Virtual forest

Stihl focuses on digitization and connection to facilitate work both in and off the field. New products that do not give up to performance and offer concrete help to increase operational efficiency.

Who would ever have thought it? Digitization is coming so well even in smallest and least cumbersome work tools. All the equipment that is transversally used both by professionals and semi-professional hobbyists. An enlarged world where efficiency is still today measured on the basis of the “feeling” of the individual and it is hard to organize it in a scientific way in order to monitor the actual operating costs. Unless a great organization works on it, but still requires method and collaboration. Two elements not always easy to obtain. It is for this reason that Stihl   (     has worked hard to digitize its equipment and work tools with simple and practical solutions that transfer all the operating data of the equipment to the Cloud. Thanks to the arrival of electronics in the management of engines, hydraulic pumps and transmissions, these technologies have been till now on the agenda of large agricultural and earth-moving machinery and only that few would have imagined to see it applied even on smaller implements that are always subjected to considerable stress and intensive use in relation to their size. Above all chainsaws and gardening equipment. The aim of the German manufacturer is to optimize the use of equipment by bringing the efficiency of the company in every sector of use. Either with battery or electric equipment or with combustion engine. Without forgetting all those who work in the woods and who, in order to save time, need a logistical assistance guiding them rationally during tree felling. Stihl has developed software and hardware solutions, able to increase the professionalism of those who decide to rely on its products.

Fig. 1 Through the portal Stihl Connected it is possible to check the connected equipment by monitoring the fundamental parameters utili for their more efficient management.

Head in the clouds

The solution developed by Sthil for remote control of its equipment is based on the Cloud STIHL Connect Pro. It is an integrated cloud-based system that allows professional users, whether they are in public companies or in private ones dealing with gardening, landscaping and maintenance of green areas, digitally managing machinery and work organization. Everything is based on Smart Connector STIHL: a sensor with a total diameter of less than five centimeters and which is mounted externally on the equipment. The actual sensor takes up much less space and is housed inside a robust and practical shock-resistant plastic case that opens and closes with a hermetically sealed cap. It records the operative hours and transmits them, through a connection with the smartphone or tablet of the operator to the STIHL Cloud which keeps them in a central datastore. Among the different functions it is also possible to send the geographical position of work in order to have a direct reference of the work performed for the subsequent billing. The data collected can be accessed through an online portal, which can be consulted through a personal user ID, so that the status, the use, the type (for multi-function tools) and the position of the work carried out by the equipment can be evaluated. It is therefore possible to organize work more precisely, optimize costs, reduce downtime, and make the most of the potential of every piece of equipment. Through the connection, also the database relating to the maintenance status of equipment is updated, preventing any failure and accurately programming the machine stops for appropriate interventions. In order to save time and correctly plan the work it is also possible to communicate directly with the authorized Stihl workshop so that any necessary spare parts can be ordered in advance and maintenance pauses are reduced to a minimum.

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The connection allows to manage work teams optimally and groups of heterogeneous equipment that integrate into complex work processes.

Stihl presented MS 500i, the first series-produced chainsaw with electronically controlled fuel injection. A chainsaw intended for professionals in the sector able to ensure a high torque available almost immediately with an acceleration of the chain from 0 to 100 km/h in 0,25 seconds. Stihl technicians have worked to obtain an extremely light and comfortable machine operating on a high weight-to-power ratio. MS500i, in fact, has a value of 1,24 kg/kW achieving a milestone so far never reached by mass produced chainsaws. The electronic injection management allows a greater lightness of the machine body thanks to the complete absence of carburetor and ignition module. The fuel measurement is performed with a sensor that automatically adapts the engine to the different operating conditions. This allows also to ignore the altitude of work for those operating in the mountains and the ambient temperature. The new MS 500i will be available for the German market already in the 2018/19 working season before landing also on the other markets. The electronic ignition is operated via an injection valve. Injection and ignition timing are calculated on a fully automatic basis by the MS 500i control unit. The data needed for the adjustment are provided by a series of sensors installed in the chainsaw, which monitor, among other things, pressure and temperature. This ensures that the machine provides optimum performance since it was switched on. The other immediate operational advantage consists in the simplicity of starting in any condition. The stop button should only be pressed to stop the engine and no purge operation are necessary. The high weight/power ratio is obtained not only with careful design work on the machine body but also thanks to the ES Light bar which is supplied as standard on this model. The overall ergonomics includes not only a low weight but also the integrated cover with shock absorbing strips of the chain pinion. The push bar is parallel to the axis of symmetry of the guide bar allowing a better control in each cutting operation. The chain change is facilitated by the presence of the nuts on the pinion cover. For the mechanical parts Stihl has used special steels to reduce the sections of the moving elements without lowering their resistance so as to have a safer high-performance machine in everyday use.[/su_box]

