This is a good example of where data analytics, technology and customer-focus intersect.

You may not think that such a valuable combination would exist in timber manufacturing in Australia but it does, right here at AKD Colac’s facility.

The power of combining Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Emotional Intelligence (EI) has resulted in a current R&D project that really is the face of modern sawmill manufacturing globally.

It involves the initiative of one of AKD’s up and coming Technical Engineers, Tom Oconnor, who is currently studying Mechatronics, a qualification that combines electrical and mechanical engineering. Tom’s experience with the business is from shopfloor only 5 years ago at the Irrewarra sawmill where he worked at the green mill stacker to now a valuable part of the Technical team in AKD.  Tom worked his way up through the ranks of team leader and then to supervisor, but he had an obvious talent for identifying data relationships  and connectivity in this process.  And, more importantly, how data analysis should inform changes on the production line real time.

A lot of the most current technology in heavy manufacturing suggests that high speed bulk processes with the correct equipment set up should be able to set and forget for efficient, quality output on a shift.

But, all equipment specifications provide for a performance tolerance range as all engineers know. Set periods for checking in terms of quality assurance (QA) is 1980s thinking for manufacturers.

Today, it’s real time QA and efficiency monitoring but with AI technologies, more importantly, its real time correction in a high-speed high-volume process where in a matter of minutes thousands of incorrect or inferior product can be sawn in a softwood sawmill if not automatically corrected.

AKD is the only Australian mill to be trialling this AI technology currently with supply partner USNR. Sizing deviation control in the green mill process is key to AKD’s pursuit of internationally competitiveness and producing a quality product 100% of the time for its customers.

For Tom, it all just boils down to keeping your promise – if the green mill cuts well what is planned for the product outcome, then that results in both customer satisfaction internally & externally and margin growth over time through consistent higher recovery.