Friday Offcuts 26 June 2020
A variety of industry groups and farmers this week have been issuing further warnings through the media that the country’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2050 is going to destroy rural communities. Carbon farming and the “impending forestry boom” according to opponents will turn more and more communities into “ghost towns” as rural residents move out of these areas.
The Ministry for Primary Industries is preparing advice on whether limits should be now placed on where and just how much exotic forestry should be allowed. We’ve included coverage on this issue from the Forest Owners Association, links to some of the coverage seen in the media this week and comments from the country’s Climate Change Minister who said he’ll consider biodiversity credits that could prioritise the planting of native species rather than pines. Here we have yet another example (wasn’t it just a week ago that the industry was under the pump fighting off a proposal to regulate log traders and forestry advisors) of rushed and ill-conceived commentary from Ministers with very little meaningful consultation with the industry. It wouldn’t be an election year would it?
This week we’ve included two reports on log and lumber pricing out of Australia. The July to December 2019 bi- annual Australian Pine Log Price Index compiled by KMPG was released last week. It details changes in pine log prices achieved by large-scale commercial plantation owners selling logs to domestic processors. The other is the Australian Timber Market Survey for the first quarter of this year. It’s compiled by Indufor Asia Pacific and collates quarterly price movements for softwood timber, panels and engineered wood products collected from eastern Australian businesses. Links to both reports are contained in the two stories below.
And finally, registrations continue to pour in for the regions two-yearly technology and equipment update for wood manufacturing companies, WoodTECH 2020. For the first time, the six short interactive webinars will enable Australian, New Zealand and North American wood manufacturing operations to be involved – from their own site, office or home - at the same time – and, during their normal working day. The first in the on-line wood manufacturing series starts on Monday 13 July. Registrations can be made on the event website. And that’s it for this week. Enjoy.
This week we have for you:
Forest planting limit trashes zero carbon goalsThe Forest Owners Association says New Zealand’s carbon zero goal is seriously in doubt after a statement by the Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, that the government would ‘need to step in’ if new forest planting increased to more than 40,000 hectares a year. Some farming groups want the government to restrict forest planting.
The Vice-President of the Forest Owners Association, Grant Dodson, says if the government gives in to the anti-tree campaign, then New Zealand will fail to achieve a carbon neutral economy by 2050. This goal is enshrined in the Zero Carbon Act.
“In 2018, the Productivity Commission set out scenarios for getting to zero carbon. They all involved reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They also accepted the need to expand the plantation forestry area to sequester large volumes of carbon that would still be emitted. The Commission estimated between 2.1 and 2.8 million hectares of planting was necessary to get to zero.”
“The simple maths is that at least an extra 70,000 hectares a year on average needs to be planted over the next 30 years. But Damien O’Connor has told the Primary Production Select Committee that he will stop this yearly level of planting well short of what is required. If you restrict planting to 40,000 hectares a year, then you are at least 30,000 hectares in carbon deficit.”
Grant Dodson says planting this winter, which has just started, is likely to be well up on the new planting area last year of 22,000 hectares. “That’s because New Zealanders are investing in forests, mostly farmers on their own land. It’s a pretty fundamental right to decide what business you conduct on your own farm. I know of many farmers who strongly believe that it’s their right to farm stock or trees or both, without the government telling them what to do.”
“We’ve got Shane Jones telling us that we have to divert our logs from overseas exports to sell them more cheaply to local sawmills. Now his colleague in government wants to stop us planting more trees. Neither minister is informed by any examination of the issues and there’s been no meaningful consultation. It looks like both ministers are driven by noisy lobby groups who want to get special deals.”
Grant Dodson says he takes issue with the expression that forestry is taking over ‘productive’ land. “Forestry is productive too. The average returns per hectare per year from forestry are well above those from hill country farming. And farmers are increasingly questioning the economics of continuing to rely on a farm income.”
