businesses are now operating. Technology disruption and the speed of change was highlighted last week. In this week’s issue we’ve got a couple of stories on technologies recently been covered in FIEA technology events.

UAVs, drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems. They’re now no longer a novelty. In fact, many will have been unwrapped as Christmas presents just a couple of weeks ago or you’ll have seen them taking those amazing aerial shots at this summer's one-day cricket games. As outlined in last year’s ForestTECH event that ran in late November, they’re also now an integral part of many forestry operations assisting in both planning and operational management.

In a story in this week’s issue the scale and the sheer size of the shift and use of UAVs is highlighted. In the US the industry’s trade group is predicting that within the next three years, drones and the companies that support them could generate US$13.7 billion worth of economic activity and create 70,000 new jobs. The FAA estimates that 7,500 drones will be flying in the U.S. within five years. The industry puts the number in the hundreds of thousands and as many as 32,000 commercial drones could be flying worldwide, according to aerospace consultancy in just the next ten years.

Robotics, automation and UAV’s. They’ll be the focus for this year’s MobileTECH 2015 which will run in Australia on 21-22 April and again in New Zealand on 29-30 April 2015. Like last year’s technology event, it’s again aimed at all major primary industries in both countries (including forestry). It will include an opportunity to see many of the latest UAVs flying and being put through their paces with on-site demonstrations at both venues. Further details can be found on www.mobiletech.events and a story below.

Other good news this week includes record numbers for new dwellings in the Australian residential construction market, a report out that confirms Kiwi agritech companies are doing pretty well with annual agritechnology exports already worth around NZ$1.2 billion and we’ve got a couple of uplifting stories from Japanese and German architects thinking well outside the square in their use of wood and paper products. Enjoy.



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Australian residential construction at an all-time high

Building activity figures just released by the ABS show that more dwellings were commenced in the September quarter than in any quarter since records began in the mid-1980s. The ABS figures show that detached dwelling commencements increased by 0.8 per cent in the September 2014 quarter, while ‘other dwelling’ (predominantly multi-unit dwellings) rebounded by 30.2 per cent. In aggregate, the total number of dwellings commenced increased by 12.5 per cent in the quarter to reach 52,380, a new record.

“With New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, the four largest states, all recording their strongest quarters on record for multi-unit dwelling commencements at the same time, there is little surprise that activity reached a new record. Furthermore, another incremental increase in detached dwelling starts sees this part of the market record the strongest quarterly result since 2010,” said HIA Senior Economist Shane Garrett.

“This result confirms that residential building activity was tracking along at a very strong level during 2014. However, part of the particularly strong September quarter result can be attributed to a ‘catchup’ after the rather disappointing result in the June quarter when the number of starts fell well short of expectations. Following the surge in residential buildings approved in late 2013 and early 2014, there was a substantial accumulation of multi-unit residential building projects that had obtained approval but did not commence construction in the first half of the year”.

“The figures released confirm that much of the activity in the pipeline entered the construction phase in the September quarter.” During the September 2014 quarter, new home starts increased in all states with the exception of South Australia where activity fell by 5.7 per cent. Activity in New South Wales increased by 30.7 per cent, in Victoria by 0.9 per cent, in Queensland by 18.1 per cent, in Western Australia by 5.1 per cent, in Tasmania by 2.9 per cent, in the Northern Territory by 9.6 per cent and by 22.8 per cent in the ACT.

Source: Sourceable

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AU$1B Carter Holt Harvey Building Supplies business sale

Credit Suisse is tipped to start the sales process for the $1 billion Carter Holt Harvey Building Supplies business within weeks reported the Australian this week and various private equity-houses are reportedly doing preparatory work before receiving information memorandums.

Likely suitors will include private equity groups Pacific Equity Partners, Archer Capital and Crescent Capital, which has companies related to the sector in its stable, such as the Steel-Line Group and Prime-Panels.

However, the hope of some potential suitors is that New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart will consider a break-up of his business. If that is the case, it could mean Wesfarmers entering the process to acquire what could be a good strategic fit for its Bunnings building supply distribution business, as could be the case for the Woolworths-owned Masters Home Improvement.

