Digitalisation is Transforming the Finnish Forest Industry

Digitalisation is transforming the Finnish forest industry, providing unique solutions that make forests more intelligent. Data can be collected from forests using innovative methods, and modern data can be used to optimise forest use and management. Virtual forests are also emerging. 

Digitalisation is Transforming the Finnish Forest Industry

Finland is the most forested country in Europe: forests cover more than 75 per cent of the country’s area. As a result of sustainable forest use and management over the decades, the amount of wood that grows every year exceeds clearly the amount used.

Digitalisation and the improved use of forest asset data are bringing both considerable savings and efficiency improvement to the forest industry. When we know the wood raw material and we can identify the upgrade value of different felling sites as well as the terrain and road features of forests, we can plan the stages of wood supply more efficiently. 

Precision-guided wood supply improves the productivity of the forest industry. When we know what kind of trees there are in each location using e.g. remote sensing, we can plan in advance which raw material it is worthwhile producing from which tree trunk. 

- We can take great development leaps with the new technology and data management. They help us to utilise our wonderful forest reserves even more effectively, says Jarmo Hämäläinen, Research Director, at Metsäteho .

According to Hämäläinen, technologies are being used in northern forests in data collection and wood supply that cannot be found elsewhere. 

- Data on its own is not enough: it has to be processed into a form that serves its recipients – be they forest owners, wood buyers, forest machine operators or wood supply planners. In the forest industry, systems are continuously being developed to make maximal use of data so that better decisions can be made.  The point clouds from laser scanning alone do not make us any wiser. It’s only when they have been processed into systems supporting decisions that they produce benefits, says Hämäläinen.

 - With technology, we can direct wood supply work more precisely, and work phases and visits to the forest can be reduced. It always means savings, both in costs and for the environment, adds Hämäläinen.

According to Hämäläinen, it has been estimated that the forest industry could save over EUR 100 million per year in the coming years when it is possible to utilise all the data from forests. These savings make up almost ten per cent of the EUR 1.2 billion annual cost of harvesting and transporting trees. The potential benefits of the digital leap in our forests mean considerable cost savings.

Finland as a forerunner

Digitalisation of the Finnish forest industry involves expertise, technologies and solutions that are unique in the world. In the future, forest management will increasingly be independent of time and place. More than half of the country’s forests are owned today by private individuals, and forest owners will soon be able to visit their forests in their living room, using a virtual reality headset.

Metsä Group – a Finnish forest industry company owned by 104,000 forest owners – is a Finnish industry player that is actively developing new technologies for forest owners. 

- I believe that in the future every tree growing in Finland will be modelled, and we will know the exact location, length, diameter, species and other key data, says Juha Jumppanen, SVP, Member Services, Metsä Group. 

- We have developed a virtual forest demo with our partners, and the goal is for us to be able to cost-efficiently create a virtual twin based on any forest.

Metsä Group has also tested drones with cameras – with good results.

- Drones will help us obtain significantly more accurate and varied information from forests than is possible now. For example, damage caused by beetles can be detected before it’s visible to the human eye, says Jumppanen. 

- These modern methods will bring forest use and management into a new era. They will enable us to reduce the cost of forest planning and obtain more detailed information about forests.

Towards a fossil-free world

Digitalisation and groundbreaking data are taking the forest industry swiftly towards the bioeconomy and a fossil-free future. Fighting climate change is key, in addition to the circular economy, where renewable natural resources are used in a manner that enables them to stay in circulation for as long as possible.

The forest industry plays an extremely important role in the circular economy, as wood-based products are a sustainable alternative to products made from fossil-based, non-renewable natural resources.

- The world’s population is estimated to increase by more than a billion people over the next ten years, and there’s an increasing need for materials. The need for textile fibres will grow, for example, but we are facing the ecological limits of cotton production. New wood-based fibres that are less burdensome on the environment are also needed to replace oil-based synthetic fibres, says Riikka Joukio, SVP, Sustainability and Corporate Affairs, Metsä Group.

New and renewable products made from wood-based raw materials are being developed actively. In the future, almost anything can be made from wood fibre – even clothing.  

Text: Nina Garlo-Melkas

Asset Management | 11.6.2018

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