By Tony Kryzanowski
The very important forest industry supply chain depends upon a variety of software systems and tools. While the functionality of these systems has improved dramatically in recent years, it’s the information contained within them and the ease of access to that information by employees which really matters.
It can cost a company a lot of money through lost productivity when employees spend too much time looking for information or calling and waiting for IT assistance.
What happens when new hires have questions about their work functions or equipment? How do seasoned employees get support once a new system has been installed and the project installation team leaves?
Furthermore, how do forest companies ensure that there is good and consistent communication across departments as well as from one location to another?
B.C.-based Tolko Industries has partnered with Epilogue Systems, a developer of a digital adoption platform called Opus, to centralize and standardize documentation, giving employees access to an easy-to-use, single-source portal to quickly obtain information. Epilogue describes it as a cloud-based productivity acceleration platform. The goal is to provide employees with information in the moment of need, no matter the technology or process they work with.
Before the arrival of Opus, Greg Higgs, Tolko’s Head of Enterprise Applications, was spearheading an initiative to integrate various new software tools—particularly within the company’s procurement and maintenance departments.
“We were nearing the end of rolling out JD Edwards across the organization in those areas,” he says, replacing seven different maintenance and procurement systems. About 600 employees now use the new JD Edwards software. Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne is a cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and supply chain management solution.
“As we came out of that project, we realized that we had a gap in how do we move from project to support and the documentation that the project team was using,” Higgs says.
Project workers were either employees who returned to other functions in the company or contractors who left the company once the project was completed. “So they weren’t necessarily staying with the support team. We started to look around to see what products were out there to provide that ongoing support.”
He came across Epilogue Systems and their Opus product as an easy-to-navigate tool that employees could tap into for after-project support.
“One of the benefits of the Epilogue tool is that it wasn’t just limited to my JD Edwards software. I could use it with my other software as well,” says Higgs. Another benefit was that integration of Opus into the company’s communication network required no hardware or infrastructure investment, as it could be seamlessly installed within their existing infrastructure, and tied into the company’s single password sign-in system.
Higgs had an opportunity to test its functionality, as in addition to introducing JD Edwards software for procurement and maintenance, Tolko was also moving into a new sales system, “and one of the lessons learned was to make sure when a project ends that we have the documentation for support and sustainability. We made that a requirement of the project.”
Because of the versatility of Opus, they could use it as a support tool for both their JD Edwards software and this new sales system software, which involved providing access to another 200 key users. So the number of employees now using Opus is 800 in a total company staffing complement of about 3,000.
What happens now when an employee in maintenance, procurement or sales has a question, they are referred to Opus first to walk them through the process to, for example, create a purchase order. If they still have questions, then they can call IT for further support. Epilogue Systems estimates that it costs a company between $19 and $22 per IT support call.
“Definitely, prior to the Epilogue System install, we had silos—people were creating their own user guides using Word or whatever other tool,” says Higgs. “That information was not being shared; maybe at one mill, but nobody else gained the advantage of it.”
Opus helps to break down those silos, where documentation is standardized and shared across the entire Tolko organization.
He says his long term goal is that anyone using a computer application or system within Tolko would have access to Opus as more documentation is added. It has cost the company under $85,000 for the initial software application and an additional annual subscription of $15,000 for support to get to that 800 employee level. The software is now Cloud-based, and is available to new customers on a subscription basis.
Higgs adds that silo customization of documentation is not necessarily just an issue at Tolko or even within the forest sector. The need for greater standardization is a widespread problem across all sectors.
“The word standardization, where it makes sense, was a tough word to use here probably six years ago,” Higgs says. “Now it is quite commonplace. We are kind of moving toward that self-service model which takes a long time to get to, but we are moving in that direction.”
Creating this information portal through Opus has not only improved efficiency, but has also encouraged sharing of innovations that have been developed within one location or department across the entire company in a standardized way for everyone’s benefit.
Mike Graham, CEO of Epilogue Systems, says his company is focused on improving the documentation and adoption of critical applications in business. These applications often involve use of such frontline applications as SAP Oracle Workday, Microsoft 365, JD Edwards, and PeopleSoft, by a large volume of employees for critical business purposes. Typically, these systems realize a large portion of their value when they go-live or when the rolling go-live moment occurs. This is when employees have to actually use the product and be proficient with it.
“What we have found is that it takes a blend of approaches to give the users what they need,” Graham says. “Training is important, but training alone has proven to be ineffective. E-learning is important but e-learning alone has proven to be ineffective.”
