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Innovations Promote Sustainability in Forestry

The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (SEZ) acts as partner in the project Forwarder2020

Biomass from forestry makes a valuable contribution to renewable resources needed for the transition to alternative energy sources. At the same time, managing forests innovatively can help preserve soil in the long term and maintain the productivity of woodland. The Forwarder2020 project, which is funded by the EU as part of the Horizon 2020 program, aims to develop innovative technologies for use in smart, efficient, and sustainable forestry – simultaneously resulting in quality timber. The main emphasis of the project is to enhance the sustainability of timber production and deliveries, and improve forestry practices and planning. The project is being coordinated by HSM, a machine construction specialist from Neu-Kupfer in the Hohenlohe area of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum has been providing the medium-sized businesses with help in submitting applications and supporting the company as a project partner in research, development, and knowledge-sharing.

Forwarders are a crucial vehicle used to carry felled logs and transport timber to the delivery chain. For the three-year project, 14 partners, including three forest contractors, five component manufacturers, and four universities from six countries, are developing a crane forwarder with five innovative modules. The aim is to improve energy efficiency and do more to protect the forest floor. The five modules will be integrated into two prototypes, which will be tested under real conditions in four countries. The first prototype, which contains three of the five modules, has been available for preliminary internal testing since March and will go off for first operational testing in Scotland in May.

Forwarders are of particular interest to sustainable forestry work because they have the highest wheel load of all forestry machinery and thus have the greatest impact on unfortified soil. These machines also have to cover long distances between the wood-felling points deep in the forest and the sites where timber is deposited next to roads. It will therefore be extremely important to see how the innovative Forwarder2020 modules help reduce fuel consumption and the impact of operating machinery on the forest floor, as well as any reductions they might bring about in the impact of machinery on forestry workers’ health. This will be crucial not only for the sustainability of logging, but also for the competitiveness of forestry companies.

The envisaged innovations include an efficient hydrostatic-mechanical power-split transmission, hydropneumatic suspension, a new hydraulic system that allows for energy recovery on the crane, a rear axle assembly with three driven wheels for loading wood, and a new monitoring system for the logging process data. The combined benefit of the different modules will be a reduction in fuel consumption of 30% and a reduction in the impact on the forest floor of a further 30%. The modules will also make it possible to plan transportation routes more accurately and document loads that have already been transported. Overall, this will help reduce the ecological impact of forestry and timber-felling activities. At the same time, it will cut operating costs and lower the occupational health hazards faced by forestry workers. Ultimately, HSM and the project consortium are striving to launch a unique, modulebased system offering competitive high-end solutions. This would allow customers to choose a made-to-measure setup that fits their needs – without having to worry about higher expenditures.

The budget for the project is €3 million. The consortium consists of partners in Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Romania, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The expertise they offer spans the entire value chain, from component development to the operational use of forestry plant. Involving six partners from industry and allowing them to work together closely with consulting firms and research institutions underscores the objectives of the consortium in not only developing sustainable solutions for use in forestry, but also putting solutions to use in industry and delivering market-ready products.