Pandemic a cause for skills reflection

By Cameron MacDonald, Executive General Manager Australia

It would be quite an understatement to say the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges, but it has also taught us many lessons, including just how unique the skill set is among forestry and timber professionals.

Our highly-trained, highly-skilled workforce cannot be simply replaced overnight.

As one of many businesses impacted by the border restrictions between South Australia (SA) and Victoria, OneFortyOne was asked to describe how our Victorian employees are essential workers to our business as well as primary industries, and hence needed to travel into SA.

The border restrictions imposed by the South Australian Government are there to keep the community safe and to minimise the threat of COVID-19, which is something OneFortyOne fully supports. We know we can work safely during this time and have implemented a rigorous health and safety plan.

As part of the border direction, OneFortyOne was asked to identify our essential workers living on the Victorian side of the border and whether we could source that talent easily if cross-border workers could not get to our Jubilee Sawmill in Mount Gambier.

The simple fact is that we could not.

Our employees who live on both sides of the border are essential. Forestry is a unique industry with unique skillsets. We invest significant time and training into our employees so they can operate high-tech equipment to produce timber efficiently, sustainably and safely.

The clichéd and dated view of forestry is to think of a big, burly man in a checked shirt with an axe or chainsaw felling trees, but this is tremendously misguided.

The fact of the matter is forestry, from plantation to mill, is an innovative, high-tech industry with the end user of our fibre always front of mind when we adopt new technology.

For example, we have found new ways to capture data about our timber harvesting and log transportation to help us improve efficiencies in the supply chain.

OneFortyOne uses remote light detection and ranging sensors to create high-resolution maps of our forests using a combination of three-dimensional and laser scanning, which generates an aerial view of where and how our trees are growing.

Our forest workers liaise directly with our customers to ensure their fibre needs are met. Modern harvesting technology means we can assess each tree to determine the fit for purpose products that will emerge from it.

Additionally, our foresters are now upskilling in drone technology to monitor remnant native vegetation for the purposes of fire risk and weed management.

High tech expertise doesn’t stop at the forest, we rely on niche skill sets to keep our mill operational, running 24 hours a day.

We have installed a Lucidyne scanning system at the Jubilee Sawmill which uses artificial intelligence and deep learning technology to maximise fibre and value recovery.

Our saw technicians are specialist trades people that maintain and service saws and knives that are used in Sawmill processing. These saws and knives are serviced, changed and repaired on a continuous rotation throughout the production cycles. It takes over 14 years plus onsite knowledge and experience to match our most experienced professionals on site.

Jubilee’s industrial digital computers require not only an electrical licence but expert knowledge of logic control programming and diagnostics. Our onsite electricians provide technical and detailed analysis of software diagnostics and repairs of the sawmilling heavy machinery.

All of these examples are just a snapshot of the depth of knowledge and experience at OneFortyOne. The process of identifying and explaining why some of our employees needed to cross the border has given us an opportunity to reflect on just how many specialised roles we have in the forest and the mill.

Above all, these people are valued members of the cross-border community who take great pride in living in and supporting regional areas.

OneFortyOne is proud to have these highly-skilled people as part of our team.

Ends

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