John Deere is realigning its forestry tech to deliver new solutions

The advancement of forestry equipment has typically focused on generating more powerful machines. Now, John Deere has launched a new tech-driven  initiative that will marry strength with intelligence. 

Through the Precision Forestry initiative, Deere will reorganize its technology portfolio and increase its efforts in delivering solutions designed to increase efficiency and productivity in the woods. 

“It’s not about getting bigger and stronger in the woods all the time,” said Graham Hinch, Deere’s sales and marketing director for the western hemisphere. “It’s about delivering more intelligent, connected machines that address our customers’ needs.”

Smart Industrial

The forestry tech initiative aligns with Deere’s overarching Smart Industrial operating model. The operating model, announced last summer, aims to accelerate its success via the integration of smart technology innovation with its legacy of manufacturing.

With Smart Industrial, Deere plans to deliver increased customer value by focusing on three core areas: Production Systems, Technology Stack and Lifecycle Solutions. 

“This is a focused approach to jobsite technology solutions. We recognize that data and information flow between the landowner, the logger and the mill, and that’s becoming more and more critical,” Hinch said. “Through Precision Forestry, John Deere is reorganizing its technology portfolio and focusing efforts to increase productivity for these stakeholders.” 

Precision Forestry is a more descriptive term for what customers can expect from the John Deere technology suite, including real-time, map-based production planning and tracking capabilities, along with new and evolving operator assistance capabilities. 

This new alignment lays the groundwork for the future of technology solutions, as John Deere builds in these core areas to help customers work faster and smarter on the jobsite. 

For customers, the new Precision Forestry direction will simplify the John Deere technology portfolio, making it easier to select and adopt customized solutions based on their unique jobsite needs.

“With technology, we believe that loggers need to embrace working smarter, not harder. The logging industry is built on hard work – it’s part of the industry’s DNA,” said Matthew Flood, product marketing manager for skidders and the Precision Forestry initiative at John Deere.

“We want to complement that work ethic with machine intelligence and system-level integration, delivering the tools loggers need to increase efficiency and performance in the woods.” 

Tracked Harvester 959MH Harvesting Heads FL100

A game changer

Flood explained technology is a game changer for the forestry industry. While forestry machines have become more powerful, there remains a 40 per cent variation in productivity on Deere’s machines. 

“That variation comes specifically from the operator sitting in the seat. It comes from their experience level and the efficiency they have to offer on that machine,” Flood said. “We need to start to focus on having our machines easier to operate, and really allow an inexperienced operator to get the same productivity out of that machine as an expert operator.”

Machines will evolve to become smarter, and capable of adapting to various situations, regardless of who is seated in the cab. 

“We look to have machines that provide feedback and guide operators. Potentially, someday, they can prevent operators from making a poor decision,” Flood said. 

As well, Precision Forestry will see an era where more accurate data can be harvested from machines. 

 “As we have this accurate information and data, we can look at our machines as a system, rather than just individual machines and individual machine efficiencies,” Flood said. 

More than machines 

John Deere 1010G Forwarder

Precision forestry will also target development of tech to assist with the management side of a forestry business. 

“A customer has to manage accessibility to that jobsite. They have to manage their cut block boundaries,” Flood said. “They also have to be able to select the right machine for the right job.” 

Currently, Deere offers the Timbermatic Maps and TimberManager software solutions, designed to help plan, implement and monitor logging operations. 

TimberMatic Maps uses GPS to show the machine location, estimated volume and up to two species of timber when manually counting stems with a feller buncher. Forwarder operators can see where certain species are located and choose the best route to pick up and transport timber.

As the job progresses, production data and logging routes are updated in real time on TimberMatic Maps, displaying the actual, up-to-the-minute status of the jobsite. Using the Areas of Interest and Points of Interest functions, operators and contractors can mark hazards, obstacles, soft ground, and challenging terrain, in the cab or on a tablet. 

 Alongside TimberMatic Maps, contractors can use Timber Manager, a web-based solution for PCs, tablets and mobile phones, to monitor live progress from anywhere at any time. 

For Seth Dickenson, owner of Dickinson Logging Ltd. in Hinton, Alberta, TimberMatic Maps comes highly recommended. Dickenson, a stump-to-dump contractor, began using the software after purchasing several new Deere machines. 

“I’ve got them in my roadbuilder, skidder, buncher and processor. It’s been a huge help,” Dickinson said. “It’s a simple system to figure out. I found some of the guys are hesitant at first, others get into it quickly, but they all like it now.”

The company operates three sites, 24 hours a day. As logging moves from block-to-block, a new map must be created before they can begin on a new section. 

“Now I can build a map in the office and send it to them,” Dickinson said. “It’s saved a lot of manpower and running around. They have the maps and they know where they are in them. … It’s saving some wear on my old Ford.”

Using TimberMatic Maps is also helping Dickinson build a stronger relationship with the mill, as the software makes it more difficult for machines to cross into prohibited areas.  

“The mill here noticed we have it and they’re really impressed by it. They feel way more comfortable knowing the operators have this in the machines,” Dickinson said. “It’s put them at ease and they have opened up a bit more for us.”

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