Fig. 2 The equipment is connected through a protected sensor that can be applied also in after-market at any time.

Smart Connector

The only doubt that could come to mind is related to the difficulty of using the system. Stihl has made the use of all the elements of the control process very simple. The Smart Connector is mounted, even in after-market, on equipment with petrol, electric or battery-powered engines. This facilitates the overall management of the equipment and allows, over time, a gradual transition to the machines of the manufacturer considering also the utility of the integrated service offered. Data are transmitted when the equipment works via Bluetooth using the App Stihl installed on the smartphone or tablet of the operator. This App can be downloaded for free for both Android and iOS operating systems. Work data, and possibly also position data, are transferred to the Cloud Stihl. By connecting to the portal Stihl Connect Pro with the personal user ID, it is possible to access and process data up to the invoicing of the work carried out, including in the accounting document the hours worked, the type of work, the type of equipment and the position of the work carried out. This immediate outlook of work data offers great advantages at an organizational level, allowing a more efficient planning of the use of equipment thanks to the overall view of the work carried out.

Do not get lost in the forest

The active dialogue between Stihl and the forestry professionals has led the German manufacturer to reflect upon some fundamental questions. The most important certainly concerns the digitization process in the tree felling chain and its actual usefulness. One of the problems that most affects the efficiency of the tree felling process is the search for the trees to fell previously marked by forestry technicians. Stihl has developed, with a view to an overall digital process of the process and of equipment, the software Progetto 4.0 with the application “LogBuch” that connects the tree to be felled with a precise geolocation, vocal data and important operational indications. The operation is very simple and obviously it does not rule out the classic visual indication with spray paint. The can is inserted quickly into a special and handy tool that allows to spray the paint with the simple press of a button. The same button sends an impulse to a receiver that the forestry technician brings with him with a practical harness in order to have his hands free. The signal is memorized even in areas without cell reception and everything is memorized in order to download subsequently the data and make it available to the staff dedicated to felling. The vocal information may concern trees to be felled and trees to be preserved and marked with different visual symbols. All these data allow a precise mapping of the work to be carried out which is subsequently transmitted to the tree fellers by means of the app “LogBuch” and a digital interactive tool integrated into working clothing. The teams are so guided in a rational way towards each tree to be felled and towards those that, on the contrary, have to be somehow preserved with specific actions.

Fig. 3 The sensor can be applied in any type of equipment ranging from classic chainsaws with endothermic engines to light battery powered tools used in gardening.

The same app guides the teams to different work areas without the need for someone to accompany them. By being able to work also without internet connection, through memorized work it is possible to be operative everywhere and free from external influences. The information available on the software web portal can obviously be shared with other technicians and with the control bodies. It is also possible to better control the entire production process starting from the identification of the trees to be felled to reach the final destination of the timber. The software development, launched in Germany in 2018, continues on the basis of all the feedback received from insiders with an implementation based on the operational needs of those who are daily engaged in the field. The provision of Stihl is to later integrate other modules that cover also soil protection and forest road infrastructure in order to integrate the forestry project into a wider project of intelligent environmental heritage protection. The aim of the manufacturer is in fact to bring digital technology into every operational project that involves equipment, thus becoming a bearer of innovation not only in the design and construction of the equipment with low environmental impact but also in the fundamental management of the process. Supporting their machinery and equipment with a wide range of services that facilitates work and increases business efficiency is the goal that all the great professional players are developing in this historical phase. Stihl is a point of reference in its sector and, consequently, is deeply involved in this type of process that supports the company and helps it in the management of production processes.

Costantino Radis

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