Cooperation in Operator Training Increases Productivity and Improves Occupational Well-Being in Timber Harvesting

(PresseBox) ( Bruchsal, )
The University of Eastern Finland, North Karelia College Valtimo, Tampere University of Technology, and John Deere Forestry Oy have joined forces to develop new and effective measures for training forest machine operators. The project was partly financed by the Metsämiesten Säätiö Foundation. New and more systematic work models and teaching methods speed up and improve the efficiency of learning in basic education and in further training of professional operators at forest machine schools. "Earlier, students in this field studied timber harvesting by means of practical work, according to the 'work is the best teacher' principle. This cooperation project has resulted in concrete training material in the form of a textbook and training simulator environment for efficient timber harvesting work models," says Heikki Ovaskainen, Senior Researcher at Metsäteho. "The textbook provides the first ever detailed description of work models for thinning and final felling. Work models mean that higher production can be achieved more quickly and with less work during operator training, while conserving both the operator and the machine," continues Ovaskainen.

The models and teaching methods developed enhance operator motivation and occupational wellbeing by means of improving their vocational core competence. An operator who has completed the forest machine program has a mastery of good work methods in terms of work planning and understands the factors affecting the work outcome that make it possible to achieve a good level of production and optimal fuel economy. As a result, the students are more prepared for working life.

Training simulator plays a key role

Basic training in the new work models takes place in planned phases in the TimberSkills learning environment using a modern training simulator developed by John Deere. After completing detailed lessons and exercises on the training simulator, the student is ready to begin practicing on a real machine. Learning progress is monitored with John Deere's TimberLinkTM system, both during simulator tasks and when practicing in the actual machine. The accurate measurement feedback on the TimberLink system enhances learning significantly. The teacher and student receive reliable information about learning progress and the exercises can be targeted appropriately for each individual. The TimberLink monitoring system provides a report on the work performed and compares it to the work method of so-called top operators.

The work models developed in the project and the new learning environment have been tested in youth and adult educational programs at North Karelia College, Valtimo. Use of the new, systematic work models and measurement feedback has also been tested in professional operator training. Learning outcomes have improved and the feedback received from both teachers and students has been very positive. The learning environment has increased the meaningfulness of simulator exercises by offering clear goals for the training. Based on the feedback received from professional operators, the better productivity and improved occupational well-being achieved by ensuring mastery of core competence were particularly important. After completing a forest machine program, a forest machine operator has a mastery of at least one basic work model for thinning and one for final felling, and can use the TimberLink monitoring program to further improve work productivity.

John Deere is involved in developing work methods

John Deere's aim is to help forest machine operators do their work faster, more safely and more comfortably. As an equipment manufacturer, we recognize our responsibility for developing work methods for forest machine operators, ensuring work productivity, and motivating young students who are entering the field. Maintaining the occupational well-being of professional forest machine operators is of utmost importance throughout their working time. Better controlled and correct work methods are an essential part of a forest machine operator's occupational well-being.

Forest machine operator training is at a high level in the Nordic countries. The need for new work models and teaching methods has an important role in the growing market for the cut-to-length system. John Deere will utilize the project results globally in its TimberSkills learning environment, which was developed for operator training. The first joint TimberSkills project will begin in South America in spring 2012.
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