Forestry is a complex industry. It’s not only about turning a profit but ensuring the ability to meet both economic and ecological pressures. From mandated regulations to supply and demand, to the local flora and fauna and soil makeup, there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account, and lots of people involved in the process from start to finish.
Forestry is also one of the top ten manufacturing employers in 42 states, with an annual payroll of $51 billion. That figure counts only those people directly engaged in the industry, not the many more who indirectly make their living from forest management and forest products. Forest management is also a complex science, with many factors that need to be accounted for. In order to run smoothly, the industry requires a better understanding of all information, no matter when or where it is collected.
This is often a challenge for companies, associations and governments alike. Work takes place both at a desk as well as in the field, so not only can problems arise at the source of data collection, but late in the process as well. From meeting with stakeholders to communicating with landowners – the entire work flow chain from the forest to the mills can often be daunting. To compound that, the industry is constantly changing with new ecological requirements and mandates, so what has traditionally worked in the past may not be a viable solution any longer.
It’s no surprise that software programs have helped the forest industry meet their goals and manage their regulations, with GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software being at the heart. GIS has numerous benefits, such as making advanced calculations and visualization of geographic data, as well as simple on site data collection that has allowed foresters to make better decisions in more efficient ways. That technological progress forward, away from the old pen and paper, is continuing to happen with a shift from desktop based systems to web and mobile based GIS services, with Esri’s ArcGIS Online (AGO), web-based GIS leading the charge.
Web based GIS services give staff more options to work with, and allows them to immediately report what they see from within the field, eliminating the need to be tied down to a specific workstation. This has huge implications for the future of the forestry industry, and has already yielded amazing results – from increased collaboration between staff and private land holders, to improving harvest site identification.
Here are 5 reasons why web-based GIS is no longer an option in 2016:
1 – Data Collection
The first benefit of web GIS is it enables digital data collection. Pen and paper is no longer the only means to document data in the field. Though pen and paper worked well in the industry for decades, it’s clear that there were many obstacles and problems that arose because of their limitations. From data that is too complex to fully measure while being on site, to tasks that weren’t accurately documented, pen and paper has gone the way of the dodo, replaced with digital data collection using phones and tablets.