“There are farmers who worry about the greater frequency of severe droughts in some east coast regions. They know there are more stringent controls over their stock water discharge coming. Synthetic food is getting cheaper all the time. And overseas governments are re-erecting trade protection walls for their food industries after COVID-19.”
“For these farmers, forestry is a more secure option in the long term. As it is for all sorts of New Zealand investors. The government should not be arbitrarily thwarting those opportunities, nor jeopardising the fight against climate change.”
Source: Forest Owners Association
Support for bushfire-battered forest industriesThe Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has strongly welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of an AU$50 million bushfire recovery package to support fire-impacted forest product industries, announced this week in Eden by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
AFPA Chief Executive Officer Mr Ross Hampton said the support package will go a long way to helping forest product industries in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, which were devastated by the Black Summer bushfires and now face unprecedented long-term resource shortages. “We are pleased that the Federal Government has listened and responded to the crisis facing our industry as a result of the bushfires,” Mr Hampton said.
“The AU$40 million Forestry Recovery Fund will support timber processors facing significant, long-term reductions in log supply to retool and upgrade their mills, while the AU$10 million Salvage Log Storage Fund will boost mills’ capacity to process and store the short-term surplus in burnt logs, particularly in the NSW South West Slopes region where around 40 per cent of the softwood plantations were fire-damaged.”
Wood Manufacturing series drawing keen interestWith COVID-19 putting stop to the scheduled two-yearly tech update for wood manufacturing and dry-mill operations across the region, an exciting new format has been set up. Instead, short 60-90-minute interactive webinars have been set up for local mills between 13-24 July 2020.
Like the original event planned for August this year, the new webinar series will be showcasing local and international leaders as well as some of the early adopters of new and emerging technologies best suited to local wood manufacturing operations.
There are a number of key advantages to wood manufacturers still struggling to get back to pre-COVID19 conditions using this new format. Being short sessions, they’ll ensure only a short time for production or operational staff from their work station or business, multiple employees from the same site or operation will be able to be involved and there are significant reductions in attendance costs as there will be no travel, accommodation or two-day conference registration rates involved.
The other big advantage when speaking to the industry is that timing has been set up so they’re going to be run at 9am (Australian EST), 11am (NZ Standard Time) and 4pm (Pacific Standard Time). This for the first time, will enable Australian, New Zealand and North American wood manufacturing operations to be involved – from their own site, office or home - at the same time – and, during their normal working day.
So, what's the wood manufacturing series covering?
The series is going to highlight a raft of disruptive technologies already boosting the operational performance of manufacturing operations. It’s going to include insights into the first large scale operational deployment of robotics being used in mills in New Zealand and Australia along with an inspirational case study of a mill that’s been able to turn their timber manufacturing business on its head by focussing in on the culture of the business. An invaluable troubleshooting session for all timber planing and machining operations has also been built in for operational and production staff.
The full programme can be found on the event website and registrations for you and your staff can be made on-line.
Funding for VR Forestry planning toolUBC Faculty of Forestry, in partnership with FPInnovations and spatial analytics platform provider LlamaZOO, has been awarded $300,000 in funding to further develop and commercialize TimberOps, an immersive visual analytics platform for forest operations and land management.
TimberOps is designed to address the many challenges encountered by managing forest resources over vast areas. The digital landscape, integrates different datasets that can be reviewed through intuitive, analytical tools that factor in all aspects of forest management planning, ranging from consultation and road surveying to harvest planning.
"Working and teaching in virtual reality has the potential to revolutionize the way we work in forestry in the future,” says UBC Forestry’s forest and wildfire operations associate professor Dr Dominik Roeser. “The Ignite grant could not have come at a better time as we are forced to move teaching from the field into an online environment due to COVID-19."
The funding granted under Innovate BC’s Ignite Program will be used to create the UBC Forest Engagement Initiative, a training and demonstration facility for UBC forestry students and members of industry who will have the opportunity to engage in data-driven conversations about landscape-level forest resources management.
Led by Dr Roeser, the facility will also serve as an industry pathway to demonstrate the technology and digital innovation to pilot patrons of TimberOps. Learn more about how virtual reality can aid land-based resource management and operations planning.