He says the piece of the equation that Epilogue Systems brings to the puzzle is that their Opus system exists within the application, available at the moment of need, delivering relevant content for who the user is and what they are working on. “That way, they don’t have to go to a search portal, or a knowledge base, and try to find what it is that is causing them a problem.”
However, the system bottleneck is not always about access to that information. The format in how it is presented is equally important because individual employees have different intake preferences. With Opus, the end user can choose how they receive the information, some options being a watch-and-listen simulation, a step-by-step method, or a policy-and-procedure format.
Epilogue’s work with Tolko is not their first or only business with forest companies. Their business tends to follow specific business operating systems more than specific industry sectors.
Essentially with Opus, Epilogue Systems is providing an off-the-shelf product with some potential for customization. It is up to Tolko to create the content.
“Creating the content can be time consuming depending on the level of complexity,” says Higgs, “but it can also be time consuming if employees don’t know how to use their systems and applications correctly.”
He appreciates the variety of ways that information can be presented within Opus, and it also lets the employee print the information off, if needed.
Graham says that they have also developed Opus for easy information editing, and they have included a certain amount of update automation within it.
There has been a measured roll-out of Epilogue Systems’ products at Tolko starting in 2013, with the company first identifying an area where some pre-existing documentation existed. The next step was to create a small group responsible for creating and editing the content, which it then released to the employees needing that content. Based on employee feedback, the creation and editing team was able to fine tune their content and delivery methods to suit employee needs. There were also some subject matter experts brought in as part of this content development process to fine tune and validate the technical data, as it was being used initially specifically by the company’s maintenance departments.
“As we go forward, we continually review and update the information as required,” says Higgs. “As your applications evolve and change, you have to keep your documentation up to date.”
He adds that he had no sleepless nights with the Epilogue Systems Opus installation.
“We make sure to try to partner with vendors that have well-tested and proven software,” Higgs says. “We often look for companies to partner with because it is a joint responsibility. I don’t ever remember having any problems with the installation of the Epilogue product.”
The only concern, as with any application, is “if we build it, will the employees use it, because it does take time and money to build the documentation. The value that you get out of it is that people are using it and providing feedback. The Epilogue product had that feedback loop.”
Higgs says there is no doubt that Tolko is benefiting from a lot fewer knowledge transfer support calls and fewer repeat calls that can easily be answered through Opus. With new employees, they spend considerable time with one-on-one training for specific software tools relevant to their area. Part of the training includes how to gain full benefit from the Opus system for ongoing support.
Graham says that Opus also serves an important training function with its scenario simulation functionality, thus potentially reducing the amount of training time required by new hires and to train established employees when system upgrades and changes occur.
Currently, Tolko is rolling out a new software system company-wide for their Woodlands area, and Opus will be part of it.
On the Cover:
In terms of operations and equipment, the status quo does not work for Andrew Johnson of Wolf Lake Logging and A&K Timber—he’s all about constantly improving his logging operations on B.C.’s Vancouver Island. The latest example of the constant improvements is now at work: the John Deere 959ML tilting hoe chucker/shovel logger (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).
New forest management standards for FSC
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has launched a new national forest management standard, and it includes new or changed requirements in areas such as aboriginal rights and woodland caribou recovery.
New Deere hoe chucker gets coastal workout
Andrew Johnson of Wolf Lake Logging and A&K Timber is all about constantly improving his logging operations on Vancouver Island, and the latest example of the constant improvements was recently put to work: the John Deere 959ML tilting hoe chucker.
Small sawmill prepares for big investment
Ontario’s Papasay sawmill is preparing for some significant equipment investments as they continue the move into value-added wood products.
Hoe chucking in the Rockies—with Chucky
Alberta’s Caber Logging works in some very high elevation areas in the Rockies—where mountain goats call home—and they are using some specialized equipment, including their own home-built hoe chucker, nicknamed “Chucky”.
Fibre win all the way around
A new program in the B.C. Interior is providing jobs in the bush, improving wood fibre utilization and includes delivering fibre to a pulp mill on Vancouver Island—a win all the way around.
Getting the forestry-related digital help you need—now
B.C.-based Tolko Industries has partnered with Epilogue Systems, a developer of a digital adoption platform called Opus, to centralize and standardize documentation, giving employees access to an easy-to-use, single-source portal to quickly obtain information.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from Alberta Innovates, Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and FPInnovations.
We take a look at the latest equipment in Hydraulic Grapple Carriages.
The Last Word
The new B.C.-based federal Environment Minister must seek a balance with natural resources, says Tony Kryzanowski.