Shifting to data-driven resource and operations planning

Realising the need to use data

Greengold is an independent Swedish private equity house specialising in timberland investments and management in Europe. Property-related data is an essential element of their workflow. “We operate in several different countries, so there is lots of data. One of our major challenges is managing all that data effectively,” says Simonas Žebrauskis, Greengold’s Investment Manager for the Baltics region. “We have a stream of potential investment opportunities and we need an effective way to track and evaluate them. Then, once we identify the right properties and acquire them, the data we have gathered needs to feed right into our planning process.”

Due to the nature of the business, changes in Greengold’s customers’ investment portfolios are quite frequent. “We constantly acquire new timberland assets and sell existing ones,” says Darius Dumbrava, IT Manager and Forestry Technologist for Greengold, “and new clients usually bring their own portfolios with them.” These changes are problematic, because the management of forest operations and resource planning are highly dependent on a number of property-specific factors. “There is a lot of interconnected data and business logic involved.”

Greengold’s existing process for gathering data about each property was inconsistent and manually intensive. This meant that acquisition of new properties was slow and inefficient and that resource planning for existing properties was very complex and labour intensive. “We needed to start using data and we had to do it effectively. If you are shuffling through the papers for half a year, you are not competitive,” comments Dumbrava. “There are certain cycles in forest management that we need to take into account when planning, and when you accumulate a certain critical mass it becomes impossible to effectively plan using manual methods,” adds Žebrauskis.

In order to stay ahead of the competition Greengold needed a solution that would make their in-house processes more effective and allow for a slicker customer experience. “We spent two months on an intensive search for an off-the-shelf solution, but we couldn’t find anything suitable. The software tools available in the forestry sector were either simple databases or task organisers, there was nothing that would be sophisticated and flexible enough for our needs,” says Dumbrava.

Transforming resource and operations planning

Working together with Greengold to understand the intricacies of forest management we built a flexible business platform which enables data-driven resource and operations planning.

The new system allows for quick and painless absorption of information about new properties. This has greatly improved the experience for Greengold’s customers as changes in their investment portfolios can now be processed much faster. “Clients like the visibility, ease of access and the clear structure of the information, and the fact that we can provide them with quick answers even to the unconventional questions,” says Dumbrava. He also adds that the inherent flexibility of the system has made expanding the business into new markets a lot easier: using modules allows them to test new approaches while keeping the core of the system intact.

Our solution has also helped Greengold to completely change their operations planning process. Forestry activities required at each growth stage are determined by specific rules and data about the trees within the property. Therefore, employees needed a long learning process to get familiar with the specifics of each property before they could start managing them effectively. “It’s not an easy task to make sure that everything gets done and that it gets done in the right order, especially when the workload increases,” says Dumbrava. By gaining a deep understanding of our client’s business process we were able to build the business logic into the core of the system and help Greengold shift to data-driven operations planning.

“We were just releasing the resource planning module of the system into live when one of our key sales people left. We decided to rearrange priorities and see whether we could keep going with the existing resources. And it worked because the system had automated a large part of the workload,” says Dumbrava.

Based on data specific to each property the algorithm forecasts the activities that will be required for each of the plots within the properties and allocates them to employees. The integrated resource planning module gives the staff flexibility to adjust the schedules as needed. “We can forecast when the work will be finished and there is also no risk of losing an important task as it ends up in someone’s queue anyway,” says Dumbrava. To help employees make the most of the system, the user experience on mobile devices was designed after carefully analysing the needs of employees who require access on the go. As a result, planning of forest operations is now efficient and simple.

The new system automated previously labour intensive processes which has dramatically improved quality and efficiency. Žebrauskis estimates that if they tried to maintain the same quality and efficiency levels using the old methods they would need to increase their current resources by a third. Moreover, since such an integrated solution is unique in the forestry sector, it has become one of the key differentiators for Greengold: “We advertise it as a benefit to our clients. It is not just software: there are complex business rules, there is data and there are tools, and those three elements make up a unified system,” says Dumbrava. Žebrauskis adds that the system is now an integral part of Greengold’s business: “I believe it adds massive value. Being able to visualise the data that we have and using it to drive our planning helps us make faster and better decisions, with higher returns.”