I read your letter last month with great interest, in that I have done a lot of work with Mother Mining over the years. I think the situation is even more strange than you outline. 3M intentionally designs their products – and equipment – to use the cheapest paper they can buy. I personally have suggested a number of times that they look into specialty paper manufactured to purpose that would eliminate processing problems (and, I think, reduce overall costs) with no success. It makes for more engineering but not necessarily best cost/benefit.
The problem, I think, is that paper companies don’t see 3M as a big consumer. Sure, they make a lot of Post-It’s – but they are made on only a few moderate speed specialty coating machines and then converted using the simplest of converting equipment. Relatively, only a small tonnage is converted. So a paper mill does not see them as worth too much effort.
Another way to look at them would be in a partnership mode where paper would be manufactured to specific, tight tolerances & specifications (like IBM punch cards were back in ancient times), where the mill makes a fair profit and supports the product when changes or new product ideas come up. I doubt that most mills would make that effort. Wausau could have been a good supplier, for example, but now the Brokaw mill is shut down…
Thought you might be interested in this perspective.
John R. Lasswell, P.E. Process Mechanical Engineering Project Management Stillwater, MN
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