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Sergio Lopes dos Santos

Innovation and Forest Quality Coordinator at Veracel


A good time for forestry

Co-authorship: Italo Lima Nunes, Forest Processes Analyst in the Innovation and Quality area at Veracel

The Brazilian forestry sector is one of the most developed in the world, due to its high productivity, competitive costs, technological advances and favorable soil and climate conditions for production. The area of forests planted for industrial purposes in Brazil reached more than 9.5 million hectares, according to the Brazilian Tree Industry.

The forestry sector comes from a growing demand for wood, with the arrival of new ventures and the expansion of the forest base in order to meet the industrial production for its various purposes. This escalation has fostered the search for increased technology in processes, with the objective of achieving greater mechanization of forestry operations, process synergy and increased competitiveness.

An organization's ability to modernize is recognized as a key factor for sustained growth, economic viability, increased well-being and the development of society. And it includes the ability to understand and respond to changes in the conditions of its context, to seek new opportunities and also to leverage the knowledge and creativity of people within the organization, always in collaboration with external stakeholders.

Despite the important advances that have provided solidity to the sector in recent decades, we still have some challenges to overcome. Here, we highlight some of them: the development of mechanization in forestry and automation of operations, the search for an efficient energy matrix in operations, integrated information management and the important role of leadership in this context of cultural and technological modernization.

In terms of mechanization of silvicultural operations, we are in a good moment, with important projects in the development and operationalization of planters and irrigators, with the involvement of relevant manufacturing companies, with expertise and technical, financial and managerial capacity to supply the sector, soon, excellent solutions. It is also worth mentioning the important role of universities and research institutes in these development programs, through thematic working groups.

The challenge is to combine planting quality, efficiency, competitive cost, and the adaptability of machines to different types of terrain and conditions, meeting the specific planting criteria of each company, in their respective regions. Another trend that has been observed is the development of automation of forest operations, as other sectors have evolved, such as mining, with teleoperated operations (autonomous or semi-autonomous), especially in the development of technological solutions aimed at bringing safety and productivity to places with high risk of accidents. In addition to the initiatives of large manufacturers of machines and implements, some national companies have specialized in developing these solutions.

We cannot fail to highlight the important change in the energy matrix of the operations: more efficient, electric, hybrid engines, using biofuel, natural gas or electrified ones, are already a reality in the wood yards in several factories in Brazil. In the renewal of operational fleets, there is an opportunity to change the energy matrix of machines, such as excavators, soil preparation and forest harvesting machines. For wood transport, tests with electric trucks have shown good results in terms of performance.

This change comes not only due to the cost of fuels, but is also based on the global strategy aimed at reducing carbon emissions, making the planted forest sector even more sustainable. Despite the reality of low connectivity coverage in all forest areas, the development of transmission and pointing technologies brings technical improvements and opportunities for analysis of forest operations. Therefore, the digital management of operations using data, integrating different platforms, allows managers to access, monitor and segregate data, obtaining quality information for decision making. With this, the efficiency of the operation is high, since, when in possession of quality information, the risks of the operations are minimized or decisions can be taken in less time.

The use of sensor networks in a forest machine, connected to a data collection system, allows measuring several important variables for the entire process. In this context, to achieve such operational gains, more than a good system is needed: the combination of system, user and data analysis is fundamental to the success of any technology. The training and acculturation of users form a fundamental pillar for quality data to be integrated into the foundations of management systems.

Monitoring this information, through systems, helps companies with robust analysis, identifying new needs, and can increase productivity and generate cost savings. Both telemetry and electronic pointing have positive impacts, reducing response time to many operational offenders. Today, in several companies, this data is encompassed in control centers and operational management.

Also noteworthy is the important advance in terms of solutions for monitoring forest assets, through satellite images, with practical applications in monitoring forest growth, managing the occurrence of pests, diseases and weed competition, in addition to other applications. In terms of new solutions, we have more and more startups focused on the forestry sector, betting on customized and innovative solutions for various operations.

One of the focuses is to prospect innovative ideas and products linked to the forestry sector, creating technologies to solve problems in strategic areas that can contribute with technical, economically viable and sustainable solutions. A development opportunity for private companies is to keep the connection network active, fostering the innovation ecosystem with public-private partnerships, between universities, research centers and development units, helping research, accelerators, incubators and startups in their various maturation levels.

Companies have shared their pain with the application of innovation calls and posing challenges for startups to present solutions, which are evaluated based on the Technology Readiness Levels, according to the forestry business strategy. It is worth emphasizing here the importance of the role of leadership in the process of technological modernization. In complex changes, leaders have a different role than traditional roles. The new role can be characterized as that of facilitator. This means leading through vision, values and ethics.

It also means creating a creative and thoughtful dialogue with all stakeholders. Leadership must also insist on collective responsibility for cultural change and strategic changes. What can I do differently to make these changes work? A vital point is effective sponsorship by senior management, with visible and effective support, throughout the duration of the initiative.

Another decisive factor is having an experienced and reliable team that maintains good internal working relationships and establishes a network of relationships throughout the organization. The International Organization for Standardization created ISO 56002, also known as the innovation ISO, which suggests the application of eight pillars in change management: process approach, future-focused leadership, insight management, strategic direction, resilience and adaptability, value generation, adaptive culture and uncertainty management.

In the process of change, the need for excellent plans, good systems and processes and a clear vision of the objectives to be achieved is quite clear and consolidated. However, it is also extremely important to assess to what extent the structure organizational structure is beneficial to change. Sometimes exceptionally organized plans don't succeed because the organizational structure doesn't help.

Leadership needs to explore peripheral vision. We emphasize the importance of leaders being always attentive and aware of what is happening around them. This means looking at more than the obvious, what makes noise or what is directly visible. Be aware of what happens at the extremities and be observant of movements, changes and trends, talking and listening to as many people as possible from the most varied specializations. Ask good questions and maintain a receptive attitude towards these ideas.

important to demonstrate commitment to value realization, by identifying opportunities, through exploitable insights, based on current or future needs and expectations, and taking into account the balance between opportunities and risks, including the consequences of missed opportunities, risk appetite and failure tolerance, possibility of conceptualization, experimentation and prototyping, involving users, customers and other stakeholders, to test hypotheses, validate assumptions, promote perseverance and ensure the timely implementation of technological upgrades.

And also promote process improvements and establish an approach to the management of strategic intelligence, including evaluating the need to acquire intelligence from internal and/or external sources. Finally, we emphasize the importance of taking time to reflect. Leadership can benefit from regularly taking the time to just reflect on what is happening around them (the fruits of their peripheral vision), what their options are in the face of strategies and the timing of the deal.