AEC acquisitions have been all the rage so far this year — and Trimble keeps the ball rolling with today’s announcement that it’s bought Fifth Element (no, that was a movie; this is forestry), based in Finland. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Fifth Element’s LogForce, available now, is a planning and logistics solution while WoodForce, out later this year, will connect harvesters with inventory locations to help make sure that haulers are traveling empty as rarely as possible.
Trimble’s Connected Forest, like the Connected Farm, aims to use technology to manage the full lifecycle of the resource, applying industrial logistics to planning, planting, growing and harvesting. We think of forests as tranquil places, and they are, but most are also working farms, carefully managed to produce a specific harvest. Trimble’s enterprise forest management solutions turn this art and science into business processes that analyze options, determine priorities, optimize resource allocation, and track progress against a number of targets.
If you’ve ever been in Norther Maine (or Vermont or New Hampshire or Washington state …) you’ve seen logging operations and perhaps pulled off the road to let a logging truck scream past at impossible speeds. Loggers are on a hillside, cutting trees and piling them up, waiting for transport to a pulp and paper mill or harbor. That brute force process is increasingly automated, with location-enabled equipment that can target specific trees (or stands of trees) for cutting at a precise time. Forestry can be risky business; engineers must balance the sustainability of timber and watersheds with the need for harvesting and recreational use. In many parts of the US (certainly in Northern New England), it’s a hugely contested topic and foresters must be able to submit economic models, environmental impact statements and other materials to build their case for continued access to these lands.
Ken Moen, general manager of Trimble’s Forestry Division, said in the press release announcing the acquisition that “adding Fifth Element solutions to Trimble’s forestry portfolio, we can better address operational forestry challenges around the world … Our fundamental focus is to provide solutions that drive integration of business data, improve efficiency and provide better visibility into forest operations to maximize productivity and profitability.”
I wasn’t aware of Fifth Element before today, but am told that the company sprang up out of the need for forestry companies to systematize working practices, automate and then put into the cloud for more ready accessibility in remote forestry sites. It’s another proof point of how mobile technology and location-based information can transform even very traditional businesses.