Latest quarterly Timber Market Survey resultsThe Australian Timber Market Survey (TMS) results show prices for untreated MGP products remained stable over the March quarter 2020. Treated sleeper and treated decking prices were also relatively stable over the period, showing only slight upward price movements.
Price movements for panel products were mostly in an upwards direction, with price increases for plywood and MDF products ranging between 0.7% and 1.2%. Particleboard prices remained more stable with price movements within +/-0.4%. Price movements for engineered wood products were mostly downwards and ranged between -0.5% and no change.
The TMS collects price data through quarterly surveys of a representative sample of timber market participants in eastern Australia. All quarterly TMS reports contain price movement information for softwood timber, panels and engineered wood products. The June and December quarter editions also include price movement information for hardwood timber products surveyed over a six-month period.
The TMS is prepared by Indufor and funded by nine major Australian forestry organisations: Forestry Corporation of NSW; VicForests; Hancock Victorian Plantations; HQPlantations; OneFortyOne Plantations; Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; Green Triangle Forest Products; AKD Softwoods; and Sustainable Timber Tasmania.
Further information and the latest Timber Market Survey report can be viewed here
Source: Indufor Asia Pacific (Australia) Pty Ltd
World-first log scaling robot earns global rankingA world-first robotic innovation that scans and measures export logs on trucks has landed its Kiwi developers on the 2020 RBR50, Robotics Business Review's prestigious global list recognising the 50 most innovative and transformative robotics companies of the year.
Tauranga-based agricultural robotics and automation company Robotics Plus has been named a Global Top 50 Robotics Company for its industry-changing Robotic Scaling Machine (RSM) which automates the accurate volumetric measurement (scaling) of logs on trucks and trailers, replacing manual measurement.
Commercially launched in June 2019, the technology was developed in collaboration with Mount Maunganui-based ISO Limited, which commissioned the first RSM for its facility at the Port of Tauranga and has had it in operation since November 2018. ISO now has eight robots installed across the North Island scaling more than 25% of New Zealand's 20 million cubic metres of annual log exports. Further installations are planned around the country in 2020.
Dr Alistair Scarfe, Co-Founder and CTO of Robotics Plus, led the RSM technology development. "It's really exciting to be recognised alongside some of the biggest and best-known robotics, software and automation companies in the world including Boston Dynamics, ABB Robotics, Yasakawa Motoman, Nvidia, SICK and Microsoft," he says.
Dr Matt Glenn CEO of Robotics Plus, says: "This award validates our collaborative approach to innovation. Our team worked incredibly hard to design and build this world-first log scaling robot in just 12 months by working closely with ISO and a number of other local manufacturing suppliers."
Paul Cameron, CEO of ISO says the automated process is already having a significant impact as it is a safer, efficient and more productive system than the previous manual system used throughout the world, which requires people to hand scan the logs by climbing between trucks and trailers.
"The Robotic Scaling Machine can automatically scan logs on a truck in 3 to 4 minutes, which compares up to 40 minutes for manual measurement using a ruler. Importantly, it also eliminates exposure to hazards and moves those people into a safer environment and into more skilled roles."
Mr Cameron says ISO will continue to invest in the robotic technology as it has a clear payback for the company as well as the forestry industry. "We are delivering safer and more efficient systems which improve productivity across the forestry supply chain."
Steve Saunders, Co-Founder and Chairman of Robotics Plus, says it's fantastic to see New Zealand's world-class robotics capability being recognised on the international stage. "The forestry industry globally can benefit enormously from automation. The scaling of logs is traditionally a slow, sometimes dangerous, manual process - so it was well suited to being automated. Due to the success and reliability of the RSM, we're currently exploring a range of international markets including the US, Canada, South America and Europe."
