Hardly any forest management work is performed in winter, but the planning begins months before the actual season. Operations supervisors, who organise forestry work, get down to planning the next season in November or December at the very latest. Planning takes time, and the better the plan, the smoother the working season will be.
UPM’s forest customer representatives negotiate forestry service agreements with forest owners around the year, and the company’s forest specialists maintain forestry plans for UPM-owned forests. In November, operations supervisors review the work planned for the coming season and begin to specify what needs to be done and where.
Once this has been done, the next job is to find the suitable workforce: either a local UPM Silvesta forest worker or a contractor. Labour is needed for soil preparation, planting and clearing. Machinery, such as planting machines and uprooting machines, is also required. Having years of experience and knowing how much work will be involved in different work stages and at different types of sites helps in seeing the big picture.
“The jobs that have been agreed on need to be performed on time and work quality must be excellent”, says Tomi Närhi, the operations supervisor responsible for Eastern Finland. “You have to have a big enough workforce for spring planting, seedling stand management, autumn planting, the clearing of young stands and any other clearing work that has been ordered by customers. If soil preparation has not been performed when the planters and the seedlings arrive at the site, nothing will get done. A machine breakdown, which can naturally occur, is not a good enough explanation for delays.”
“We aim to perform soil preparation jobs before the next planting season, so our planning is long-term, extending beyond the next season”, Tomi continues. “We always have to be on top of the current situation and aware of any future needs.”
Operations supervisors review plans with forest specialists in good time before the beginning of the season to ensure that estimated workloads and planned schedules are correct.
Quality of work the number one priority
Operations supervisors supervise the region’s forest workers and discuss the performance of the previous year and the goals of the coming year with workers during the winter season. Part of the job is also to negotiate workloads, rates and contracts with contractors.
“The quality of work is emphasised in these discussions”, Tomi says. “We review the feedback received during the previous season and discuss how quality could be further improved.”
“The majority of our contractors have been working with us for a long time and there is little turnover, so they are already familiar with our requirements. Individual contractors naturally sometimes stop working for us for one reason or another, and we also need new partners when our workload grows.”
Training before the beginning of the season
Before the beginning of the spring season, UPM wants to ensure that everyone performing forestry work for the company knows the necessary work instructions, as well as all the guidelines and requirements concerning quality and environmental matters.
Although the team does not change much from one year to the next, guidelines are developed and new individuals come aboard. Organising training events is therefore an essential part of the duties of operations supervisors.
The events last at least a day and consist of classroom discussions and field training with UPM specialists. Everyone working for UPM must also familiarise themselves with UPM guidelines in the web based Aarnikotka learning environment and perform a related online test.
“We regularly check that the necessary training has been completed”, Tomi emphasises.
Versatile quality monitoring
“Our forest workers and contractors carry out self-monitoring, which basically means submitting reports on performed work”, Tomi says. “I can then examine the reports in our system. Our goal is for workers to call forest owners before they are about to begin any agreed work.”
“I also try to visit some sites during the summer season”, Tomi says. “Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do this very often. This is why we have several summer trainees whose main job is to monitor the quality of work.”
“Processing the feedback we receive from customers is also an excellent way of monitoring quality”, Tomi says. “Both positive and negative feedback is valuable to us. It helps us pay attention to matters that require improvement and also to share best practices.”
Five operations supervisors in charge of work in different areas
UPM’s five operations supervisors supervise approximately 60 forest workers, 55 contractors who perform manual forestry work, 15 contractors who perform mechanical forest management work and dozens of contractors who perform soil preparation and mechanical sowing. During the forest management season, there is work for hundreds of forest professionals. They manage some 20,000 hectares of Finnish forests every year, prepare 10,000 hectares of areas for planting, plant some 12 million seedlings and sow tree seeds on an area amounting to 2,000 hectares.