Story | 09/16/2016 10:15:00

Entire chain under control

Kirsi Riipinen

The operations planner is a wizard in project management and he has the entire logistics chain from the forest to the mill under his control.

Operations planner Tommi Pihlaja has a large map of the Päijät-Häme region on his office wall. He has marked every UPM forest on that map. On the wall he also has charts of logistics routes and a newspaper clipping with a title proclaiming “Exotic at a logging area”.

However, the main tools for an operations planner are the computer and different software. He functions as a link between UPM’s mills and harvesting and transportation entrepreneurs. Without digital tools and real-time operations the work would be difficult.

When the plywood mill at Pellos, for example, orders plywood logs, the information is communicated to the entrepreneurs in charge of harvesting operations. They then cut the logs and place them at the roadside from where the transportation companies haul them to the mill.

“Mills get their wood from large areas. That’s why the co-operation between our operations team and harvesting and transportation companies must function fluently.”

Pihlaja explains that good co-operation is based on mutual trust. When something is agreed, all parties involved act accordingly. If something unexpected occurs, the information is immediately communicated to others.

Fluent and trust-based co-operation also involves making real-time information accessible to everyone. Information on each stand is transferred electronically to harvesters and hauling machinery. Each day the harvester operator sends information about cut trees to the database. The forestry tractor operator, on the other hand, enters information on the loads they have hauled to the storage area. In this way, the log truck operators can see available stocks.

Pihlaja also plans the weekly transportation schedules for the transportation companies. Transport distances are optimised and the logs are directed preferentially to the nearest mill. Harvesting needs for the coming month or so are communicated to the harvesting companies.

“We try to get logs to the mill as fresh as possible, because the fresher they are, the better their processing value.”

The operations planner is also involved in quality assurance. At least one day a week is spent in the field or at a mill. It helps during the field days and in meetings with the entrepreneurs that Pihlaja, who has a degree in forestry engineering, also drove harvesting machines in his youth.

“By chance, I started studying to become a multi-process harvesting machine operator. After a few years of working, it felt natural to continue studying for my current profession as an operations planner,” says Tommi of his background.

Operations planner

Directs the operations of harvesting and transportation entrepreneurs with quantity and quality goals.

Keeps in touch with local forest customer representatives and forest specialists who are in contact with the land owners.

Supervises the quality of operations and harvested wood.