AKD Softwoods

Business snapshot

AKD Softwoods is a privately owned timber processor of plantation-grown radiata pine. The company owns and maintains an 8000ha plantation estate, operates two sawmills with a log capacity of almost 600,000m3 per annum, kiln drying and downstream processing facilities, as well as a trucking fleet to deliver finished products to market.


In operation for the past 59 years and with an annual turnover of $100m plus, AKD Softwoods is one of 35 Geelong-based businesses who took part in GreenLight, a holistic 12-month materials and resource efficiency program. The program took a collaborative industry network approach, and was delivered by ECO2Sys in partnership with Geelong Manufacturing Council, City of Greater Geelong and Barwon Waste during 2013–14 and funded through the Beyond Waste Fund.

The GreenLight program guided participating businesses as they worked through best practice strategies to avoid and reduce operational waste, including:

  • setting a baseline using the GreenLight Sustainability Diagnostic Tool (SDT) of ECO2sys
  • determining a future vision for their business and an implementation plan of key strategies and actions to achieve it
  • building a prioritised business case for resource efficiency projects (including cost, savings, payback period) and getting started
  • re-analysing their businesses using the SDT to review their progress.


Participation in the program gave AKD Softwoods the impetus and motivation to test current business practices. To see where energy and input costs could be reduced, mitigate against risk and increase the sustainability of their day-to-day operations.

Through their participation AKD discovered energy saving projects which include:

  • replacing briquettes with wood waste as a heat source for kiln drying
  • replacing steel straps with recycled plastic polyethylene terephthalate – or PET
  • replacing existing lighting with more energy-efficient LED lighting that costs less to run and poses minimal fire risk
  • upgrading their kiln drying facilities by installing 30% more efficient continuous drying kilns (CDK), incorporating an organic rankine cycle (or ORC) power plant that would use biomass as a heat source to generate electricity for reuse or resale
  • compressing plastic wrap / cardboard into bales and shredding plastic straps, thus reducing bin collection frequency and significantly reducing waste management charges, with the added potential of their use as a future energy source.

The company estimates the total cost for each energy saving project to be:

  • briquette replacement – approx $900,000
  • installing LED lighting – $250,000
  • upgrading to a continuous drying kiln (CDK) – $15–20m.

These are significant costs, but the savings to their energy spend that would follow are also significant and include:

  • briquette replacement – saving approx $650,000 pa
  • replacing steel straps with PET – saving approx $60,000 pa (not including reduced OHS issues from the use of steel)
  • installing LED lighting – saving approx $100,000 pa
  • upgrading to a CDK – saving approx $2m pa
  • plastic wrap disposal rationalisation – saving approx $35k pa.

The total dollar benefit the company could expect, should all of their energy saving projects go ahead, adds up to $2.8m pa.

Future plans

Among the lessons AKD Softwoods say they learned from focusing on ways to reduce their energy and input costs, were the importance of planning and review, spending the time up front to plan (before jumping in) and seeking expert advice. Long-term strategies now being considered by the company include the feasibility of a continuous drying kiln that would use biomass to generate electricity for use, not just on site but also for resale.

I would encourage everyone to investigate resource efficiency. It leads to a more efficient business and has the added benefit of saving considerable money.

David McGinness – Risk Manager, AKD Softwoods

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Boosting Business Productivity

For information about our current grant programs to improve energy and materials efficiency, and reusing or avoiding waste.

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