Automation and robotics in the wood industry, why is it of interest?
There is a high potential for robotics and automation within the forestry sector. Actually, with a very low unemployment rate at the moment in North America, it is really difficult to attract and to retain qualified workers in the wood mill operations. Moreover, the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) predicted a shortage of 60 000 workers in the forestry sector of the forest before five years, which is significant. Automation of the processes allows to reduce the number of employees while improving the performances of a plant.
Because of the worldwide competition, the industry also has to achieve important gains in productivity to decrease costs and protect profit margins from declining.
The industry also has to improve its efficiency in terms of safety, the operations requiring many workers increase the possibilities of accidents. Robotic and automated processes can handle the higher risk tasks with a lower risk of errors. The operations are becoming faster and more precise without possibilities of distraction or other human factors. Employees may need several months, even sometimes years, to become totally competent and effective on a specific task. A well programed machine will be effective from the day 1, which will have a significant impact on the global efficiency of a factory.
Automation offers a great improvement potential in machines productivity and a cost reduction linked to the equipment. It will allow operators to focus on planning and other strategic decisions, rather than worthless activities with no added value to the company.
An interesting article to read about this topic:
Is the Wood Industry Ready for Robotics?
Example of an automated sawmill :
Demo of a robotic arms in the wood industry :