Photo: Saku Ruusila/Riveria, Valtimo
With a swift move a gigantic harvester loads freshly cut logs effortlessly by the road side. There is demand for timber as the forest bioeconomy is booming, with significant investments being made across Finland.
But the investments and growth have not reached small wood-harvesting enterprises. They struggle financially with low profitability, and in some regions they lack a skilled workforce. As the FOBIA project coordinator, Paula Jylhä from the Natural Resources Institute in Finland, explains:
– Wood-harvesting companies with revenues of less than half a million euros suffer from poor profitability.
Well over half of the wood-harvesting companies in Finland are in the lowest revenue category, which gives cause for concern. Paula Jylhä continues:
– In the FOBIA project, we want to strengthen well-being and employment in the forest sector in the northern peripheral areas. We bring digital tools closer to harvesting companies and their daily work. The tools support the development of business management, which is required for financial success and profitability.
In the next phase of the project, a survey on development needs related to business management will be conducted among wood-harvesting companies in northern and eastern Finland.
Global markets at our doorstep
Harri Välimäki, Director of Lieksa Regional Business Development, Lieke, meets both micro-sized businesses and large exporting companies in his day-to-day work. He highlights the numerous benefits of digitalization – for example in reaching customers, as well as in sales and training. As he says:
– Digitalization is often seen as something mysterious, but it is not! It is a common part of our daily lives. Digital tools give remote areas such as Lieksa an opportunity for equal competition in global markets. Global markets are right here at our doorstep!
Lack of peer support and financial pressures may hinder the adoption of digital tools. For small businesses, there is not enough time for development work or studying business management. But, as Harri Välimäki suggests:
– Digital approaches and tools can offer novel possibilities to connect and link with large contractors.
FOBIA boosts such collaboration by developing a suite of digital training, easily available for entrepreneurs regardless of time and place.
Tietohippu Oy from Kajaani provides software for harvesting companies to support their business management. As Managing Director Timo Komulainen explains:
– We scale our products according to the size and needs of the customer. Functionalities can be narrowed down, which is reflected in the price of the software. Large companies usually adopt new systems first, but small businesses are also keen on utilizing digital opportunities.
Quiet times in recruitment
Lieksa is a typical peripheral area in eastern Finland and expectations for forest bioeconomy are high in respect of employment. However, while there is a lack of skilled professionals in the field, the level of unemployment remains high.
Professional skills are crucial since forest machine operators drive a piece of high-tech machinery worth around half a million euros. If young people do not get jobs because of tight professional requirements, they move to other industries. In Sweden and Scotland many have taken jobs in mining. In Scotland, short-term contracts have also hindered long-term commitment and planning, and consequently employment. As lecturer and former harvesting contractor Andrew Smith, from the Scottish School of Forestry, comments:
– Recruiting skilled employees in forestry, especially in harvesting, is difficult these days.
Texts: Anu Ruusila/Cordial Communications Oy