Parts of the business could also fit well with Fletcher Building’s plumbing supplies business Tradelink, although sources said Fletcher’s and rival Boral were not expected to bid for what is considered one of Australasia’s largest building materials companies. Mr Hart is said to have rejected the idea of selling down the company in parts, saying all aspects were interrelated, yet such agreements typically hinge on price.

Carter Holt comprises three divisions — Woodproducts Australia, Woodproducts New Zealand and Carters Building Supplies. It employs 5000 people and has annual sales of about $2.1bn. The offerings include a wide variety of timber products, ranging from plywood to flooring and are sold under brand names such as Pinex, All Seasons and Ramsey Roundwood.

Source: The Australian

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Green campaign biting world’s largest newsprint maker

Resolute Forest Products Inc., losing business to digital publishing, is facing a threat from Greenpeace as it urges customers to shun the world’s largest newsprint maker for what it claims are environmentally unsound forestry practices. Greenpeace Canada is trying to persuade Resolute customers to stop doing business with the Montreal-based company because of its logging in some areas inhabited by endangered woodland caribou. Greenpeace has already successfully targeted Best Buy Co., which said last month it would “meaningfully” shift its paper purchases away from Resolute after a social-media campaign said the electronics retailer used Resolute paper “to produce junk mail and flyers which are quickly thrown away.”

Resolute has fought back by saying its forestry practices comply with provincial laws, and filed a defamation suit in Ontario Superior Court over statements Greenpeace made in December 2012. The battle is biting into Resolute’s business. Chief Executive Officer Richard Garneau said in a phone interview last week that the campaigns have led to a “significant” loss of market share, and the company said last month “ill-founded attacks” by environmentalists were among the issues that led to the closing of an Ontario paper mill and two Quebec paper- production machines, at a cost of 300 jobs.

The activism, which helped lead to government-imposed restrictions on land use, has cost Resolute an estimated US$50 million to US$100 million in gross profit as it shut mills in the past three years amid falling demand, according to Stephen Atkinson, a Montreal-based analyst at Dundee Capital Markets. “You have a situation that is running out of control,” said Atkinson, referring to the impact of the lobbying on the company, its operations and workforce. “When will Greenpeace stop?” More >>

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The drone revolution draws near

Not as flying deliverymen that bring diapers, books or soup cans to your home, a vision put forth by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to much fanfare a little more than a year ago. Instead, drones will help spray crops, inspect high-voltage power lines and hover over movie sets to provide directors with new vantage points. They will also work for insurance companies, real estate agencies, ski resorts and dozens of other businesses.

Eventually. For now, this all remains theoretical. Except for a few locations, U.S. airspace is closed to commercial drones. Regulators say the danger is too great, and they want to go slow easing unmanned aircraft into the already crowded skies.

Advocates of the young drone industry complain that the long wait is keeping them grounded. Big-money investors are generally staying away, waiting for clear government guidelines. And the blanket flight prohibition has prevented companies from experimenting and advancing the technology. That includes developing sophisticated collision-avoidance systems or finding ways for the aircraft to navigate without human help.

"Most of these drones have very limited safety features," says Maryanna Saenko, an analyst with science and technology consultancy Lux Research. If one crashes, "it's a four- or five-pound brick coming out of the sky."

Most Americans associate drones with the military, which uses unmanned aircraft to survey battlefields and hunt terrorists. In a similar manner, businesses of all kinds envision using them to perform jobs that are too difficult or dangerous for humans.

If safety and regulatory obstacles can be overcome, within the next three years, drones and the companies that support them could generate $13.7 billion worth of economic activity in the U.S. and create 70,000 new jobs, according to the industry's trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

That's just domestically. In less than a decade, as many as 32,000 commercial drones could be flying worldwide, according to aerospace consultancy Teal Group. Only a third will be in the U.S. The Federal Aviation Administration plans to release guidelines soon about who can fly drones weighing less than 55 pounds and under what conditions. They might include the extremely stringent — and costly — requirement that operators have a pilot's license.

