Sawmill moves with the times in age of automation

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Redmond Sawmill managing director Corey Matters.
Camera IconRedmond Sawmill managing director Corey Matters. Credit: Albany Advertiser

While many sawmills across WA have closed in recent decades, Redmond Sawmill continues to produce high-end timber products which are sent across Australia.

Processing 10,000 tonnes of timber a year, the mill is about to receive an upgrade to automated machines.

It will be a major change to the current very physical process, which will allow the mill to take on a second species, karri, and more than double production.

While plenty of timber will be cut, no jobs will be.

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WA’s south was formerly dotted with mills as a once-thriving timber industry drove the economy.

However, many have closed their doors over the past 40 years, leaving the historic craft’s legacy in just a few hands.

The mill processes green and dried timbers for the railway market, the structural market, flooring, decking, furniture, joinery and farming.

Logs are acquired through the Forest Products Commission of WA, ensuring the timber is sustainably harvested.

When the logs arrive they are kept wet to stop splitting when cutting and are then cut into different sized planks. If they are not being sold as green products, they are stored for drying.

The thinner cuts may take up to nine months to dry and thicker cuts can take up to 14 months.

Managing director Corey Matters took over the operations in 2015 and said the $1.5 million investment would help process the wood quicker to meet markets the mill had taken over in recent years.

“The upgrades are to service the new markets that we have picked up in exporting and taking on the second species,” he said.

“The new mill will be automated so we can process those bigger karri logs efficiently.

“It has been a long time coming and getting the markets lined up first was the most important thing before we could go on and make that type of investment.”

The finished products are typically sold to the east coast.

“Since I have been here, the WA economy has been tough, and people in the industry say it is the worst they have seen it in 40 years,” Mr Matters said.

“Being diversified and being able to sell overseas and interstate gives strength to the business.”

Karri will mostly go to wharf and jetty construction, with offcuts, bark and sawdust sold locally.

Renovations are estimated to be completed by August.

Logs at the Redmond Sawmill;
Camera IconLogs at the Redmond Sawmill; Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

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