The offerings of forest services in the Finnish market were explored from 2015 to 2019. In this time period, the transactional context of Finnish forest service markets has been changing into open markets [32
]. In the conceptual modelling of forest service processes, both the front- and back-office processes and their already digitalized information flows were considered (Figure 1
). The results of previous research and development, i.e., semi-structured interviews, action research, and both seminar and project feedback surveys, as well as Finnish Forest Statistics, were exploited [33
]. The main stakeholders were forest service and ICT-service providers, machine and manual forest work entrepreneurs, as well as representatives of governmental, industrial and non-industrial private forest owners. General background information about the state of the forest service processes were also obtained from Kankaanhuhta [37
], Haataja et al. [38
], and Väätäinen [39
]. As a result, the information required for planning, implementing, and evaluating the activities was obtained.
The challenges and bottlenecks of the forest service processes, which inhibited either productivity or customer experience, were searched for next. Activities ranging from a single type of forest work performed or forest regeneration materials delivered all the way to comprehensive forest property management services were considered. The opportunities for the improvement of services through digital transformation were detected and ideas for software concepts were generated by the research group. These ideas were then provided to the stakeholders for examination prior to a co-creative workshop. In this workshop, the challenges associated with forest service production were discussed and the ideas for solutions, i.e., the software concepts, were evaluated and further developed. Finally, these software concepts were provided to a wider audience for further review, e.g., in slideshows during seminars, and for software development.
2.1.2. Forest Property Management and Timber Procurement Services
The needs of service providers were screened from the viewpoint of productivity improvements and service experience (Table 1
). For the needs of small and middle-sized forest entrepreneurs, it was found that customizable timber and service sales tools were missing (CustTmbTrd). Furthermore, the need for improving the cost-efficiency of evaluating the target stands for timber trade was observed. In many instances, the quality of trees still has to be evaluated on-site by the service providers’ personnel. In this context, remote controlled self-service data collection by the forest owner through a mobile phone’s camera could be developed (RmtVisit). In addition, the need for on-site decision support for the forest property management purposes at the operational, tactical and strategic level was observed (OptimEcon). In particular, the trend towards comprehensive forest property management services was predicted to grow.
At the planning stage of wood procurement, information about site trafficability and the need to clear undergrowth at the felling area is required. Both the visit to the target stand and extra clearing work without the actual need could be classified as extra cost factors, without mentioning the risk relating to damage incurring during harvesting to the remaining trees due to poor visibility for the operator of the harvester. Depending on the service process, a camera-aided mobile tool could be utilized by the forest owner (ClearEval). They could check the target stand and provide information for the service provider.
The planning and implementation of timber and energy wood harvesting and machine relocations are supported by some enterprise resource planning, machinery fleet, and CAN-bus management tools. However, they have several needs for decision support (HarvPlanOptim). The maps of soil properties, depth to ground water, weather-dependent dynamic water content, and their further processed map layers for the prediction of site trafficability provide opportunities to improve the productivity and sustainability of timber and energy wood procurement [40
]. The management of timber supply chains requires software tools, which may simulate and optimize the activities according to the local circumstances. The machine entrepreneur-level parameters for this planning tool should consist of, e.g., the size of the service provider, the operational range, the type of machines in the harvest chains, and the management logic for controlling harvesting units and machine relocations. The local parameters for the planning software require the size of stand reserve, the variation of stand size and tree size, as well as parameters for additional activities required by the customer. Furthermore, the seasonal fluctuations in timber demand and the trafficability of logging sites have to be considered in the simulations for annual scenarios. It is also possible that the supply of worker and machine resources from the entrepreneur may not match demand. In this case, a tool for hiring extra machinery may help (HarvHire).
2.1.3. Silvicultural and Forest Improvement Services
The need for forest regeneration services follows the timber trade. Depending on the forest owner, the needs range from soil preparation and forest regeneration material delivery, i.e., seedlings or seeds, to comprehensive service packages. These service packages may consist of basic elements, such as soil preparation, seedlings, and planting work, as well as the evaluation of regeneration results and a guarantee. Some service providers may also offer a value-added package including the early cleaning of the young stand, and insurance covering the damaging agents specified. Since artificial forest regeneration is one of the largest investments in silviculture, some quality control tools for the self-control measurements by forest workers have been developed and later programmed for mobile devices with GNSS or GPS tracking, henceforth referred to as GPS [33
]. Some of these tools are also combined in enterprise resource planning systems, and the data measured are also used in updating the open forest resource data. However, some of the forest service providers still use paper forms and quality control tools are missing as the service processes are further developed.
