REVIEWER: David Young, management forester, JD Irving, Limited.

BACKGROUND: Founded in 1882, J.D. Irving, Limited (JDI) is a family-owned company based in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, with operations throughout the province and the neighboring state of Maine. JDI is a team of 15,000 dedicated employees, with business units in forestry and forest products, transportation, shipbuilding and industrial marine, retail, industrial equipment, construction services and building materials and consumer products. This product review is specific to its applications within the forestry group.

PLATFORMS: Remsoft Spatial Planning System is a desktop application that runs on the Microsoft Windows environment licensed by a network key.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Managing more than six million acres of land, JDI has thousands of decisions to consider when building and implementing a long-term sustainable forest management strategy. Land stewardship is key to our forestry business. With a less than optimal solution, critical decisions will directly impact cost and revenue. In the 1980s and ‘90s, we used simulation models to help provide insight into our forest management and to create a 25-year tactical strategy. However, today we need advanced analytics solutions that optimize our forestry resources, consider thousands of tradeoffs and allow us to create strategic and sustainable plans with an extended 100-year outlook. This wasn’t possible with our homegrown systems. Forest management has evolved to include new stakeholders, and it’s too complicated for simulation models. Fifteen years ago, we first turned to Remsoft for its advanced analytics and optimization solutions, which enable us to build, analyze and create sustainable forest management plans, from seedling to finished lumber products. The software allows us to create benchmarks by employing key forest indictors such as sustainable harvest levels (e.g., the amount we cut today cannot be any more than what is available for tomorrow), silviculture programs (e.g., planting seedlings, spacing, natural regeneration), carbon sequestration (how much oxygen our forests produce and carbon our trees store versus how much carbon we expel through operations), and monitoring of forest communities and a large diversity of wildlife habitat stands and structure.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: In the 1950s, a forester’s best friend was an aerial photograph and a compass. In today’s complex world, we use a geographic information system to maintain a tremendous amount of data on our forest, roads, rivers, standing wildlife habitats and other critical assets. The Remsoft solution uses this GIS data as an input and helps us plan, analyze and execute our operations. GIS feeds into Remsoft’s tools enable us to create holistic optimized strategies for the more than six million acres of forest we manage.

STRENGTHS: Remsoft takes complex forestry issues and makes them simple. Remsoft employs a high-level programming language that is user-friendly and intuitive. The model framework provided by the Remsoft solution compartmentalizes data, converts the data into digestible information and allows the models to forecast multiple management scenarios.

WEAKNESSES: Less of a weakness of Remsoft’s solutions and more indicative of the industry, forest resource modeling is complicated. Remsoft has a lot of thorough documentation, and it’s deep. Remsoft’s manuals are truly an enabler for a user already familiar with the software (or forest management). The great thing about Remsoft is that when I get stuck, I just call their tech support and within minutes the problem is usually resolved. They truly love a challenge!

SELECTION CRITERIA: At JDI, we are responsible for managing operations from seedling to harvest, to primary and secondary milling, and selling the finished product via a large distribution network. Remsoft is considered the industry standard in forestry applications and we’ve used their solution for years, adding new modules as necessary. I have looked for competitors, but it’s been difficult to even find a company that can handle models as efficiently and effectively as Remsoft. Multiple solvers, a slick user interface, built-in GIS functionality, scenario management capabilities, custom DLL(s), and a robust operating system makes Remsoft world-class, from my perspective.

DELIVERABLES: Remsoft reports are data driven with lots of graphics that reveal all the necessary metrics needed in forestry management, including annual cutover timing, harvest prescriptions, graphs that illustrate average block sizes for harvest and current carbon footprint and how it relates to ground operations.

VENDOR SUPPORT: I’ve been in the industry for more than 22 years and have worked with dozens of vendors. Remsoft is one of the best software companies I’ve ever worked with, period. If my team has difficulty creating a model or has questions about the software, the Remsoft support team is happy to walk through the situation and suggest solutions.

DOCUMENTATION: While Remsoft has comprehensive documentation, I have shied away from the manuals. It’s not the kind of software that you can just pick up a manual and use; creating a realistic strategic model requires practice through repetition (often taught in university programs) and years of operational experience. To resolve issues or questions, I call their technical support and receive immediate assistance.

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