Making timber production «indisputably» more efficient

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) – a technology that allows the tagging and tracking of people and goods – has found many business applications in a wide variety of sectors in recent
years, from retail to pharmaceuticals. The latest of these applications, under development within an EU funded project, is aimed at the timber production industry.

Funded under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6), INDISPUTABLE KEY brings together 28 partners from Estonia, Finland, France, Sweden and Norway with the aim of developing a tracking system to
increase the efficiency of timber production.

Using wood efficiently as raw material is no easy feat. When trees are felled for the timber production, often the quality of the raw material is not fully known until the final stages of the
production process. This means that due to poor quality, some of the timber is discarded and more trees are felled than is necessary. Furthermore, unwanted by-products are difficult to sell.

According to Richard Uusijärvi, project coordinator, the traditional production process leads to huge economic and environmental losses. ‘The traditional method wastes a lot of wood and
energy. There is also loss in production time,’ he told CORDIS News. It is estimated that up to 20% of the timber is lost, the value of which the project consortium estimates at around ? 2
billion yearly.

With a budget of ?12 million over the next three years, the project consortium will work on developing an advanced information technology system capable of tracking wood through the supply
chain, from the forest to the sawmill, to the customers. The project will follow up research and development, which took place in LINESET, a previous EU-funded project.

Once cut down and sawn into logs, each log can be marked with a unique code using an embedded micro chip. When connected to a database, this can provide information about the log, such as
breast height diameter, type of log, felling location and time of felling. ‘The chips help re-create the knowledge of these properties at every stage of the production process,’ said Mr
Uusijärvi. Knowing the quality of individual logs will ensure that the timber is correctly processed.

A paint containing simple ‘nanosensors’, which can be read using a laser beam that can penetrate ice and dust, will also be studied. ‘Marking different types of logs will enable the collection
of data on the properties of these trees and decide which are most suitable for harvesting,’ explained Mr Uusijärvi. ‘One idea is to type mark all logs, including a few individual logs,
with this technology.’

When the logs are cut into boards, the boards will also be tagged, allowing for improved logistics management. The tagging could also reassure environmentally conscious customers who require
that the timber they buy is not from endangered habitats

Mr Uusijärvi believes that the tagging system is likely to attract a lot of interest from industry. Already the majority of the consortium are industrial partners from the timber
manufacturing and information and communication technologies (ICT) sectors.

For now, no one knows how much such a traceability system would set industry back, but Mr Uusijärvi hopes that by the end of the three years, the consortium will have come up with a series
of interoperable technologies which will be affordable and attractive.

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