In order to find out the level of adoption of the teachings in operator audit during the FOBIA project, Luke and Riveria conducted a telephone survey among the Finnish harvester and forwarder operators who participated in the audits during the project. The audits were also carried out in Ireland and Scotland but these harvester operators were excluded from the survey due to the fact that their working methods and environment were such different from the typical Finnish tree harvesting situation.
The main focus of the survey was to find out long-term effects of the audits to the harvesting work. The survey was carried out in January 2020 whereas the audits were conducted during approximately one to one and half years earlier.
The total number of interviewed persons was seven (five operators, two entrepreneurs), in total the audits were conducted for eight Finnish machine operators. Missing operators were not available for the interviews due to varying reasons such as retirement or not answering to telephone calls.
In the survey, the respondents were asked to summarize the general evaluation that was received from the instructors during and after the audits. Majority of the general evaluations had concentrated on the working techniques such as tree selection in thinnings and the loading/unloading of mixed assortment loads. All interviewees noted that the feedback from the instructors was useful in order to develop the working methods. All answers also indicated that the both the productivity and the quality of work improved due to the audits.
The respondents were asked to make an assessment of some focal points of the audits. The assessment was done by answering with Likert scale from 1 to 5, where 1 represents the lowest and 5 the highest effect and 3 equals to no effect at all. Interviewed operators estimated that the immediate effect of the audit into controlling the work was on average 4.4, whereas the long term effect was estimated to be 4.0. The results indicate that the most powerful effect was experienced directly after the audit, whereas after longer time period the effect of teaching had lowered.
Results also indicated that the audit had a 4.2 average effect on improving the personal working methods, whereas the audit was seen to improve working activities as one part of the chain on average by 4.17. The respondents also noted that the audit events recreated a considerable personal interest in focusing on the more or less systematical self-improvement during the daily work.
The interviewees were also asked to give their own feedback and points of improvements to the auditing organization. Three persons raised a suggestion about extending the duration of the audits in such ways that the recognition of the changes in working methods would be reviewed e.g. one month after the audit event. This way the deeper adoption of the education would be observed in more reliable ways. Additionally, one person suggested that the participating operators would benefit more if they would receive more information about the contents and expectations of the audits prior to the first meeting in forest.
Finally, the results from the operator interviews indicate that the audits were generally found to be useful from both entrepreneur and operator viewpoints. The audits were estimated to be most fruitful when targeted to machine operators whose working skills are neither the lowest (e.g. fresh out of forestry school) nor the highest (very experienced and trained operator). Furthermore, direct comments indicated that the personal motivation towards improving working capabilities was the most important driving force in accepting and adapting the suggested points of improvement. This concluding finding correlates well with the initial idea of supporting the forest machine operators’ in such ways that they will be more productive and their well-being increases.