Mr Saunders and Dr Scarfe co-founded Robotics Plus to improve the quality, productivity and sustainability across multiple agricultural sectors through automation, via a suite of machine vision, robotics and automation, machine learning and AI, analytics, software and control systems. In 2018 the company completed a US$10M Series A investment with Yamaha Motor Co to accelerate the development of its robotic technologies including robotic apple packers and UGV (unmanned ground vehicles) that can carry out a range of agricultural tasks including robotic harvesting, fruit picking and pollination.
The 2020 RBR50 innovation awards, the ninth annual list of top robotics companies globally, recognises forward-thinking companies and the original, impactful solutions they have created. Widely recognised throughout the world as a leading indicator of robotics innovation leadership, the RBR50 is also a critical measure of robotics sector growth. RBR50 winners were based in the US, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea. Robotics Plus was the only New Zealand company named on the list.
Source: roboticstomorrow.com, photo: Food & Farming Technology
Australian Pine Log Price Index results releasedThe July to December 2019 bi-annual Australian Pine Log Price Index (APLPI) was released by KMPG last week containing updated pine log stumpage pricing data. For the period of July to December 2019, the indices for small, intermediate and medium saw-logs rose by two, three, and two points respectively. The large saw-log index fell by two points. The preservation log index remained steady, while the pulp-log and salvage indices rose by 7 and 15 points, respectively.
To read the full six-monthly log price report, click here.
The Australian Pine Log Price Index (“the Index”) is compiled by KPMG using data provided by Australian softwood growers. The Index documents changes in pine log prices achieved by large-scale commercial plantation owners selling common grades of plantation softwood logs to domestic processors. KPMG updates the Index biannually, with the two reporting periods being January to June and July to December. The Index has a base period of January to June 1998.
KPMG acts as the independent Index manager and collects confidential data on log volumes and stumpage values for all sales, including long and short-term contracts and spot transactions, at the end of each reporting period. Quantity information on export saw-logs and export pulpwood is also provided.
Biodiversity credits being consideredNew Zealand’s Climate Change Minister James Shaw says he'll consider biodiversity credits, as pressure builds for the Government to prioritise the planting of native trees over blanket pine trees. These credits are generated from actions that improve biodiversity values and are used to offset any biodiversity losses on development sites.
It's part of a mission called 'carbon farming', where trees are grown on farmland for carbon credits and not for sale. This has angered farmers who say it's a waste of land and rural residents are being driven away. Shaw says there are enough incentives to plant native trees instead of using the land for sheep and beef farming.
"We've actually seen huge rates of permanent native forests going in, and part of that is the companies that are using forestry to offset their emissions want to make sure they're part of the New Zealand story," he told Newshub. But he will consider a biodiversity credit.
More >> Further coverage around concerns being expressed on the impact that carbon farming is having on rural communities from a regional perspective can be “> read here.
Emissions Trading Reform Bill passedOn Monday 22 June the Emissions Trading Reform Bill received Royal Assent. This means it will become law, and the Climate Change Response Act will be updated to reflect the new provisions as they come into effect. You can access the revised legislation on the New Zealand Legislation website.
For forestry, most of the new provisions will come into effect (start) on 1 January 2021 or 1 January 2023. However, some technical provisions will start the day after Royal Assent (23 June 2020). The most significant changes taking effect immediately include:
• Extended deadlines for unit surrenders for post-1989 forestry emissions – the unit surrender deadlines have changed from 20 days after the return is submitted to 60 days after the EPA issues the notice to the participant.
• Changes to the notification requirements of interested parties when adding or removing land from the ETS – participants are now responsible for notifying interested parties if post-1989 forest land is added or removed from the ETS. This will need to be done as soon as practicable after the EPA notice is received.
You can find more information about these changes in the Operational Improvements section on the MPI website.
Get in touch if you have any questions about the upcoming changes to forestry in the Climate Change Response Act by email email@example.com.
Changes to the Fixed Price Option
There are also changes to the Fixed Price Option (FPO) which may be of interest to forestry participants:
• The FPO has changed from $25 to $35 for emissions from the start of 2020.
