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Week of 25 June 12: 10 Months


I spend a lot of time thinking about building and operating paper machines.  We have talked many times in the past about various concepts related to this.  In fact, one of those concepts, the lightweight machine, has been spun off into its own initiative, The Light Green MachineTM Institute, and expanded to include the entire mill, from woodyard to finished goods.  We have also talked about building a machine in a modular fashion, and noted, at least in the tissue grades, several major vendors offer at least a simplistic “packaged” machine that approach this idea.

We think it can be taken further.  In August, our sister publication, Capital Arguments, will be honoring Ed Kersey of Pratt Industries for leading a team that built a machine in Louisiana, USA, in 15 months from first pile in the ground to salable paper.

We think the current goal should be 10 months.


A Special Edition of  Pulp and Paper Radio International's  "Nips" Monday  at 22:00 US EDT (02:00 UTC), 25 June 12 or download later.  Jim Thompson will interview Ian Lifshitz, Sustainability Manager for Asia Pulp and Paper, Americas, concerning APP's environmental record and their path forward.  You will not want to miss this one!  It is located here.


That’s from start of site grading to paper production, in any kind of recycled or non-integrated virgin fiber mill (meaning any grade of paper).

As we see it, the main barrier is too much messing around with the design.  The industry would be better served with standardized designs (with only a limited number of options) for each grade.  This would allow all machinery component suppliers to standardize their options and avoid long technical and commercial contract negotiations.

Look at how they build airplanes.  The airframe maker takes the lead on the project.  The buyer selects interior options, engines and so forth.  Then the airframe maker puts it all together.  The buyer takes delivery.  It takes 11 days to build a Boeing 737 with roughly 3 million parts and around 1,000 suppliers in 30 countries.

We, as an industry, don’t have to become as good as Airbus or Boeing, but we can sure improve on what we have been doing.

Why would we want to do this?  First, it will reduce capitalized interest which recognizes when the project is done the capital costs are the capital costs, whether they be interest on debt, pumps or press frames. Second, it will make startups less risky.  All of this will make mills more economical to build, quicker to earn their return and easier to close when market conditions change.

Perhaps the biggest improvement, however, is we can standardized operator training.  An operator certified to operate a certain kind of machine by grade and model number will be as employable as an airline pilot certified to fly 747’s.  Overall such a program will reduce the cost of our products to end consumers while maintaining profit margins and providing a barrier to entry of competing materials.

Naysayers will say my airplane model is flawed—look at how poorly the airlines operate financially.  I’ll prebut that the basics of our business operations are different.  The airlines are stymied by the fact that when a seat flies empty, it can’t be recovered.  We can move our schedules around and avoid the “empty seat” syndrome.

And one final matter, and here I’ll no doubt step on some toes.  Paper mill operators make lousy machine designers.  I say that from forty years’ experience.  I have seen operating management stick their nose into design concepts for my entire career.  They are not as good at knowing what they need as the machine builders are for a simple reason:  their experience, even in a large company, is much narrower than the machine suppliers’ experience.  It is like having pilots tweak the design of wing flaps.  Do you want to fly on a plane where this has happened?  I don’t. We should not tolerate such tweaking in our paper machines, either.  What do you think?  We ask your opinion here.

We think a faster building pace just may be a safer one, but we are not quite sure.  The logic that leads us to this conclusion is this--the construction would be, by necessity, carefully orchestrated and take less calendar time.  These conditions should provide less opportunity for injury.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

A Consultant Connection Member at your service: Is it really slime? Does something smell funny? Developing a product new antimicrobial properties? Independent Biocide Consulting & Audits. Solving problems. Saving money. International Microbial Associates Linda Robertson

Greenpeace put a banner on the KFC headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky a few weeks ago claiming KFC is using packaging that contains rainforest fiber. They were able to mobilize 28,000 to send emails to KFC within about 5 hours. Perhaps you would like to sign our petition below.


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