We were contacted by a research and production association that specializes in forest inventory and management and offers a full range of services for companies operating in the forest-sector.
The company approached Axmor Software with a project to create a state-of-the-art data analysis system for entering and processing forest management data and generating reports on the state the forests. The customer was impressed by our experience in developing complex corporate systems that enables us to offer modern technical solutions.
The company specializes in forest management, utilization, and design. Data on the number and quality of trees are generated during the forest inventory process. To do this, specialists visit an area and collect a vast amount of data on tree species, tree sizes, and local conditions. The data are entered to the analysis system and are used to create reports on forest resource assessment and utilization.
The customer was not satisfied with the existing length of the data collection and processing cycle. Therefore, they turned to us to develop and deploy a modern data analysis system to replace their outdated one. The main goals of the project were to reduce information-processing costs and to speed up the entire cycle by minimizing the number of human errors and increasing data processing speeds. The customer needed a system that could handle everything from gathering data in the field on a tablet to writing up the final reports. They were also considering the possibility of enabling data exchange between regional branches, which would improve the quality of the results. To work on this project, we had to understand the way in which forest management information is gathered and processed and the job descriptions of each employee.
The company has 36 branches and in 2012 they employed over 3,400 people. The branches use different methods and tools to inventory forest resources. The customer emphasized that the system should be flexible, capable of integration, and customizable. The development center was based at one of the larger branches, one that served more than half of the inventoried territory. The system was to demonstrate the same data storage and exchange standards that were used by the government forest inventory system.
The system was to take into account the differences across the client’s regional branches. It also needed to be flexible enough to respond to changing standards and requirements.
The flexibility built into different levels of the system ensures that changes can be made to the system far more promptly and at a lower cost.
Together with our client, we sought to create a system that is convenient for all participants of the forest management process. The forest industry is concerned with developing a comprehensive system that would be accessible to all participants.
As we were developing the data analysis system, the national forest inventory database was also a work in progress. By that time, we had gained the necessary experience in gathering and storing forest management information. We assisted our client in the preparation of proposals for the structure of the national database that were later singled out for their completeness and clear structure.
Additionally, data exchange between the systems had to be provided. There are several competing programs on the forest management market. Among them are programs that use a command prompt for data input. To integrate such diverse systems in a flexible way, an open data exchange format was required. We helped our client to create and present this data format at the national level.
Thanks to these innovations, the system we developed has made a big impact on the industry standards for storing and processing information. It paves the way for the creation of a common information center. This will be accomplished as a result of integration with other industry solutions, such as geographic information systems or the forest operation planning systems.
Axmor programmers developed a template designer for reports on the state of the forest. Users can select the parameters, information snapshots, and other data filters that they need. We could not use standard reporting tools because forestry reports are unique. They have their own methods of calculation, and numbers of fields to calculate. For example, the inventory form contains over 200 different parameters that are used to calculate forest stock and evaluate the state of the forest. The calculation involves complex algorithms based on tables, comparisons, and formulas.
We integrated the data analysis system with the customer's geographic information system (GIS). This allows inventory specialists to use a tablet with a built-in GPS system to navigate through the woods. The maps are prepared before the inventory takes place. The maps can be edited in the field if the specialist notices any discrepancies. Specialists can select an object on the map, view information about the object or area, and make adjustments accordingly. Thus, adjustments can be made in the GIS module of the data analysis system as well as on the tablet in the field. After being approved, all adjustments are sent to the client’s GIS.
All inventory parameters are related to each other by various rules. The Axmor programmers suggested using a domain specific language (DSL) that is used in the industry to describe connections and verification rules for inventory parameters. These rules can be widely varied—from simple threshold checks to complex calculations with many dependencies and table checks.
To reduce the number of input errors by low-skilled employees, we proposed the creation of an editor capable of detecting errors and warning the operator. This reduces the cost of processing information input by seasonal external staff. The system performs the calculation and verification according to forest management instructions and special rules, thus accelerating the process and reducing human errors. In addition, the system is flexible enough to be customized for the specific methods used by different branches.