• For emissions which occurred up to 31 December 2019, participants will continue to have access to the FPO at $25 for those emissions.
• Post-1989 forestry participants who submit a net emissions return which covers multiple years will have access to the FPO on a pro-rata basis for the number of years in the emissions return. For example, if a voluntary emissions return (under section 189(3)) is submitted in 2021, and is the first VER for the CAA since 2018, up to two thirds of the surrender obligation can be met at $25 (2018 and 2019) and up to one third at $35 (2020).
You can find more information about the Fixed Price Option changes on the MfE website.
Source: MPI, Sustainable Forestry Bulletin
Latest Australian plantation statistics 2020 updateThe Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has just released the Australian plantation statistics 2020 update report 2020.
• Australia’s total commercial plantation area in 2018–19 was 1,933,400 hectares. This area is 9,300 hectares (0.5%) less than the area recorded in 2017‒18, and 86,800 hectares (4.3%) less than the area recorded in 2008–09.
• The total area of softwood plantations increased marginally in 2018–19 to 1,039,700 hectares, and accounted for 54% of total commercial plantation area. The total area of hardwood plantations decreased to 884,000 hectares in 2018–19 and accounted for 46% of total commercial plantation area.
• ABARES estimates that a total area of 130,200 hectares (6.7%) of Australia’s commercial plantations was in the fire extent of the 2019–20 bushfires in southern and eastern Australia.
• A total of 2,800 hectares of new plantations were established in 2018–19, comprising 2,750 hectares of softwood plantations and 50 hectares of hardwood plantations.
• A total of 12,100 hectares of Australia’s plantation estate was converted to another land use in 2018–19, comprising 12,000 hectares of hardwood plantations and 100 hectares of softwood plantations.
Global 3RT hardwood manufacturing contract securedExperts in IoT and wood manufacturing join forces - Bosch Manufacturing Solutions will partner with 3RT in a contract for the production automation of manufactured hardwood - Connected manufacturing equipment will be managed remotely - First production cells to be launched in 2021
Bosch Manufacturing Solutions will supply digital production units to 3RT for the global manufacture of sustainable hardwood. Based in Melbourne and Adelaide, 3RT has developed a world-first technology in collaboration with Flinders University, that converts wood waste into timber that looks and performs like 100-year-old tropical hardwood, called Designer HardwoodTM.
A leader in the design and development of special purpose machinery, Bosch Manufacturing Solutions will deliver fully automated production cells to enable its production around the world. The cooperation provides great opportunities to leverage Bosch know-how in manufacturing, sensor technology, and software around the Internet of Things (IoT) for the wood manufacturing industry.
Mr Peter Tyroller, member of the board of management of the Bosch Group responsible for Asia Pacific, has visited 3RT in Adelaide and said, “This is a great example of Australian ingenuity and innovation. 3RT is addressing the significant environmental and supply challenges relating to old growth hardwood, applying Bosch technology and knowhow”.
With a potential project market size of AU$1.2 billion globally, Bosch Manufacturing Solutions was selected for its unique Industry 4.0, automation and manufacturing know-how to support the entire value stream of connected manufacturing. The partnership ensures the delivery of multiple production cells to satisfy increasing demand across the globe.
“We are excited to embark on this journey with 3RT, an industry specialist that is leading in the field of wood manufacturing in a sustainable and innovative way,” said Gavin Smith, President, Bosch Australia. 3RT’s Innovation Centre in Adelaide develop and manufacture custom Designer HardwoodTM products, transforming plantation waste into a sustainable, low impact substitute for tropical hardwood. It received international recognition in the 2019 Good Design Awards competition by winning a gold medal for its concept of “Bespoke Wood”, which brings the concept of mass customisation into the hardwood industry.
The production cells Bosch will design and build for 3RT will be connected to other machines around Australia and the world. Equipped with leading edge Industry 4.0 capability, the machines will collect data for the optimisation of processes and can be managed remotely. The Bosch Manufacturing Solutions business recently announced construction of a new AUD$17 million facility to support the expansion of its factory automation business in Australia. Bosch will be a crucial partner in 3RT's innovative and scalable wood producing business.
