In Our material issues within a global context we highlighted how economic productivity is a critical factor in ensuring societies’ wellbeing in the future and how it is important for business to promote overall productivity and to educate, attract and retain its future workforce.
Over several years, Mondi has focused on developing operational practices that enable us to become globally more competitive within a context of international good practice. In this section, we focus on operational excellence through the modernisation of our forestry operations.
Modernisation: at the forefront of operational excellence
Specific challenges in the forestry industry include poorly-developed infrastructure; large geographical areas and distances; declining rural population as young, skilled people move to urban areas; an ageing rural workforce; increasing labour costs; and, in South Africa, high labour turnover and the impact of HIV/AIDS.
The modernisation strategy is geared to meet these challenges and to ensure decent working conditions so that Mondi is considered an employer of choice. The new systems, equipment and technologies being introduced in our operations bring many positive benefits. 2013 saw the focus shift from harvesting to roads, planning and silviculture.
Our modernisation goals include:
- providing a safer workplace for our employees by moving away from high-risk and heavy manual tasks;
- increasing our productivity, while lowering our overall operating costs;
- providing decent work through higher-skilled jobs with increased salaries and through improved ergonomic practices;
- ensuring that we maintain a consistent and sufficient workforce, as forest harvesting is arduous work with high labour turnover and absenteeism rates;
- developing long-term relationships with contractor companies, thereby enabling stable employment for forestry contractors, and operational and safety practices of the highest standard; and
- contributing to the viability of local communities.
Modernisation in the South African forests
Mondi’s modernisation process, which began in 2008, included a change in forestry management systems and processes, optimisation of the forestry road network, the introduction of mechanised harvesting systems, an upgrade of information technology infrastructure and the replacement of vehicles with larger, more efficient vehicles. It also involved the restructuring of contractor businesses, supported by training and business development through Mondi Zimele.
Over 90% of core harvesting operations have been mechanised. This has resulted in increased harvesting productivity and greatly reduced reliance on manual felling, debarking, cross-cutting and stacking of timber, delivering the many safety and ergonomic advantages associated with the ‘no hands on timber’ approach.
Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology, generating precise and directly georeferenced spatial information, is currently being introduced and will support the modernisation process by providing more accurate and comprehensive maps and site data.
Modernisation of silviculture operations has been fast-tracked over the past year. Modernisation efforts include:
- upgrading of nurseries;
- modernisation and refurbishment of fire-fighting operations;
- ergonomic and productivity improvements of all silvicultural operations, including pitting operations; and
- improved planting, watering and fertiliser operations techniques.
Modernisation in the Russian forests
Modernised harvesting has been fully implemented at our Russian operations in Syktyvkar for a number of years. The modernisation process included replacing largely motor manual logging processes with the more flexible and fully mechanised forwarder, improving living conditions at the logging camps and an upgrade of the road infrastructure to optimise access to the harvesting operations. More recently, as part of the drive to optimise transport operations and reduce transport costs, some 117km of new roads were constructed by contractors in 2012 to 2013.
Another important aspect of the modernisation process was the establishment of silviculture operations. This was part of the effort to ensure re-establishment practices in our forests meet the requirements of the new Russian Forest Code, thus ensuring that future forests are well stocked.