Achieving the world's best practice harvesting and transport costs for the NSW sugar industry
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This project set out to develop innovative techniques for cane supply management within the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative Ltd (NSWSMC), assess and promote harvester group optimisation within the NSW industry and to aim for world’s best practice harvest costs. In his independent assessment of the sugar industry Hildebrand (2002) reported that forecast prices in 2004 - 2006 would create an urgent need for productivity and cost improvements for the industry to remain internationally competitive. Hildebrand also recommended worldwide benchmarking of activities against the strongest competitors followed by implementation of cost effective options. This project concentrated on the largest cost item for cane production; harvesting, to develop innovative techniques for efficiency and cost improvement with the aim of achieving worlds' best practice harvesting costs of $4 per tonne of cane. Additionally harvest and cane supply management are significant milling costs and with the need to reduce unit costs it was essential to find ways to automate harvest management and reduce the workload for NSWSMC Cane Supply Managers at each mill. The NSW sugar industry currently has one of the most efficient cooperative harvesting arrangements and is well positioned to make additional steps to capture additional cost savings across the NSW sugar industry value chain. These economies are essential with the co-generation plans for the NSW industry. Additional costs of whole cane harvesting can be partly offset by the efficiency gains in all mill areas. The project aimed to investigate and implement whole-of-system solutions for reduced costs in the harvesting and transport sectors of the NSW Sugar industry. At the start of the project we were interested in examining scenarios involving changes to harvesting and transport, which include reduced harvesting groups, harvest best practice, optimised/rationalised loading pad locations and automated harvest management. Such changes required a different approach and this project saw excellent collaboration between organisations and agencies involved in sugar industry research and development. Initial stages of the project involved the NSWSMC and Agtrix working together for the implementation of the harvest management system, now called CHOMP. Agtrix and the NSWSMC pioneered the development of this program that is now used widely in the Australian sugar industry. Work with CSIRO and Harvesting Solutions centred on utilising modelling tools developed through other SRDC funded projects like CSE005 to optimise locations of cane loading pads in NSW and to examine efficiencies associated with harvest group amalgamations.