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Internet and mobile computing most disruptive to pulp and paper


September 21, 2010
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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Internet and mobile computing-related technologies will have the strongest influence on the global pulp and pa…

Internet and mobile computing-related technologies will have the strongest influence on the global pulp and paper industry in the period up to 2020 according to new research from Pira International. The technologies occupy six of the top ten in a ranking of 25 potentially disruptive technologies. While a number of these technologies pose a threat to the industry, many will create opportunities which can be exploited across the supply chain, notes the Pira International study.
The findings are from a new Pira study — Ten-Year Forecasts of Disruptive Technologies in Paper and Board to 2020 – which identifies the top 25 most influential technologies and examines each to assess the likely impact by 2020.
Technologies ranked 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 in the study (online news, tablet computing, e-commerce, e-books and paper plus digital archiving technologies) are all internet-related. Pira expects the internet will have a pervasive effect on demand, especially for printing and writing paper, and the bleached kraft pulp used in its manufacture.
Pira’s Senior Paper Consultant Graham Moore explains that developments in electronic media are changing business practices and leisure pursuits that once were the preserve of paper: “This loss of demand will not be restored and further rationalization and consolidation of the paper manufacturing base looks certain. However, the threat of declining demand means the opportunities offered by papermaking fibres beyond paper – for example as a structural component – should be exploited. Companies that choose to ignore such developments or are simply unable to muster the resources needed to explore them, have an uncertain future.”
Ranked second, tablet computing poses a significant threat, partly due to its potential to amplify other disruptions, including dissemination of news on the internet. The threat lies in the fact that tablets do not assume the use of a dedicated printer. Consequently users will decrease their overall reliance on printouts. Therefore, tablets are poised to affect mainly printing and writing paper and the associated supply chain. At the same time it is important to remember that tablets yet have to gain their share in a very competitive marketplace and their long-term success is not certain.