In South Carolina, trees are big business. According to the state’s Forestry Commission, “[the] total economic impact of South Carolina’s forest industry is $18.6 billion annually.” But because the industry is so active in the state, saw mills often have long wait times, meaning the truckers hauling the raw materials are losing time and money in the parking lot.
The mill delays are such an industry problem that the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, a non-profit group, began looking for someone to help solve the long lines and re-invest in forest sustainability. They found a partner and solution from Worthwhile, a company based in Greenville, SC, who has been solving tough, technical problems for years.
Deeply understanding the problem
Worthwhile began by studying the problem and analyzed mill distances, weight stations, and driver metrics; plus, they met with timber producers, loggers, and environmental groups to fully understand the concerns on all sides of the issue. They didn’t want to create a solution that inadvertently caused a problem for another interested group. Ultimately, Worthwhile built a custom solution using a Particle Asset Tracker and specialized software to deal with unreliable network conditions out in the woods.
“The Particle platform saved us a ton of time with it being a completely integrated
platform,” says Zimmer. “We don’t have to worry about the connectivity — it just all works, you can focus on building the software.”
Geo-Bound, a custom open-source asset tracking solution
To ensure the connection just works, Worthwhile built a custom, open-source application called Geo-Bound to handle when coverage becomes poor without losing any location data. When a truck is out of signal range in the woods, the Geo-Bound software records GPS coordinates and stores the data (up to 2,000 location points) until the truck returns to an area with cellular coverage. Check out the code here.
Once the truck is within good cellular coverage, the location data is combined with wait time data, creating a sort of saw mill traffic report that drivers and dispatchers can monitor with a custom mobile app also built by Worthwhile.
Driver & dispatch approved
The Particle-powered solution has been a hit. Drivers set the device on their dashboard and power it from the truck auxiliary power port. The device gives drivers and dispatchers the real-time information they need to make informed operational decisions and select the right mills to visit with their trucks. With an estimated 800 or so trucks on the road for about 120 saw mills in South Carolina, knowing which mill has the shortest line is a huge advantage for the drivers, the companies, and the environment.
Affordable costs mean greater Worthwhile adoption
After surveying 2,200 loggers in the South East area, Worthwhile found that GPS-based systems, also known as Telematics systems, are traditionally not affordable. They found that this was especially true for smaller trucking operations. However, Worthwhile’s asset tracking solution is affordable for smaller and larger trucking operations. And they are confident that their product will help businesses make better operational decisions.
Already Worthwhile has signed over a hundred trucks onto the system and continues to grow. They anticipate more than doubling the number of outfit trucks by the end of 2019. And with more trucks equipped, the information from which drivers can make operational decisions becomes only richer. Eventually, they hope to create rankings of which saw mills are the most efficient — both as a way to give credit where it’s due and also to encourage less efficient mills to improve wait times.