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60 Years Strong

"We were there as part of the transition process to our new services, and to build trust," explains Tom Johnstone, president of Buckman Canada since 1998, and its senior vice-president and general man...

June 1, 2008  By Pulp & Paper Canada

“We were there as part of the transition process to our new services, and to build trust,” explains Tom Johnstone, president of Buckman Canada since 1998, and its senior vice-president and general manager for 20 years before that. Last year, Buckman signed a world wide preferred source contract with Kruger, giving it the opportunity to demonstrate its ability to service Kruger’s speciality chemical applications.

“Pulp and paper in Canada is in a tough position. Around May, 2007, I sent a letter to all of our suppliers, advising them that we needed help, and that we were looking for methods for reducing our costs,” explains Georges Richer, Kruger’s senior vice president of procurement. “Buckman was the one who could offer us the best value. Part of that involved giving them a lot more volume. They agreed to help us on the cost and performance.”

Buckman Laboratories, of which Buckman Canada is a trans-national subsidiary, is a privately-held and global full-service specialty chemical supplier. It offers a complete product line capable of serving the needs of the pulp and paper industry, whether for specific applications such as deposit control, retention, sizing, strength, boiler treatment or effluent, or a mill’s total “water in-water-out” specialty chemical process and utility needs.


“Buckman’s transition process, workshops and strategies really impressed me,” Richer says, “They address everyone from senior management down to the production floor. There are interviews, and the process addresses concerns and requests. It is very well organized and well thought out.” When Buckman assumes new responsibilities, whether with a new customer or an established one like Kruger, Buckman holds transition workshops. “Their purpose is to meet all of the key people affected by the change and collect their concerns, expectations and requirements for the new program,” explains Chantale Rouleau, technical marketing manager, papermaking technologies.

A 15-year company associate (Buckman prefers this term to “employee”), Rouleau was the facilitator for the Corner Brook transition workshop. She gave the overview presentation and assisted in the personnel interviews in which each person specified what he or she would and would not want to have happen. Their feedback formed the basis of an action plan, kicking off a long-term partnership with the setting of new goals, defining success and pledging that the results from every continuous improvement project would be clearly measured and documented.

Buckman’s evolution to full-spectrum, service-oriented relationships began in the 1990s, as the pulp and paper industry began retreating from using multiple suppliers, each with its own narrow focus, such as the provision of chemicals for just deposit control, retention, sizing or defoaming.

Using multiple suppliers worked well enough when mills had teams of engineers on staff, but there were issues of ownership when problems arose, Johnstone says. “People were pointing fingers. Mills wanted someone they could call and say, ‘We have a problem. We don’t care who caused it. We just want it fixed.'”

Mills also began outsourcing problem-solving and other knowledge-based services. “They wanted suppliers to solve their process problems, but they wanted full-service suppliers too,” Johnstone adds.

Al Ward, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Alberta Pacific Forest Industries, agrees. “One thing I have seen occur over the last ten to 25 years is a lot fewer technical people in the mills. We have relied on vendors to reduce that head count. Their technical expertise supplements our own knowledge and experience.”

Buckman has been supplying process chemicals and services to Al-Pac (the largest single-line kraft pulp mill in North America) for many years. As with many of its other customers’ mills, Buckman has representatives, expert in pulp and utilities processes, working full-time at Al-Pac.


Buckman Laboratories was founded in Memphis, TN, in 1945 by Dr. Stanley J. Buckman, a microbiologist who developed the first industrial microbiocide for use in pulp and paper. It remains today a privately-held, third-generation family business, with Dr. Buckman’s granddaughter Kathy Buckman Gibson as chairman of the board and his nephew Steven Buckman as chief executive officer. Global company sales were US$540 million in 2007, of which $330 million were in pulp and paper (more than double what it was seven years ago). Buckman Laboratories now operates in over 90 countries, serviced by ten strategically-located manufacturing plants and technical centres in the U. S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Belgium, South Africa, Australia, Singapore and China.

Buckman sold its first carload of product, the first commercial slime control agent, called BSM-11, to a Canadian pulp and paper customer, today called Stadacona, in Quebec City, in 1946, to solve a chronic paper defect problem. More than 60 years later, Stadacona remains a valued Buckman customer.

Denis Berthiaume, director of technical services with Cascades Fine Papers Group in its St-Jrme mill, does not go back that far but recalls, “We have been partners since I came here 17 years ago.

