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How Mobile Technology Improves Safety and Compliance in Forest and Lumber

Written by Michael Clark
August 29, 2019

Mobile technology can improve safety and safety compliance for workers in forestry.

Mobile technology can improve safety and safety compliance for workers in forestry.

In the forestry industry, workplace safety is a number one priority for both workers and their management. The high mortality rate for workers in the industry from accidental causes is a daily challenge for the entire workforce and – given the harsh nature of the conditions under which the work is done – it can sometimes be difficult to see how best to improve this dismal safety record.

However, in recent years employers have found that an investment in mobile technology can have a measurable impact on increasing the rate of safety at worksites as well as industry safety standards.

In addition to helping to uphold the safety of your workforce, mobile technology can drive digital transformation initiatives for tracking raw materials, spare parts, tools, equipment and other fixed assets. For an industry struggling to survive in a shrinking market, the visibility, control and efficiency gained from real-time tracking and traceability software can lead to huge cost savings for harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping workflows.

The Right Tool for the Job

One of the main benefits of tracking equipment, tools and spare parts with live, up-to-date data is knowing when and where your tools are and how many parts are available at any given time. When a worker doesn’t have the right tool or right piece of equipment at the right time, they may have to resort to using improper tools not designed for the job or bypassing the built-in safety measures of the machine – significantly raising the risk of getting hurt.

Not having the right tool for the job is not only a safety hazard that can injure employees but can lead to critical equipment remaining down during production. While equipment sits dormant and broken, your operation is losing money. The same goes when you can’t find the parts you need to fix the machinery.

Also Read: Tracking the right tools with Enterprise Asset Management software (EAM) »

Proactive Maintenance for Equipment Malfunctions

Having the right tools and parts on hand is essential for properly maintaining heavy machinery and keeping workers safe.

Having the right tools and parts on hand is essential for properly maintaining heavy machinery and keeping workers safe.

Many of the most heinous workplace accidents are caused by equipment malfunction. Having the parts, tools and information techs need to keep equipment running smoothly and malfunction-free is a crucial part of every facility that handles forest and lumber products.

Using an enterprise mobility solution that encompasses both mobile software and hardware, workers can receive real-time information on maintenance and MRO activities. Knowing what tools or spare parts are available and where they are located is essential to effective proactive, predictive and scheduled maintenance on machinery.

Other technologies, such as digital predictive analysis, can track both past data and real-time workplace equipment utilization to accurately predict the probability of these malfunctions and when they might occur. Workers can receive alerts directly to their mobile devices, letting them know what corrective measures to take, what tools and parts are required, and necessary operator-level maintenance they need to perform that can drastically lower the chance of a potentially dangerous malfunction at a critical time.

Explore: Simplify and accelerate MRO processes with easy-to-use mobile apps »

Mobile Technology Raises Levels of Safety Compliance

There are many reasons for the low compliance with safety regulations that contribute to workplace accidents. These can range from insufficient training to the cavalier attitude that comes from tempting fate daily without incident. Having convenient digital access to all safety regulations in the palm of a worker’s hand along with automated reminders to ensure compliance can make it much easier for your workers to focus on the components that make up a safe workplace.

The ability to maintain scheduled, regular maintenance is also a factor. When parts required to fix a machine aren’t available, maintenance may get deferred or pushed back, increasing the likelihood of malfunction and risk to employee safety.

For highly-regulated government contractors, mobility can help create traceability to monitor genuine parts and keep unsafe counterfeit parts out of your operation.

Crisis Management Communications Save Lives

No matter how careful you are on a work site, eventually disaster strikes. Whether this disaster is natural or man-made, when a crisis is in full swing, every second counts. Locating where workers are, what help they require, and what resources are available to aid them is invaluable to any recovery operation. Wearable mobile communications technology can close this gap, and even help to locate trapped or injured workers who are unable to respond.

Mobile technology isn’t limited to a single purpose. Cutting-edge handheld mobile computers serve multiple functions, from barcode scanning for data collection, to transmitting data against business systems like your ERP, communicating with co-workers and more. In an emergency, the ability to contact help inside a facility or out in the field can be lifesaving.

Transportation Safety Is Enhanced by Mobile Innovations

A dispiriting number of fatal accidents come in the transportation phase of the forestry industry and the logistical operations around it. Mobile software can include built-in validations that ensure trucks do not exceed their load capacity or become unsafe to handle, as well as track inventory in transit. An enterprise mobility ecosystem can integrate machinery, IIoT devices, vehicles and drones as well, allowing remotely-operated equipment to perform dangerous or repetitive tasks that put human workers at risk or injury, large or small.

Mobile innovations can also drastically lower the chances of workers needing to put themselves in harm’s way by keeping them safely in their vehicle when dangerous conditions are present. Not only can mobile technology provide them with the best routes to use and up-to-date alerts on changing conditions that may make a determined route more dangerous than normal, but it can enable them to call for necessary assistance if they get stuck in a tough place and need an extra pair of hands.

A Safer, More Efficient Work Site Is in Your Future

While mobile technology is not a magic wand capable of solving all the safety problems of a logging site or transportation operation, it can provide many key innovations that equip workers with more on-site options to help them make better decisions and get help when they need it most. The forestry industry has been among the deadliest occupations in the nation, but there is no reason why it has to be.

Using real-time technology to know where your assets and spare parts are, how much you have, and when they move or are put into use serves a double purpose in terms of human safety and cost savings. Sure, a missing part could cost $1,200 to replace, but one workplace injury because that missing part couldn’t be used to service a failing saw could cost the company 100 times or more than the cost of the part itself.

While this is not a comprehensive overview of how mobile innovation can increase the safety of your business, they do illustrate the impact mobility can have on your operations. Managing costs and cutting overhead expenses through fixed asset and MRO inventory management is important. What is more important is how that missing inventory impacts the human safety for your workforce.