A tree inventory is an extremely useful tool for managing the health of your or your client’s trees.
When I first started working as a City Forester, the City had an inventory that was kept on index cards in a file cabinet. It was filed by street address and had a history of the trees that were there, problems and work completed. It was difficult to collate population information to develop any large scale planning, but it did provide a history of the site and trees which is useful for managing the care of an individual tree or trees in proximity. When we acquired a computerized tree inventory the level of service we could provide and the efficiencies we realize grew exponentially.
I recently spent a work day with a colleague who owns and runs a tree service. They had received a call from “high value” customer that day requesting they come out and look at their trees that day because they were “dying”. The technician who managed this property was away and could not visit the property. We arrived on site and the property owner pointed out some spruce trees they were concerned about….and they did not look “good”. The needles were off color and the crowns were thin and loosing interior needles. Spruce borer is a problem in the area and there were anti-aggregate pheromone tags on the trees. It had been a very wet year and the soil was extremely saturated. There was a “relatively” new aesthetic stream that was running by the trees. My colleague asked the owner about the history of the site and trees. As I was standing there, I thought….. I wish I had the history of the site and the trees. If he had an online inventory of his client’s trees we could have jumped on the phone and looked up the history. At a minimum, we would not have been asking the customer for answers to questions we should know the answers to, we would have good diagnostic information and we would be presenting a better air of professionalism.
Inventory software makes accessing this information very easy today and there is no reason all arborists and urban foresters should be using this tool. There are numerous options available. Like anything some are affordable and some not, some are easy to use, some are complicated, some are good and some are not so good. Here are a few tips for selecting inventory software.
- Go cloud-based. You want to be able to access your data while your in the field for the reasons I illustrated in my story of the day with my colleague. Remember, online access my be an issue in some areas so you may want to run some reports before you go to a site or have staff in the office that can generate the information you need.
- It needs to be a management tool. Some software is not designed to manage plants; for example iTree suite of software is designed to calculate tree benefits not manage the health of trees. The software should include an inventory of the trees/plants and management standard information for each plant updated at the last visit such as the location, species, size and health etc. It should have a tool that logs the history of each plant. Finally, it should be able easily query the data and generate summary reports, lists, work orders and perhaps map the locations of the plants.
Now, as is usually the case, there is a lot more to making the right software choice which I will share with you in later articles. However, the first step is recognizing the value an inventory will add as a professional and the quality of service and expertise you provide.