The effect of partial automation on the productivity and cost of a mobile tower yarder


  • Raffaele Spinelli CNR IBE
  • Rien Visser University of Canterbury
  • Natascia Magagnotti CNR IBE
  • Carolina Lombardini CNR IBE
  • Giovanna Ottaviani-Almo NiBio



Logging, Efficiency, Harvesting, Operations


Integration of technology is commonplace in forestry equipment supporting higher levels of automation and efficiency. For technology adoption to be successful it must demonstrate improvement in productivity, cost–effectiveness or in human factors and ergonomics. Cable yarding lends itself to automation with repetitive machine movement along a fixed corridor, as established by the skyline. This study aimed at investigating the difference in productivity between the two possible settings (manual and automated) of a Valentini V850 yarder equipped with automatic path programming, with a Bergwald 3-t carriage and radio controlled chokers. The study took place in the northern Italian Alpine eastern region over a period of 8 days on two separate corridors, resulting in 280 measured cycles split between manual and automated. Results in terms of absolute numbers were very close for the two system options, but significant differences were found. For example, inhaul time was longer, but outhaul time shorter for the automated system. Productivity ranged from 8.2 to 13.3 m3 PMH-1, and cost from approximately 20 to 30 € m-3. The automated system did achieve a significantly higher productivity, but differences declined with extraction distance. When that was combined with the slightly higher cost for the automated system, the automated system was more cost-effective on extraction distances less than 200 m, and the manual system on longer distances.


