How Can Timber Companies Speed Up Their AI Journey

Copilot AI in Timber Industry

June 18, 2024 Klaus Fander

We live in a time when almost every organisation needs to consider its AI strategy.

Whether you want to maintain a competitive edge, reduce costs, boost sales, or start new business models, AI empowers us to rethink processes and value creation.

The timber sector is no exception. Even if the general perception of timber companies as traditional and slow to adopt new technologies is accurate, the wood industry is gradually getting closer to AI.

It only needs a little bit more preparation, tailoring, and awareness of the tools already accessible through existing technologies.

The potential of AI in the timber sector

To get ready for AI, we encourage timber trading companies to prepare their data and systems using telemetry built into Microsoft Dynamics365 Business Central.

Telemetry is a great way to start the AI journey because it can mine data in legacy systems. Recently, my colleague Andreas Honnen and our team in Bremen had a workshop to demonstrate these opportunities to our long-time customer, ENNO ROGGEMANN GMBH & CO KG.

Globally, many use cases and examples of how AI can transform the sector already exist.

AI integrations look promising in predictive maintenance and equipment optimisation, detecting defects in production and enhancing quality control, logistics, inventory, and supply chain optimisation.

Artificial intelligence could completely transform segments like forest management and resource allocation, production line automation, design, energy management, and demand forecasting.

Copilot for timber production

Given that manufacturers rely on heavy machinery, automation, and, in some cases, robotics, AI enhancements seem like the logical next step to someone outside the sector.

However, the reality is this: timber companies are hesitant to adopt AI.

AI and workforce challenges

According to the latest Sikich Industry Pulse study, less than 20% of manufacturers have begun implementing AI technologies into their processes.

The same study showed that around 20% of manufacturing executives don’t have AI plans and that more than 60% are unsure of the benefits or have yet to find an appropriate use case.

Manufacturers and timber organisations are slow to adopt AI partly because they have more pressing issues to solve—labour shortages and increasing labour costs.

The timber trade and timber production companies struggle to find skilled workers.

Yet, this is precisely where AI can help. These technologies can empower timber companies to:

  • Automate processes and back-office functions
  • Improve efficiencies in sawmills, crate and pallet construction
  • Rationalise production to compensate for rising wage costs

Timber companies typically lack an in-house expert who could help them set up AI-enhanced processes.

That is where trusted IT partners like acadon come into play.

Easy access to AI with Microsoft Copilots

Not only does acadon keep a close eye on AI developments, but we are also actively working on integrating it into our software, primarily the acadon_timber solution.

But we don’t have to start from scratch. Our solution is built on the Microsoft ERP platform Dynamics 365 Business Central, so we can more easily benefit from the innovations that Microsoft and OpenAI continuously introduce.

That includes our timber customers, who benefit from Microsoft’s innovations through our solutions and our focus on the wood industry and its specific challenges.

AI in the Microsoft world is known under the Copilot brand. From early 2023 until today, more than 100 Copliots have been released across the Microsoft product portfolio.

Copilot for Timber industry

While Copilot for Business Central is still in the early development stage and is expected to bring more functionalities later this year, we advise our customers to start with the low-hanging fruit available in the tools they already use: Microsoft365 Copilots.

My 3 top Copilot use cases in M365

My team and I use Copilot every day. While some functionalities are still very simple, we witness its growing potential and impact on the workplace daily.

Here are a few of my favourite use cases in Microsoft Teams and Outlook.

  1. Meeting recaps

I just love how Copilot summarises all important talking points from meetings. I can’t even think of going back to a time when that was not available.

My focus on the conversation has significantly improved, knowing that Copilot is taking care of the note-taking task. Of course, I check the result afterwards and make adjustments where necessary.

  1. Translations

Also, Copilot is particularly helpful for meetings in which a foreign language is spoken.

For example, if I participated in a meeting with our Dutch customers, Copilot’s summary and translation would be beyond helpful. Even during the meeting, I can ask Copilot if I don’t quite understand something.

  1. Composing & summarising emails

Another useful thing is composing emails. It used to take me a lot of time in the day to respond to everyone and send important messages.

Copilot helps me speed up that task, even though the message it automatically suggests is not always perfect and needs my input and adjustment.

Conversation summaries from long email threads are another super-helpful example.

Get involved through acadon’s Copilot Group

During the acadon Customer Day we hosted in March in the Netherlands, we noticed significant interest in AI advancements amongst timber organisations.

Timber Customers AI Copilot

That’s why we challenged ourselves with a new goal: to provide our community with resources that will help them learn more about AI and its practical implementations.

This is how we involve our customers in our development processes and make them an integral part of the Wood Cloud.

The first step is a webinar about the possibilities of using Microsoft 365 Copilot’s standard functionalities (like I just described in Teams and Outlook). We’ll explain what is possible today and what options are available.

With enough interest, we are considering establishing a regular training practice with relevant information about innovations, a ‘prompting academy’, and similar. In addition to the input from our experts, you can expect to engage in conversations where our timber customers share their practices with Copilot.

If this sounds interesting, register for our M365 Copilot working group.

I encourage you to take this simple step towards more optimisation and reducing workload.

We are here to support your AI journey.

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