When Nigel Brabyn took on the newly-created role of business performance analyst at Nelson Forests Limited (NFL), one of the first things he assessed was the 'information supply chain' across the group.
"I wanted to try and integrate those systems together, looking at what intelligence we can get out [of them], and get the systems to talk to each other," says Brabyn, who four years ago who stepped up from the forest and information technology manager post.
NFL -- with around 600 staff and contractors - manages 78,000 hectares of high quality radiata pine plantations in the Nelson and Marlborough regions, and owns and operates the Kaituna Sawmill near Blenheim.
"I started mapping information flows," says Brabyn. "I went around, interviewed everybody, what information do you receive and give out? Some were in Excel, people were also printing things out and punching them into another system."
He also checked for duplication of information, and created a diagram of the data flow.
From there he created a diagram by "taking those functions and reordering them", which is now part of the company's standard systems.
It used to take us between three and six months from the time the tree was felled out in the forest to know whether we were making money. Now, I can tell you the trees that we cut down yesterday whether we will be making money on it.
By integrating these different functions, we gained a lot of efficiencies, says Brabyn.
NFL also invested in a core system to get "one version of the truth".
"It used to take us between three and six months from the time the tree was felled out in the forest to know whether we were making money," Brabyn says. "Now, I can tell you the trees that we cut down yesterday whether we will be making money on it."
Brabyn has been working in the forestry sector for more than 33 years, starting as a forest draughting cadet in Gisborne, using pen and ink to do the mapping. He did get involved in the first private sector computer record system in the 1980s when he was with Tasman Pulp Paper's Forestry Division in Kawerau. He progressed to a range of roles that included forest information officer and IT coordinator at another forestry company, Weyerhaeuser New Zealand, for 10 years; and valuation and information officer at Fletcher Challenge Forests.
"It was all about keeping records of what we had done," he says of his earlier roles.
This experience brought him much insight into the forestry sector. "We were good at recording information on everything we did, but quite slow in getting that to the system."
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