Today’s forestry contractors have access to a wealth of tools and data to help them manage their operations and improve their financial performance. However, it’s not always easy to understand and use all the information available. Building on its expertise in harvest diagnostics, FPInnovations has developed a new service called “Evaluation and Coaching” for forestry contractors.
Over the past year, four Quebec entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this service and benefited from FPInnovations’ expertise in order to implement better practices in their operations.
The approach: customized coaching
The method begins with identification—using the DiagFor online questionnaire—of a specific aspect of their operations that forestry contractors would like to improve (utilization rate, productivity, fuel economy, etc.).
An initial on-site meeting is then organized. This meeting provides an opportunity to discuss with the contractor, observe operations and identify the performance indicators that will be measured during the project. An action plan is developed in collaboration with the contractor: this plan identifies the targets as well as the ways and means that will be used to reach them. Throughout the implementation of the action plan, regular meetings with the contractor and supervisor make it possible to take stock of the situation, confirm progress based on data and provide advice on how to achieve the targets.
At the end of the exercise, a second on-site meeting is held to assess the achievements and evaluate the gains made. This is also a chance to ensure that the necessary methods and procedures are in place to sustain the benefits.
Contractor #1: Among the contractors coached last year was a newcomer to the forestry sector. The utilization rate of his equipment was the aspect he wanted to focus on because of the impact on the volume produced and the revenues of his business. At the beginning of the process, his utilization rate was 71%; since he was new to the business and based on comparisons with similar contractors, an initial target of 75% of his utilization rate was set for the year. Analysis of the field data identified non-productive time between shift changes and machine maintenance as significant areas for improvement. The action plan therefore focused on the shift change routine and systematic maintenance planning. Regular meetings helped to support the contractor in this process and to confirm the impact of the changes on the real-time utilization rate. At the end of the project, the utilization rate was 74%, for a production cost reduction of $0.35/m³.
Contractor #2: Another contractor wanted to improve his productivity. Our observations finally brought to light the fact that appreciable gains were more likely to be found in his utilization rate, so he opted for this approach. The recommendations focused on weekly increases in productive machine hours, on adding flexibility to operations and on improving on-site work organization. The reflection was geared towards the development of optimal work schedules to better meet site management needs and responsibilities. Moreover, hiring an additional operator was also suggested in order to lighten the workload of the contractor, who was acting as an operator as well, and consequently lacked the time to carry out his management and coordination obligations. Hiring the additional operator and, consequently, modifying the work shift will allow him to obtain a gain of $0.48/m³.
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In short, the evaluation and coaching of forestry contractors makes it possible to move from theory to action by generating tangible benefits through follow-up and customized coaching. The use of available data helps follow the progress achieved and provide a clear indication of the benefits.
The success of such a process nevertheless depends on the contractor’s commitment and active participation. However, the end result is positive impacts and important lessons learned that can be put to good use in forestry contractors’ operations. For more information on this service, just contact Jean-Philippe Gaudreau, Researcher within FPInnovations’ Forestry group.