That means some of the most ambitious drone ideas, like Amazon's package-delivery system, will probably have to wait. First, drones will tackle the hard-to-do jobs, the dangerous industrial tasks, often in remote places. Perhaps the biggest industry ripe for drone use is farming. With the help of GPS mapping, drones can survey an entire farm, find bugs or soil that is too dry or too low in nutrients and then send the exact coordinates back to a tractor that will apply pesticide, water or fertilizer only to areas in need.

Taking it a step further, there are 2,500 unmanned miniature helicopters currently used by farmers in Japan to spray pesticides in hilly areas where tractors might roll over. Similar drones are operating in South Korean and Australia. In the U.S., the $150,000 helicopters are being considered for the steep slopes of California vineyards. Farmers aren't expected to buy the costly drones themselves but will hire new services for specific jobs.

The FAA estimates that 7,500 drones will be flying in the U.S. within five years. The industry puts the number in the hundreds of thousands. Compare that to the four largest U.S. airlines, with their combined fleet of 4,728 planes.

While companies wait, more and more hobbyists are putting drones in the skies. Many can be operated with an iPhone or Android smartphone. Some cost just $300. French company Parrot has sold 670,000 drones worldwide in just the past four years.

The problem is that today's aircraft lack brains. They must either be controlled remotely by a pilot or fly a predetermined route from one coordinate to another. Technology that senses obstacles and avoids them isn't proven. Battery life is limited. And questions remain about hackers or terrorists intercepting and controlling drones.

In this stories photo, a security guard watches a demonstration of a DJI Technology Co. Inspire 1 drone in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province. Founded in 2009 by an engineer with a childhood love of radio-controlled model planes, DJI has become the leading supplier in the fast-growing market for civilian drones - possibly the first Chinese brand to achieve No. 1 status in a global consumer product. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)



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Primary industry on the verge of a technological revolution

While farmers and other rural industries have always been innovators and pioneers, many city dwellers still think of them as tough, hardworking people who do without ‘modern’ technologies such as smart phones, tablets and big screen TVs. Times have changed. The reality is something quite different. These and an array of new and innovative technologies are now a vital component of most rural businesses.

City dwellers can use their latest mobile gadget as they make their way into work. Modern farmers would rather use their latest UAV (drone) for a spin around the property or set up their new driverless tractor for the day’s operations - all while tracking everything via their tablets using GPS and wireless networks.

Precision agriculture has been an integral part of the industry for decades. However new technologies like UAVs, robotics and automation are dramatically changing what can be done out on the farm or in the forest. UAVs are monitoring farm conditions in real-time and feedback precise data to improve productivity. They can also access hard to reach areas, cover large distances quickly and be used for any number of special tasks.

Automated harvesters can use GPS and localised sensor monitoring to plot directions and operate without a driver. Robotic milking systems have also been designed to automate the whole process and increase productivity.

A recent report by Research and Markets forecasts the global precision agriculture to become a US$6.34 billion industry by 2022. They state that “the convergence of modern technologies and IT with agriculture is future pushing the demand of precision farming techniques in the market”.

Lux Research estimates that the market for commercial UAVs (drones) will reach US$1.7 billion in 2025. Much of this growth will be driven by the use of UAVs in agricultural and other rural industries. The report notes that “drones as a service” will emerge as a preferred model, where local businesses can use the technology without any expensive investment in systems.

Another report by BI Intelligence goes further and estimates that US$11.7 billion will be spent on commercial UAVs over the next decade.

Just last week New Zealand Trade and Enterprise released a report highlighting the potential for New Zealand's combined agritechnology exports to grow to $1.2 billion annually. While New Zealand are leaders in agricultural technology, currently Israel, a small desert country, exports nearly 10 times more agritechnologies than New Zealand.

In Australia, an estimate from the Australian Certified UAV Operators organisation has up to 12,000 people using drones in the country, with more than 1,000 using them for commercial operations. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is reporting close to 200 approved UAV operators in Australia, double the amount from the start of 2014.