Keeping manufacturing robots in perspectiveThe return on robotic investments is highest when robots are combined with a mix of humans and other technologies. As part of the upcoming WoodTECH 2020 interactive on-line webinars that are running between 13-24 July, wood manufacturing companies will hear for the first time from local wood producing companies that have built in robots to their manufacturing operations. Below is a small piece recently written that explores how robotics are best integrated into a manufacturing or production environment.
Even in an environment where remote work is normalizing and investments in robotics are paying rewards, robots are still not taking over the production environment. In many of the best use cases robots remain complementary – to humans as well as other technologies.
The human element is critical to making AI and robots work, explains Daniel Theobald, CEO of Vecna Robotics. “As counterintuitive as it sounds, human workers are essential to all manufacturing processes that include autonomous systems. In a facility that employs AI, robots and workers, each plays a unique role,” he says.
AI is constantly scanning, looking for and learning from opportunities to create greater operational efficiencies, and communicating with workers through wearables and robots to deploy them to solve problems in real-time. Robots are used for automating routine, repetitive, dangerous jobs, such as lineside replenishment, racking, and staging. Supported by AI and automation, humans can then turn their attention to higher-value activities, like exception handling and creative problem-solving.
“We have seen this allocation of tasks between our pivotal orchestration engine, autonomous mobile robots and workers in a production environment result in high employee satisfaction and engagement,” says Theobald.
Early adopters of automation have validated the functionality of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). According to Theobald, the next clear step is pushing interoperability forward. “This is interoperability between AMRs and warehouse management systems, enterprise resource planning systems and manufacturing execution systems; AMRs and humans; and, most importantly, between AMRS of different makes and models,” he says. “There is no one-size-fits-all robot. The typical industrial facility will require many types of robots to handle many types of applications. To effectively orchestrate tasks, interoperability amongst platforms is imperative.”
However, Theobald tells IndustryWeek, sometimes the hardest part is getting started. “Manufacturers can get over the hump by starting small and then scaling their use of AI and automation,” he says.
The first route is to begin collecting information using real-time location services (RTLS) to gather data across all robots, workers, assets, pallets and manual equipment. “Our customers can collect data, including resource usage, distance traveled, travel time vs. idle time, deadheading, and high-traffic routes through a facility,” he says.
“This data is a low-cost way to identify areas for improvement and can be used as a way to simulate and assess multiple scenarios to determine optimal resource utilization and automation mix. Understanding what’s really going on in your operation is the key to unlocking significant value.”
Full details on the programme for the six 60-90 minute webinars as part of this year’s WoodTECH 2020 series can be found on the event website.
Stunning timber use in new iLogistics CentreCargo-partner is strongly investing into the expansion of its worldwide logistics capacities and opened its new all-timber warehouse in June. The logistics provider made a conscious decision for this energy-efficient construction with a strongly reduced ecological footprint. In addition, this construction explores new territory in the logistics industry due to its unique architecture.
Due to cargo-partner's steady growth as well as the increasing demand at its headquarters near Vienna Airport, a new warehouse became necessary in order to avoid capacity bottlenecks. Following the company's declared goal of ecological sustainability, cargo-partner decided on timber construction as an environment-friendly and resource-efficient option.
This project enters a new dimension in timber construction – not just due to the architectural complexity and height of the high-bay racks, but also due to the extreme precision requirements in regard to the structural tolerances. As cargo-partner continues to expand its global contract logistics network, important insights gained from this endeavour will also be incorporated into the equipment and design of other new warehouses.
The figures and dimensions of the new iLogistics Center are certainly impressive. You can check out the stats from the this amazing new building along with images by clicking here.
Source: Timber Architecture, Cargo-Partner
... and one to end the week on ... copper wire
After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, British scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 200 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 150 years ago.
And on that note, wrap up warm and enjoy your weekend.
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