“The great thing about Buckman is that they are hands-on with the process. They have a tough job and they come here with people ready to roll up their sleeves and work with us. Good partners for me are people who can reduce my chemical process costs, as well as show continuous improvements for us. They have done this every year.”

In 1948, Buckman Laboratories of Canada Ltd. was incorporated, with its head office in Montreal and operated as a sales and distribution company through to 1986. According to Johnstone, old timers in the Canadian pulp and paper industry would say that the names Pat Pattison, Bill Stitt, and Stan Buckman were synonymous with slime control in paper mills in Canada in those early days. Sales grew steadily, with Buckman establishing itself as the market-leading slime control provider to the Canadian pulp & paper industry by the early 1960s.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Buckman’s attention was focused on expansion in other parts of the world. Growth in Canada stagnated and local competitors established themselves. In the early 1980s, however, Buckman revitalized itself with new growth in the pulp and paper industry and diversification into other industries. It achieved success by changing its focus from a product-driven to a market-driven company, emphasizing hiring, training, keeping good people, and establishing local manufacturing and technical service facilities.

In 1986, Buckman became a local manufacturer when it installed a chemical blending operation and technical service laboratory in Dorval, QC. Its strategies led to rapid growth that exceeded that facility’s capacity.

In 1991 Buckman built a new 35,000 square-foot facility in nearby Vaudreuil-Dorion to house administrative offices, manufacturing plant/warehouse and a technical services laboratory. A 30,000 square foot expansion in 2002 gave Buckman additional manufacturing equipment, warehouse space and a research laboratory.

“Buckman was originally microbiologists serving all industries,” Johnstone recalls. As it expanded out of deposit control it went from a product-oriented mission statement to the current “provision of solutions” mission statement. “We narrowed our global focus to three core industries, pulp and paper, water treatment and leather, of which pulp and paper is the largest,” Johnstone adds.

Since 1995, the company’s market share in newsprint wet end management (control of colloidal organics and fines retention to stabilize machine operation) in Canada has grown from zero to nearly 36%. Newsprint applications include wet end management, biocides, boil outs, felt conditioning, foam, pitch and scale control.

Buckman adopted the same approach in water treatment; e. g., boiler w
ater treatment, influent and effluent clarification, and sludge dewatering.

“What customers get are knowledgeable service representatives,” says Ken Rossel, Buckman’s vice president, water technologies. With over 35 years in the water treatment industry, his customers call him the Water Doctor. “Most of the products in the water treatment industry are the same,” Rossel adds.

“The differentiators come with service, product application and having a knowledge of water treatment in general.”

At Minas Basin Pulp & Power in Hantsport, Nova Scotia, Buckman has been a sole-source supplier for chemicals and service to the mill’s pulp and paperboard-making processes for 15 years. Buckman wanted to become its sole-source for water treatment too, and three years ago the mill made the switch from its vendor of 30 years.

“We didn’t jump aboard right away. We were nervous,” recalls Terry Gerhardt, vice president operations with Minas Basin. “We said no many times, but one day we couldn’t say no anymore. We needed service and help from outside our mill. Buckman answered all our concerns. We took a gamble and they took care of all our needs.”

Buckman has 500 or-so active customers in Canada. About 60 of them are pulp and paper mills, such as Kruger, AbitibiBowater, Catalyst Paper, White Birch, Tembec, Domtar, Cascades, Sonoco, Irving, Minas Basin, Al-Pac and Howe Sound.

Buckman ships from Vaudreuil, QC and maintains warehouses in Vancouver, Edmonton and at many customer sites. Some bulk tank truck deliveries originate from the company plants in Memphis and Cadet in the U. S. “We continually work with our sales representatives and customers to optimize inventory levels and shipping costs,” says Rosemary Ghaly, treasurer and assistant secretary. She also oversees Buckman’s customer services order department.

“We maintain a high degree of flexibility to meet customers’ needs and we do what needs to be done. They appreciate that,” Ghaly says.

The customer service department keeps specific instructions on each customer; e. g., which door to deliver to and the best time of day to get there and special equipment that needs to be kept on the trucks for unloading the inventory. “Every customer’s set of instructions is different,” Ghaly notes.

The Vaudreuil plant uses a modern barcoding system. Everything entering the plant is given a barcode and everything shipped out is scanned – automatically updating the inventory records. “It gets us very close to real-time inventory tracking. Barcoding also allows us to see how much shipping we can do in a day; that is, whether we can fill an order the same day,” says Ihab Wassef, vice president of operations. The system also helps automate re-supply and allows first in-first out inventory control.