There is a wealth of opportunity for the rural sector to captialise on the technologies that are coming out right now. In April, MobileTECH 2015, a New Zealand and Australian technology series, will be run showcasing the latest UAVs, robotics and automation technologies for the primary sector. Local and international experts will be discussing what's out there, where the technology is taking us and how to best integrate this to boost productively in our businesses. UAVs being used in rural communities will also be demonstrated at both venues.

MobileTECH 2015 will be held on 21-22 April 2015 on the Gold Coast, Australia and again in Auckland, New Zealand on 29-30 April 2015. Registrations are now open and further information on this event can be found at www.mobiletech.events.



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Technology events planned for 2015

After an incredibly busy year in 2014, the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) has in conjunction with a wide cross section of industry on both sides of the Tasman, developed an Events Planner for the upcomiing year.

With record turnouts at FIEA technology events that have been run last year, we’re excited with what 2015 holds.

Events being planned for 2015 include;

1. Forest Industry Safety Summit 2015
3-4 March, Rotorua, New Zealand
10-11 March 2015, Melbourne, Australia

www.forestsafety2015.com

2. MobileTECH 2015 Primary Industries
UAV's - Robotics – Automation

21-22 April, Gold Coast, Australia
29-30 April 2015, Auckland, New Zealand

www.mobileTECH.events

3. HarvestTECH 2015 Steep Slope Harvesting
Improving Safety & Productivity in Forest Harvesting

24-25 June 2015, Rotorua, New Zealand
29-30 June 2015, Melbourne, Australia
www.harvesttech.events

4. WoodTECH 2015
Mill Scanning - Sawing - Optimisation

16-17 September 2015, Melbourne, Australia
22-23 September 2015, Rotorua, New Zealand

www.woodtech.events

5. ForestTECH 2015 e-Forestry
IT Innovations for Forest Products Companies

19-20 November 2014, Rotorua, New Zealand
25-26 November 2014, Melbourne, Australia

www.foresttech.events

Mark the dates into your 2015 calendars. At this early stage, if interested in either presenting or exhibiting, let us know and if appropriate, we can look to build you into the planned programmes.

Attached for your information is a PDF of 2015-16 Technology Events which provides you with further information on the schedule of events planned for this year.

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NZ Agritech exports worth NZ$1.2b

New Zealand’s agritechnology exports are worth approximately NZ$1.2 billion annually, and there is a big opportunity to grow them further according to the latest research into the sector, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said.

The Coriolis Report into New Zealand's agritech sector was commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to understand the export opportunities for Kiwi agritech companies. It provides detailed analysis of the size, value and future potential of the agritech sector, New Zealand’s strengths in an international context, and compares our agritech production with similar-sized agricultural nations.

“The agriculture sector plays a very significant role in our economy,” Mr Joyce says. “This research shows that our innovative agritechnology systems generate very significant exports in their own right, and provide the opportunity to deliver much more for New Zealand in the years ahead.”

New Zealand’s agritech sector is made up of a diverse range of products and services, including animal and seed genetics, fertiliser and agri-chemicals, fencing supplies, farm tools, machinery and systems, and pumping and irrigation industries.

“Australia and the United States are our top agritech export destinations but the research reveals that exports to Canada, China, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are showing double-digit growth,” Mr Joyce says.

“New Zealand is one of the world's most efficient primary producers, and this report shows our expertise and technology in this area is in growing demand around the world.”

Animal health products, medicines and preventative treatments for on-farm use were the largest export earners at NZ$311 million. This category was closely followed by fencing supplies and equipment, and machinery and systems, each with NZ$307 million in export sales.

The report is available by clicking here.

Source: Scoop





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Record-level U.S. lumber prices predicted in 2017

In WOOD MARKETS' new five-year forecast, the good news is that North American and global economies, as well as softwood lumber markets, are forecast to continue expanding in 2015 and even faster in 2016 and 2017. At the same time, there is a continued tightening of the economic wood supply available from North America's forests.

The bad news is that the key North American and Chinese markets have been growing at a slower rate than was previously expected and the rate of log and lumber production increases have caught up to the market's demand, creating some short-term weakness or concerns.

