The effects of increased mechanization on time consumption in small-scale firewood processing
Firewood, which is mainly processed by the consumer, is still an important source of energy for heating houses in industrialised countries. Possibilities to compare the mechanization’s impact on efficiency of firewood processing are limited, due to variations between working conditions in previous studies. Therefore, the objective was to compare time consumption for two small-scale firewood processing systems with different levels of mechanisation under identical conditions. The systems were tested on two classes of wood: one with a homogeneous and medium-sized diameter of logs and one with a mixture of small and large-diameter-logs. Differences in time consumption were analysed for correlations with physical workloads, deviations to routine operations, operator influences and operator perceptions. Twelve operators (60–79 years old) were studied and they showed large variation in time consumption. However, the within-operator time consumption patterns were consistent. In other words, operators all responded similarly to the different combinations of systems and wood classes, but at different absolute levels. The time required to process a unit volume of wood was 25–33% lower when the more highly mechanised system was used, and the time required was 13–22% lower for the homogeneous wood class. Physical work load, deviations and perceptions of the work varied between operators, but were weakly correlated with time consumption. The results’ implications for analyses of investments in equipment for firewood-processing for self-sufficiency purposes are discussed.
Received 19 February 2008 Accepted 28 August 2008 Published 31 December 2008