“Barcoding keeps inventory accuracy above 98%, translating into faster order-taking as we instantly know if we have stock,” says Wassef.

Buckman recycles 100% of its Vaudreuil chemical waste. “We don’t discharge anything from the building; it does not have a chemical discharge sewer. We recycle process chemical wash or wash water and residual waste is disposed of in a government-regulated waste facility. We have a very stringent corporate environmental program,” Wassef explains.

“In fact we put safety; i. e., working safely to protect ourselves, others and the environment, foremost as our number one value principle,” says fundamentals manager Tim Packer, who oversees the company’s safety, environment and quality programs. “We are ISO-certified in both environmental ISO 14000 and quality ISO9001 standards and have had no lost-time incidents as a total company in over 13 years.”

Buckman supplies, owns and maintains most of the feed systems for its product applications at the mills – about $12 million worth of physical field assets. In the equipment services area of the Vaudreuil facility are high racks of stainless steel piping and other hardware, pallets with new feed stock assemblies ready to ship and other equipment back from mills for refurbishing. In the last ten years the equipment team has shipped out over 1,000 feed systems.


Chemical sales and field assets notwithstanding, Buckman’s business is actually about people, effective communication and knowledge-sharing. Buckman values its associates and, according to Johnstone, the company has not laid off anyone for lack of work on the company’s part in over 60 years, which is a key part of its code of ethics. New batches of chemicals can always be made and equipment is available for the asking, but associates are irreplaceable. Knowledge is the company’s most prized asset.

“One of our key values is having fun and creating a pleasant environment in which to work,” says Johnstone. He believes these are key ingredients to associate retention and hence, building the company’s knowledge assets. “We currently have more than 135 associates at Buckman Canada, 32% of whom have ten or more years of service and 60% with five or more years of service, so we must be doing something right,” Johnstone notes.

Roughly 80 of the associates are field representatives, who work alongside of and share their expertise with mill employees. Rouleau, who is responsible for technical support on the pulp and paper customer side, has seven technical specialists working for her in several areas: wet end management, tissue, pulp, deinking and related recycling, deposit control, water treatment, sizing and strengthening resins. They are on the road 75% of the time, trouble-shooting and showing field representatives how to apply technologies.

“We help our representatives successfully apply our products/technology by teaching them what they will do in the processes,” Rouleau explains. “Product X might not work equally well at mills A, B and C. Some of our technology specialists have 25 plus years in the industry. They know that a particular technology will solve a problem or make a machine run more efficiently. You need the expertise and know-how of the people behind the technology to deliver the “Creative Application of Knowledge” as per our Mission Statement.”

At Al-Pac, two representatives, Craig Collier and Travis Dryden, are in the mill every week. “They work alongside our people and develop solid relationships with our technical and operations people and come up with better solutions. They have the benefit of experience gained from their exposure to other mills and the depth of their entire resources around the world,” says Ward.

Dan Morrison is the field representative at Minas Basin. He lives in Hantsport, NS, where most of the mill’s employees have traditionally lived. “He is at our disposal for whatever we can use him for in chemicals or otherwise. Any field reps we have here are part of the team. They are in our production, environmental and strategy meetings,” says Gerhardt. “They have been a valuable resource, bringing in experts we need.” (Buckman has even brought in experts to help tackle mill problems outside of their official supplier responsibilities, according to Gerhardt.)

“This is how we differentiate ourselves from our competition. It is not the chemistry. It is the customer intimacy approach of adding value to the customer’s operation,” says Davor Mehes, Buckman’s vice president of papermaking technologies.

In 2002 Glenn Mudaly, a chemist specializing in organic and surface chemistry, transferred from Buckman in South Africa to Buckman in Canada. His responsibilities included heading up a research and development department project to develop a new generation of high-performance defoaming products for the Canadian industry. His 20 years of hands-on experience enables him to take a concept from the bench to field lab testing, customizing a formulation to a mill’s unique foaming environment, back to the plant for manufacturing scale-up and then back to the mill for industrial scale application optimization.

“My job includes working hand-in-hand with the sales people i
n the trial phases and transferring confidence to our representatives and customers that we have the right product to solve their problem. The representative is my customer, and the mill is his customer,” Mudaly explains. We do a lot of work with the people at the mills to develop the most effective chemicals at the best cost.”

