Highlights: Using discrete-event simulation and detailed terrain and machine models, the productivities of excavator-based one- and two-armed tree planting machines were simulated; The machines’ arms were equipped with one-and two-headed planting devices; Two planting heads per arm rather than two arms per base machine is better for increasing the productivity of intermittently advancing planting machines on Nordic clearcuts.
To increase mechanized planting, planting machine productivity must increase in order to improve cost-efficiency. To determine if excavators with two crane arms could potentially help to increase planting machine productivity under Nordic clearcut conditions, we modelled one-armed and semi-automated two-armed excavators with one- and two-headed planting devices. Using a recently developed tool for discrete-event simulation, these machine models then mounded and planted seedlings on terrain models with moraine soil having various frequencies of obstacles (stumps, roots and stones). Compared to if the two heads were mounted pairwise on only one arm, the results showed that productivity did not increase if two planting heads were attached individually to two separate crane arms. But productivity did increase if the planting machine had four planting heads mounted pairwise on two separate arms. However, despite assuming automated mounding and crane motion between planting spots, the two-armed, four-headed model never achieved high enough productivity levels to make it more cost-efficient than one-armed machines. The simulations illustrate that our terrain models generate realistic root architecture and boulder content distributions in moraine soil, while our machine models functionally describe mechanized planting work. Based on our assumptions, we conclude that further development work on two-armed excavator-based planting machines for Nordic clearcut conditions is not warranted. Our simulations reveal that increasing the number of planting heads per crane arm rather than number of crane arms per base machine offers the greatest potential to raise the productivity of intermittently advancing planting machines.