The supply-side dynamics featured in the report, WOOD MARKETS 2015 - The Solid Wood Products Outlook: 2015 to 2019 details eroding sustainable timber harvests in key provinces in Canada. As a result of the mountain pine beetle outbreak in the B.C. Interior, the sawlog harvest will be lowered by about 20% by the end of the decade, as compared to the pre-beetle harvest. Even more dramatic is the decline in the allowable timber harvest in Quebec - it has already been lowered by about 35% since 2004. As a result, Canada's total lumber output will start to flatten out in the next few years with no further increases expected.

On the U.S. side, the U.S. West Coast region has seen higher timber harvests, but a large component of this is being exported as logs to China, tightening the wood supply for sawmills and plywood mills, and causing log prices to remain high. The U.S. South is forecast to be one of the fastest growing production regions as it contains incremental timber (the only major wood basket left in North America with ample, surplus timber). As demand increases, it is forecast that log prices will need to go higher to attract incremental wood supplies for sawmills to produce more lumber.

On the demand-side in the key U.S. market, steady growth has been occurring in the repair and remodeling and industrial sectors, but it is the trends in new residential housing construction market segment that will make or break the market. Since the housing market collapse in 2009, U.S. housing starts have come back halfway in five years towards "normal" levels of about 1.5 million units, or from 550,000 units to about one million in 2014. There is still a long way to go with huge upside. However, after an 18% increase (145,000 units) in U.S. housing starts in 2013 that helped to tighten up the market, 2014's result has slowed down to an 8% increase (75,000 units). WOOD MARKETS believes that a structural change has been occurring in the U.S. housing market that will take much of this decade before a "new normal" result emerges.

A potential and short-term "supply gap" in North America is forecast, as rising wood products demand will trigger record-high lumber prices so as to attract more log and/or lumber supply to the market - this includes European lumber exports to the U.S. market. European exports are expected to surge as U.S. lumber prices move higher as a result of tighter wood supplies starting about 2017 and they could reach 3 billion bf by the end of the decade - similar to their 2005 peak.

Source: International WOOD Markets Group

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Prefab woodscraper proposed with elastic apartments

German architect Leonhard Weingartner is giving Michael Green's Tall Wood some competition with his Elastic Woodscaper. It's got everything you can think of and a whole lot that you can't in a 650' prefab wood wonder. Weingartner describes it as:

“...an affordable-, dense-, low maintenance, off grid Residential-Leisure-Office Tower made 70% in wood with up to 9 minimal skycubes on a landscaped shared space with a lobby, a cafe, a gym, an urban farming club and an e.mobility club”.

The building has a concrete core with 5 elevators and emergency stairs that is poured first; then a crane lifts the prefabricated skycubes up and fastens them in place. It is clad in triple-glazed electrochromic glass that tints as voltage is applied, and also has an "integrated LED matrix" that puts on a light show of " comprehensive three-dimensional light choreography" when someone enters an apartment.

Weingartner explains the importance of building with wood. “My Design for the elastic_WOODSCRAPER redefines the discussion of where we will see customized Mass Timber in the future of the world’s skylines. As we pursue the solar and green energy solutions we must consider that we are surrounded by a building material that is manufactured by nature, a material that is beautiful, renewable, durable, strong and safe. Mass timber structures are capable of meeting fire and life safety needs while staying within cost competitive marketplace conditions”.

The unit interiors are designed using Angelo Roventa's Elastic Living concept, where different spaces are created by sliding modules on tracks. More >>

Source: Treehugger


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Material Masters: Shigeru Ban’s work with wood

Shigeru Ban’s portfolio is a strange dichotomy, split between shelters for natural disaster refugees and museums commissioned by wealthy patrons of the arts. Even stranger is the fact that, in both cases, Ban’s material palette frequently incorporates recycled cardboard, paper, and old beer crates. The Pritzker prize laureate is unique in this regard, and so great is his predilection for recycled paper tubes (originally formwork for concrete columns), that he has become known as the “Paper Architect.”

His work receives media attention worldwide for the unorthodoxy of its construction materials. Yet Shigeru Ban is not concerned with unorthodoxy, but with economy. It is for this reason that, when paper tubes are deemed unsuitable, Shigeru Ban constructs his buildings in wood. Inspired by the architectural tradition of his native Japan, Ban is not only the “Paper Architect,” but also one of the most famous architects working in wood today.

