August 10, 2018
From the July/August 2018 issue of Timber Harvesting magazine.
The new Phloem mobile app allows loggers to track loads of timber from the woods to the mills, provide wait times at mill scale houses and allow users to report any issues encountered at mills. Developed by Savannah, Ga.-based forester and 30-year industry veteran Dean McCraw, Phloem (pronounced flow-um) is a community-based app that allows for real-time tracking and information sharing.
“Truck drivers can use Phloem to know what’s happening at the mills in real time and they can avoid problem areas,” McCraw says. He also hopes to combat timber theft by eliminating double weighing or falsifying timber origin information. Within the app, data is attached to the origin point of timber and with only one set of data per load there’s no way to forge multiple records or data.
Phloem is designed as a community app, allowing users to share real time information on the mills they utilize. It works best when more people are part of the community, feeding the app with information about turnaround times and mill delays that is then shared with the rest of the community. (This is similar to the Gas Buddy app that helps people find the lowest-price gas stations based on information provided by other users in the app’s community.)
A truck driver (or loader operator, foreman, company owner, etc.) selects the mills they deliver to, essentially signing up for alerts about those mills from others who deliver there as well. You can then select which mill you’re planning to haul a load before the truck ever leaves the woods. Even if you’re deep in the woods and your phone has no cellular service, the app stores the information until the phone connects. You can then put the smart phone away—no phone use while driving—because Phloem will track the trip to the mill and detect when the driver reaches the scales. The app then automatically starts keeping track of the turnaround time, ending once the truck returns to the scales. “At no time does the app require user input while the truck is in motion,” McCraw says. Even if the mill is holding trucks outside the scales, the app will detect it from within a set distance and will ask the driver if he (or she) is waiting. The driver indicates yes, and it starts calculating turnaround time from that point (but only if GPS tells the app that it is close to the scale house for a period of time, so no one can really lie about it).
If there’s a problem at the mill, drivers can send a notification through Phloem and it will send an alert to every Phloem user who has selected that mill, warning them instantly of the problem. Also, no matter how many drivers send the notification, the rest of the users will only get the alert once, to keep you from being bombarded with multiple messages about the same thing.
Obviously, the usefulness of this app increases as more users sign up. As McCraw says, “The more truckers that use Phloem, the more valuable the data will be to all loggers. It is anticipated that the loader operators may use the app to determine what products to load in order to maximize the efficiency of their trucking operations. Avoiding mills that have unloading delays will help logging crews to increase productivity.”
Phloem officially launched on June 1. It is free to download and is available on both iPhone and Android platforms. Future versions of the app will include new features that will be payment-based, but initially McCraw wanted the app to be available at no cost.
Visit www.phloem-app.com for more information.