A time of transformation

Alyssa Dalton
October 19, 2017
By
Oct. 19, 2017 - It’s the first day of fall as I write this editorial. And although it doesn’t feel like it today — it’s been hitting 30°C-plus all week in Toronto — change is in the air.

According to Peter Berg and Oskar Lingqvist, the forest products industry is going through the most substantial transformation it has seen in decades. Berg and Lingqvist lead McKinsey & Company’s global Paper & Forest Products Practice and in their recent report, Pulp, paper, and packaging in the next decade: Transformational change, suggest several ways companies can stay competitive.

“The paper and forest products industry is not disappearing — far from it. But it is changing, morphing, and developing,” they write. Berg and Lingqvist explain that in order to find value-creating growth, companies must broaden the portfolio around their core businesses to create differentiated customer value propositions. Click here to read how one company plans to do so by refocusing its operations.

As well, the industry has “much to gain” from embracing digital manufacturing, they write, estimating that producers can reduce their total cost base by as much as 15 per cent through developments such as forestry monitoring using drones or remote mill automation. “[These] applications present tremendous opportunities for increased efficiency and cost reductions.

This is also the case in areas where big data can be applied, for instance, to solve variability and throughput-related issues in each step of the integrated production flow.”

Brad Constantine, a Tolko Industries woodlands summer student, makes an interesting point. “Although the forestry industry was born on the ground, the advancement in technology is a step in the right direction as the demand of forest product has skyrocketed since the origin of industrialized forest management,” according to his Green Dream blog.

Constantine is a University of New Brunswick student pursuing a bachelor of science in forestry and one of this year’s Greenest Workforce Green Dream scholarship recipients. All 10 winners have been learning about the industry firsthand at various forest operations and blog about their experiences.
“From flying drones to do reconnaissance, creating maps using the latest GIS software, to LiDAR calibration plots to increase the accuracy of laser technology. Each piece plays an important role in the progress of allowing timber to come into the mills,” he writes.

As one of Canada’s oldest industries, the forest sector is a cornerstone in our rich history, and is one that is filled with passionate individuals. I am particularly inspired by the enthusiasm of these scholarship recipients.

Change can often present many unknowns but, as Berg and Lingqvist explain, those who are able to navigate through successfully can look forward to an industry that has a new sense of purpose and an increasingly vital role to play.

This column was originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Pulp & Paper Canada.

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