The Aspen Art Museum, for example has a ceiling entirely composed of a wooden truss system. “Wood is the most ecological thing,” he told The New Yorker in a recent profile of his work which included the museum. “Steel, concrete—we are just consuming from a limited amount. Timber is the only renewable material.” Indeed, timber is among the few materials on the market today that is easily sustainable. When taken from a forest that is sustainably managed, the supply can be considered indefinite.

The process by which timber is harvested and manufactured is also relatively ecological. The Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (CORRIM) has found that in life cycle analyses—the measurement of how much energy a material requires, from harvesting it to disposing of it after it is no longer needed—wood outperforms steel by 17% and concrete by 16%.

There is the matter of aesthetics to consider as well. Ban’s favoritism for wood also springs from an appreciation for its color, texture, and visual malleability. The main hall of his Nine Bridges Country Club makes use of timber columns that add a “warmth and texture” to the room, counterpointing the interior concrete walls. His Centre-Pompidou Metz uses wood to simulate the wicker weave texture of a Chinese hat. More >>

Source: ArchDaily

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Universal Forest Products subsidiary closes with Australian purchase

Universal Forest Products ( www.ufpi.com) has announced that one of its subsidiaries closed on the purchase of a majority interest in Integra Packaging Proprietary, Ltd., a manufacturer and distributor of integrated packaging products based in Brisbane, Australia.

Founded in 1995, Integra has two locations in Eastern Australia, where it manufactures wood specialty packaging. It also distributes packaging products and performs on-site packaging services for a number of industries. Integra also has exclusive distribution agreements for Australia with global packaging enterprises. The company expects sales of AU$12 million in 2015. The acquisition supports Universal’s plan to grow internationally in markets and with multinational customers it serves in the US.



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Investors’ $9-billion Sino-Forest case gets green light

A $9-billion class-action launched by burned investors in Sino-Forest Corp. – the Toronto-listed Chinese forestry giant that collapsed amid fraud allegations in 2011 – has been given the green light to go to trial by an Ontario Superior Court judge.

In a ruling released on Tuesday, Justice Paul Perell also approved a move to put proceedings against the big-name Bay Street financial institutions that underwrote Sino-Forest’s stock and debt offerings on hold, pending court approval of a tentative settlement.

The plaintiffs had alleged that the underwriters, among them Credit Suisse Securities (Canada) Inc., TD Securities Inc., Dundee Securities Corp., RBC Dominion Securities Inc., Scotia Capital Inc. and CIBC World Markets Inc., were negligent in promoting Sino-Forest. The defendants denied the allegations. No financial amounts or other details in the tentative settlement were disclosed in Tuesday’s ruling.

Sino-Forest and some of its former directors and officers are currently facing a hearing before the Ontario Securities Commission, which has alleged that they committed fraud. The company collapsed after a short-seller alleged in 2011 that it was a Ponzi scheme that could not account for its stated $3-billion in timber holdings in China. More >>

Source: The Globe and Mail

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Jobs


Buy and Sell


...and a couple to end the week on ... telephone poles & Australian Weather...

The telephone company needed to hire two more telephone pole installers and the choice came down to two from Poland and two Irishmen.

So the boss met both teams and said "Here's what we'll do. Each team will be installing poles out on the new road for a day. The team that installs the most poles gets the job." Both teams headed right out.

At end of the shift, when the two Polish guys reported back, the boss asked them how many they had installed.They said it was tough going but they'd put in 12.

Forty-five minutes later, Paddy and Mick came back in, totally exhausted.

"Well, how many poles did you guys install?" said the boss.

Mick wiped his brow and sighed, "Paddy and me, we got three in."

The boss gasped, "Three? Those two Polish blokes put in 12!" "Yeah," said Mick, "but you should see how much they left sticking out of the ground."





And now some spectacular Aussie weather images sent in by a reader.




And on that note, enjoy the weekend. 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: www.fridayoffcuts.com


This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at www.fridayoffcuts.com

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