When Mudaly first came to Canada, many mills were using oil-based chemistries. Buckman wanted to move to new-generation, water-based chemistries, which have environmental and cost advantages. Mills require less of the company’s new, more efficient defoamers, which reduce problems such as pitch development. “The passion and focus by Glenn on this goal has resulted in significant growth in our defoamer market share in Canada over a relatively short period of time,” Mehes confirms.


Buckman is continuously developing new chemicals for pulp, paper and water treatment applications. In fact, 30% of the company’s sales are from products less than five years old.

One of Buckman’s newest technologies is a strength aid, a fibre modification enzyme called Buzyme. It allows mills to power down the refiners and use less energy to get the same fibre quality. Another is Optimyze, a line of enzymatic products that reduces stickies in paper machine systems. Buckman Canada helped lead the way in the development of Buckman Laboratories’ Mosaic microparticle program for retention and drainage on paper machines.

Buckman has a collaborative R&D approach with a central R&D development group in Memphis, TN, which teams up with a global technical expert working group (of which Rouleau is a member). This working group recommends which projects R&D will work on, based on ideas and proposals from many quarters, including customers, and acts as the liaison with customers.

On a closer level of interaction with its customers, Buckman is involved in many continuous improvement projects. Each follows a formalized process, whether for developing new chemical formulations to solve mill-specific problems, or for trialing techniques that could save customers money. In any one mill, Buckman is typically working on many projects simultaneously.

Buckman requests that customers sign off on completed projects, which include documenting their dollar value. As Johnstone voiced one morning in his office. “Ideally, you don’t want the chemicals to cost anything. Companies should be making a profit from them.”

Mehes summarizes the continuous improvement process: “We gather the stakeholders in a room, address the issues, develop a plan and lay out how it will be run. We ask how we will know whether a project was successful; for example, price of fibre times dollars saved. We build a formula and plug in the numbers to calculate the savings. At the end of the process we ask for the customer’s acknowledgement of the success of the project.”

A single continuous improvement project might take 12 months to execute. It contains key elements of a well-designed scientific experiment: introduce the problem, design the experiment, operationally define the terms, including nebulous words like “success”, run the project and analyse the results.

“Some mills will work with us as partners in product development, because that is what they need. That is how we and the customers progress. When we say continuous innovation we really mean it,” says Rouleau. Mehes adds, “What is preoccupying the customer? Our bread and butter is problem-solving and documenting continuous improvement in our customers’ operations.”

A while ago, Al-Pac wanted to reduce the amount of talc needed to coat pitch particles and reduce the deposition rate on equipment. Buckman worked with the mill’s operations and technical people to develop technologies and application points using its pitch control chemicals to effectively reduce the deposition rate. “Prior to the Buckman chemical application we would have to “boil” this system out on an annual basis to remove the deposition. We have not had to boil the system out now for close to three years,” Ward explains.

The company also developed a solution to eliminate some of the chemicals required for the felt wash, saving Al-Pac hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Gerhardt has his own story of a sticky problem that Buckman solved for Minas Basin: “We had a major stickies problem – contaminants like tar that affect end product quality and efficiencies (if they end up on the rollers they cause downtime) on the machine. We used to talk about tar on a daily basis. Buckman came up with a chemical called Optimyze 540 Stickies Control, a product they developed about five years ago. They started applying it to our feedstock and it worked very well. We don’t talk about tar every day anymore. We have done a lot of programs with Buckman in the last 12 years.”

Buckman ensures that successful projects and any service shortcomings are regularly put on the table for discussion. This transparency expresses several of its Eight Business Management Standards, distilled from over 400 customer and prospect surveys and 290 in-depth personal interviews.

Mehes explains: “Our customers review how we are doing with regards to standard services that are expected of us. We review continuous improvement projects and successes. We present new technologies and innovations and other continuous improvements we want to get on the board. Our representatives have our customers fill out customer satisfaction surveys on topics such as service at the mill level, continuous improvement programs … every aspect of the work we do with them. We consolidate this and present it at the business review meeting. We resolve issues.”


Chemically treating mill water supplies is as important as wet end chemical management. For example, cooling systems need clean heat transfer surfaces and no systems can afford deposit build-up. Corrosion is the enemy of high pressure boilers. Process water applications require pure water and effluent has to be treated before being released into the environment.

Wanting to grow its water treatment business, Buckman acquired the Eclipse Chemical Company in 2000. “Following this acquisition we needed additional manufacturing equipment that could produce our multiple component water treatment line. Buckman invested several million dollars in new equipment and warehouse expansion for our water treatment business,” says Rossel.