A forest regeneration service process is initiated either in the aftermath of timber trade or later when a forest owner contacts the service provider. The first step in the service deal negotiations is the selection of appropriate tree species and regeneration methods, i.e., planting, direct seeding, or natural regeneration. In addition to this, the selection of soil preparation method and its implementation is a crucial factor from the viewpoint of the technical quality of the service [37
]. In addition, the need for workers to flexibly prepare the soil and plant seedlings of mixed tree species that fit the local conditions of microsites is increasing due to the adaptation requirements dictated by climate change.
Quality control measurements have been developed for the operators of both excavator-based and continuously operating soil preparation machines, i.e., disc trenching and spot mounding [38
]. However, for excavators only, a digitalized quality control system has been developed, Risutec ASTA, which enables the calculation of proper spots with co-ordinates at a touch of a button [46
]. For continuously operating soil preparation machines, there is a need for GPS-track recording and possibly camera-assisted quality control and feedback (SoilPrepCamera). Furthermore, the ASTA quality reporting system may be classified as a typical standalone agile software tool, with limited interoperability when interfacing with background information systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERPs), human resource management (HRM), and invoicing systems. Thus, a future customer need would be to build application programming interfaces (APIs) or system integration for the most used systems (InterOpApis, Table 2
). In addition to the quality and performance data recorded, the information about the number of planting spots prepared provides cost savings for both the service provider and the customer, since the accurate number of seedlings needed enables the cost-efficient JIT control of the seedling supply chain.
As the seedling material supply chains and storage are explored more thoroughly, at least three needs regarding LEAN tools may be found. The increasing need for tracking the seedling batches in order to control the spread of damaging agents with seedling material creates demand for remotely identifying tracking systems (SeedlMatTrack). Furthermore, this living and fragile material has to be nurtured in different phases of the supply chain, which creates demand for remotely monitoring the state of seedlings and local weather conditions affecting the material (SeedlStor-IoT). Finally, several stakeholders from different organizations have the responsibility for handling and taking care of the seedling lots. So far, comprehensive digitalized quality control systems for this chain of responsibilities have not been widely implemented, although self-control forms and checklists exist in paper format. Thus, there is room for mobile tools aiding in the bookkeeping, handling and control of the state of the seedling material in storage terminals and temporary storage locations (SeedlScmQC).
The planting work follows the delivery of seedlings from storage. At this stage of the service process, two needs may be identified. First, the quality of planting work is still controlled through sample-plot-based self-control measures in Finland. Although the number of seedlings planted may be recorded in paper format or in a mobile ERP system, which may be regarded as the first steps of digitalization, the data collection could be streamlined through a GPS-based seedling counter (GpsPlantingQC). For the future purposes of flexibly operating precision forestry, this could be the first cost-efficient step in the right direction. In addition, the located groups of different tree species could enhance more efficient young stand management (YSM) activities.
In YSM, the prediction of time consumption for the brush saw work is a concrete need in new solutions. Namely, the visit to the new stand costs extra to the service provider, and, on the other hand, the prediction using only the stand-wise forest data has been proved to be too inaccurate [47
]. One solution for these predictive needs could be a cloud-based application utilizing both forest data and time consumption information from the registries of the service provider’s human resource management (YsmCostPred). For example, Uotila et al. [48
] provided some predictive models, but the implementation of these algorithms is still lacking. In addition, considering the need for improved accuracy of cost prediction and updating of forest resource data in the context of YSM quality control measurements [33
], the locations of sample plots could be pre-sampled for the forest worker (QcSamplePlots). Taking the reliability of current partly subjective sampling by forest workers into account, this could be an improvement that should be considered [38
In the context of forest improvement services, decision support and implementation tools for forest fertilization may be considered a need in software tools (FertilGuid). For example, the need for the assisted extraction of needle samples from the crowns of conifers with proper sampling from the stand is a good starting point. In addition, the micro-compartment-based interpretation of the results obtained from the nutrient analysis provides new opportunities for the implementation of fertilization and water conservation.
In the broader context of forest services, forest property management services may be combined with the production of nature and recreational services, especially ecosystem service concepts. For the marketing and implementation of these services, customizable service marketing solutions and co-operation, as well as interoperability between service providers, will be required (NatureGuide). From the recreational point of view, fitness solutions relating to smart devices, e.g., GPS-fitness watches, may be applied for many purposes (ForWorkerGpsFitn). Both active forest owners and brush-saw operating forest workers may find new dimensions for monitoring both their performance and well-being during their activities.