Acemoglu D., Restrepo P., 2017. Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets (March 17, 2017). MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 17-04. 2017. 2940245. Accessed: 02.2020.Ackerman P., Belbo H., Eliasson L., De Jong A., Lazdins A., Lyons J., 2014. The COST model for calculation of forest operations costs. International Journal of Forest Engineering 25: 75-81.Billingsley J., Visala A., Dunn M., 2008. Robotics in Agriculture and Forestry. In: Siciliano B., Khatib O. (eds) Springer Handbook of Robotics. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-30301-5_47.Bont L., Heinimann H., 2012. Optimum geometric layout of a single cable road. European Journal of Forest Research 131: 1439-1448.Christensen J., 1978. Description of remote control cable yarding systems and an evaluation of the Forestral Remote Control Grapple Yarding System". Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. University of Montana, Missoula, MT, USA. 70 p. Accessed: 02.2020.Cottrel N., Barton B., 2013. The role of automation in reducing stress and negative affect while driving. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science 14 (1): 53–68. DOI: 10.1080/146453 6X.2011.573011Erber G., Spinelli R., 2020. Timber extraction by cable yarding on flat and wet terrain: a survey of cable yarder manufacturer’s experience. Silva Fennica 54(2). DOI: 10.14214/sf.10211Grzywiński W., Hołota R., 2006. Subjective assessment of the fatigue of forest workers based on Japanese questionnaire. Acta Scientiarum Polonorum Silvarum Colendarum Ratio et Industria Lignaria 5(1): 27–37.Guimier D.Y. 1991. Canadian perspective on mechanized harvesting development. In: Mechanized harvesting: The future is here. Conference proceedings, Department of Forest Engineering, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA, p. 1-6.Hartsough B., 2003. Economics of harvesting to maintain high structural diversity and resulting damage to residual trees. Western Journal of Applied Forestry 18: 133-142.Heinimann R., 2007. Forest operations engineering and management: the ways behind and ahead of a scientific discipline. Croatian Journal of Forest Engineering 28: 107-121.Hellström T., Lärkeryd P., Nordfjell T., Ringdahl O., 2009. Autonomous Forest vehicles: historic, envisioned, and state-of-the-art. International Journal of Forest Engineering 20: 31-38. DOI: 10.1080/14942119.2009.10702573Hellström T., Johansson T., Ringdahl O., Georgsson F., Prorok K., Sandström U., 2005. Development of an autonomous path tracking forest machine, International Conference on. Field Service Robotics, Port Douglas. Australia.Ito T., Uemura T., 2011. Automatic control for a self-propelled carriage to enable one-man cable yarding. Proceedings of FORMEC 2011, Graz, Austria, 11p.Lindroos O., Cavalli R., 2016. Cable yarding productivity models: a systematic review over the period 2000-2011. International Journal of Forest Engineering 27: 79-94.Löfgren B. 2009. Kinematic control of redundant knuckle boom with automatic pathfollowing functions. Dissertation, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.Manner J., Gelin O., Mörk A., Englund M., 2017. Forwarder crane’s boom tip control system and beginner-level operators. Silva Fennica 51(2). DOI: 10.14214/sf.1717Manninen M., Halme A., Myllylä R., 1984. An aimable laser time-of-flight range finder for rapid scene description, 7th Annual Conference of the British Robotics Association, Cambridge, UK.Milliken P., Lamborn D., Keast A., 2015. Concept design for teleoperation of a John Deere 909 Feller Buncher. FFR Report No. H024, Rotorua, New Zealand, 16 p.Mousazadeh H., 2013. A technical review on navigation systems of agricultural autonomous off-road vehicles. Journal of Terramechanics 50: 211-232.Müller F., Jaeger D., Hanewinkel M., 2019. Digitization in wood supply – A review on how Industry 4.0 will change the forest value chain. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 162: 206-218. doi: 10.1016/j.compag.2019.04.002.Numata K., Kanzaki K., Suzuki Y., Chu D., 1995. Application of automatic cable system to forest environment observation - Positioning precision of carriage and gondola with instrument units. Transaction of the Japanese Forestry Society 106: 545-548 (in Japanese).Parker R., Bayne K., Clinton P., 2016. Robotics in Forestry. New Zealand Journal of Forestry 60: 8-14.Prasad-Pant L., Hambly-Odame H., 2017. Broadband for a sustainable digital future of rural communities: A reflexive interactive assessment. Journal or Rural Studies 54: 435-450. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.09.003Ringdahl O., Hellström T., Lindroos O., 2012. Potentials of possible machine systems for directly loading logs in cut-to-length harvesting. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 42: 970-985.Scania, 2020. The fully autonomus Scania AXL. Scania Great Britain. Accessed April 26, 2020. experience-scania/features/axl.html. Accessed: 02.2020.Spinelli R., Magagnotti N., Labelle E., 2020. The effect of new silvicultural trends on mental workload of harvester operators. Croatian Journal of Forest Engineering. 41 (2): 14 p. DOI: 10.5552/crojfe.2020.747Spinelli R., Marchi E., Visser R., Harrill H., Gallo R., Cambi M., Neri F., Lombardini C., Magagnotti N., 2017. The effect of carriage type on yarding productivity and cost, International Journal of Forest Engineering 28: 34-41. DOI: 10.1080/14942119.2016.1267970Spinelli R., Magagnotti N., Visser R., 2015. Productivity models for cable yarding in Alpine forests. European Journal of Forest Engineering 1: 9-14.Spinelli R., Magagnotti N., Facchinetti D., 2013. A survey of logging enterprises in the Italian Alps: firm size and type, annual production, total workforce and machine fleet. International Journal of Forest Engineering 24: 109-120.Tabacchi G., Di Cosmo L., Gasparini P., 2011. Aboveground tree volume and phytomass prediction equations for forest species in Italy. European Journal of Forest Research 130: 911-934.Thor M., 2014. Prospects and Challenges for Forest Harvesting technologies in Europe. Proceedings of the 5th Forest Engineering Conference, 23-25/09/2014, Gerardmere, France. k1_magnusthor_2014-09.pdf. Accessed: 02.2020.Yamada S., 1990. A full-automatic yarder system equipped with electronic devices. Journal of the Forest Mechanization Society 440: 23-28. (In Japanese)






Research article