Buckman formulates and manufactures its own Bulab line of chemicals in Vaudreuil: boiler water products, cooling water products, influent and effluent water products.

Applying the same service model it has applied to wet end management, Buckman has grown its water treatment business from less than one percent of company sales to 22% since 1998. Of the sole-source contract Minas Basin awarded to Buckman three years ago, Gerhardt says, “They took it on and made us feel comfortable about it. When Buckman decides to take on a new responsibility, they put the right foot forward.”

The company wants to offer seamless, coordinated service between its paper making and water treatment technology associates and water in -water out service. “In some mills pulp and paper and water treatment can look like two different companies. This can confuse the customer. We want both services to appear as one company to them. We plan service, problem-solving and planning activities together and seamlessly. This is really important,” says Rossel.

Pulp and paper accounts for 40 percent of Buckman water treatment business. Other target markets are what is known as the middle market, which includes food & beverage plants and heavy industry, which includes oil refineries and petrochemical plants e. g., Buckman counts among its customers one of the largest oil sands plants in Fort McMurray.

“Our strategy is to continue growing water treatment applications in pulp and paper, but also to grow rapidly in these other markets. It is very competiti
ve and the differentiator is not the product, but market segment-specific product knowledge and applications, such as the right dosage, monitoring the current treatment level and ensuring that it is applied in the right places,” says Rossel.

Buckman has accounts with over ten Canadian independent power generators. “We are successful there because we are very knowledgeable about high-pressure steam boilers. There are many water treatment applications and we can transfer knowledge from pulp and paper to utilities,” Rossel explains.

Johnstone is proud that even as the pulp and paper industry has consolidated in recent years, Buckman continues to expand business with long-time customers and to open accounts with new ones. With the stability and depth of knowledge that comes with 60 years in the industry, he says, “We are confident we are going to be a major market player and continue to grow. We have the advantage of being a private company and as such, can focus long-term on serving our customer needs rather than on the short-term demands of the financial markets.

“We have a great track record in Canada. We have a great group of associates with a passion for delivering customer-specific services and products and the creative application of knowledge.”



“We, the associates of Buckman Laboratories, will excel in providing measurable, cost-effective improvements in output and quality for our customers by delivering customer-specific services and products, and the creative application of knowledge.”


5 Value Principles

(The foundation on which the “Mission” is carried out)

1. Safety: working safely to protect ourselves, others & the environment

2. Ethics: doing the right thing

3. Relationships: building an environment of trust & respect

4. Success: achieving individual & organizational goals

5. Fun: having fun & creating an enjoyable environment in which to work


“Minas Basin and Buckman are both family-owned companies with very similar goals, mission statements and values. Buckman has proven to be the best partner company that we have ever wanted to be involved with.”

-Terry Gerhardt, VP operations, Minas Basin Pulp & Power.


We help our representatives successfully apply our products / technology by teaching them what they will do in the processes


Effective Communication

As a knowledge provider, Buckman laboratories attaches great value to effective communication, from “think-t” cards reminding associates how to effectively prepare for, conduct and follow through on every meeting, to “K’netix”, its worldwide network for sharing knowledge on problems and solutions.

Its internal standards for communicating with every customer are formalised in its account Management Programs (aMP) which deal with transition, evaluations, customer satisfaction, problem solving etc.; leaving nothing to chance.

On the mill floor and in production meetings, field representatives work alongside the mill workers and talk their language. “there is no blaming when things don’t go right. we work together to figure it out and if necessary we pull the plug and start over. Buckman shares in the pain and the glory,” says al ward, executive vice president and chief operating officer, alberta Pacific forest industries.


“Buckman’s senior people are out here ready to get their hands dirty, which is very similar to what we do. they don’t give up on trying to understand our problems. they work with us to deliver solutions. they don’t promise things they can’t deliver and they are true to their word.” -Al Ward, COO Alberta Pacific.


A Worldwide Standard

Buckman’s “Eight Business Management Standards” maximise customer retention. they are applied in an organised way to every customer, so the company meets their expectations.

• Communication: communicating effectively;

• System knowledge: in-depth knowledge of the customer’s systems and business;

• Plans (mutually agreed-to goals): goal-driven achievement, risk analysis, prevention;

• Safety & Product Stewardship: you are safe, we are safe, the system is safe;

• Program Manuals: on-site manuals for customers to follow;

• Service & Activity Reports: regular reporting of activities;

• Business Reviews: to manage the business relationship and ensure alignment with customer goals;

• Continuous Improvement/ROI: proof of benefits and value received for money spent.

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