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Mill Tour: Learning from the Scandinavians


January 1, 2002
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Last spring’s mill tour of Scandinavia, organized by Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada, was a success by all accounts — meeting its stated purpose: give papermakers a close view of such …

Last spring’s mill tour of Scandinavia, organized by Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada, was a success by all accounts — meeting its stated purpose: give papermakers a close view of such large-scale companies as UPM-Kymmene, Holmen Paper, Stora Enso, SCA and Raisio Chemicals.

The tour, officially called Newsprint and Mechanical Printing Grades Committee Mill Tour of Scandinavia 2001, or ScanTour, was put together by Jo-Ann Roy, manager of events for PAPTAC in Montreal. “The main objective was to see some new equipment in the mills,” Roy pointed out. “And that was definitely met.”

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Part of ScanTour’s success can be attributed to Swedish and Finnish hospitality. “They let the guys climb on top of the equipment,” she said, “including letting them poke their flashlights inside.”

For Paul Doyon, PM1 manager at Norske Canada’s mill in Campbell River, BC, the tour achieved its stated objectives. “It allowed us to see one of the fastest paper machines in the world. I brought back some ideas that I would like to implement here.”

Doyon was one of the organizers of the 10-day tour that took the group of 21 to seven mills in Finland and Sweden. Participants travelled thousands of kilometres, including 1500 kilometres through Sweden in three days. For the most part, they saw paper machines that were operating for less than 10 years.

Some of the highlights of ScanTour were:

UPM Kaipola in Finland: an online LWC machine (rebuilt in 1996), with a design speed of 1600 m/min and a trim width of 8.34 m;

UPM Jamsankoski in Finland: world-class SCA machine (installed in 1992) having a speed of 1500 m/min and a trim width of 9.30 m.

UPM Rauma in Finland: a Valmet-model LWC machine (installed in 1998) producing 400 000 t/y, with a design speed of 1800 m/min and a trim width of 9.20 m.

Stora Enso Hyltebruk in Sweden: A Beloit BelBaie III-model newsprint machine (installed in 1989) with a speed of 1450 m/min and a trim width of 8.40 m. It uses a Tri-Nip with fourth press.

SCA Graphics Ortviken in Sweden: a Voith-model inline LWC machine (installed in 1996) with a speed of 1400 m/min and trim width of 8.0 m. It has online coating and calendering.

Fast but not furious

Given the pace of the tour, mill visits typically lasted 31/2-hours, followed by a question-and-answer session. “It was well done and informative,” Doyon noted.

Luc Fortier, chairman of PAPTAC’s Paper Machine Committee and a paper machine specialist at SNC-Lavalin Cowan in Montreal, said that the tour’s ultimate purpose was to view new technologies that could be brought back to Canada. “It is only by seeing leading technologies that we could implement them in our mills,” he said. “Most participants were papermakers, and whether it was a big or small idea — they brought back a new idea or philosophy.”

Imre Erdos, manager of manufacturing development at Bowater Canada in Montreal, said speed of production and the modern paper machines gave him food for thought. “We saw very modern machines, which greatly differs from what is the norm in North America. They seem to justify a lot of capital expenditure.”

That is particularly evident in the installation of new paper machines, which operate at high-speed. For example, the latest newsprint machine (PM 11) at Stora Enso Kvarnsveden in Borlange, Sweden, has a 8.6-m trim width and has achieved a record one-day speed of 1625 m/min, and a monthly speed of 1574 m/min at an operating efficiency of about 87%. (The design speed is 1500 m/min.)

That last fact is remarkable, because in Sweden and Finland, it is tonnages per unit that is important, rather than operating efficiency — thus, the machines are optimized to produce more paper. “This differs from the North American philosophy to run at the highest efficiency,” Erdos said.

As well, technical people and engineers know much more than the technical side of the technology, which is something that he remarked to his Bowater colleague, Murray Hewitt of Bowater in Coosa Pines, AL (formerly Alliance Forest Products Inc.). “They are well-versed in the total business,” Erdos noted. “That differs from many Canadian and North American mills.”

There’s more. “They seem to really concentrate on the details of operation, such as water use and energy consumption,” Erdos said. “They are really on top of it — more than we are in North America.”

The personal touch

For example, it wasn’t only machine speeds and tonnes outputted and other such statistical measurements that kept the papermakers interested. Many participants remarked how the offices were furnished. “I felt that I was walking in to an IKEA store — they were so modern,” Roy of PAPTAC said. Among the technological wonders was a conference room laden with auditorium-style seating, digital video and controlled lighting. Roy added: “Many of the guys looked around and said — ‘We don’t have this in our mills.'”

Perhaps not. Still, in some cases, safety was more relaxed than in North America. Hard hats and safety glasses, the norm in North America, were remarkably absent among the mills the group visited. “We saw people walking around in sandals,” Roy said.

Scandinavians have invested billions of dollars in modern machines, which can produce paper at record speeds. Doubtless, they are reaping some very real benefits, some of which the Canadian contingent will eventually implement at their mills.

Technology has its place and its importance cannot be overemphasized, yet for all the talk of technological advantages that the Scandinavians hold in the way of fast and productive machines, it was something completely different that shared centre stage: the cleanliness of the mills. “Many mills had ceramic tiles on the floor,” Fortier of SNC-Lavalin noted. “You could almost eat off of them.”

And in many cases, paper machine operators keep plants next to running machines, a testament to the Scandinavian love of nature and order “It’s a difference in philosophy,” said Fortier, perhaps with a slight hint of envy.

Perry J. Greenbaum is an award-winning business and technology writer. He can be reached at saltpub@sympatico.ca.

FAST PAPER PRODUCTION

There’s no denying that speed typifies the Scandinavian approach to paper production. Imre Erdos, manager of manufacturing development at Bowater Canada in Montreal, sums up the Scandinavian business model. “They are running the equipment very fast. Typically, machines operate at speeds greater than 1200 metres/minute.”

And the fastest machines operate almost 50% faster, at speeds approaching 1800 m/min. For example, at Holmen Paper’s Braviken mill in Norrkoping, Sweden, its PM 53 newsprint machine runs at 1780 m/min (about 5800 ft/min), producing almost 300 000 tonnes/year of standard newsprint (40 to 48.5 g/m3). Its fibre furnish is 60% TMP (exclusively spruce) and 40% DIP.

The Voith-model machine, installed in 1996, is state-of-the-art and contains the latest in papermaking equipment. including:

Module Jet Dilution Headbox;

DupFormer CFD;

DuoCentri Nipco Flex press, with shoe in third press;

Tandem single-nip soft calenders; and

DuoReel with centre wind assist.

The mill, which employs 740 people (no jobs are outsourced), posted revenues of about 3.1-billion Swedish kroner, or about $567-million.

– Perry J. Greenbaum

DIFFERING MANAGEMENT STYLES

One chief reason that the Scandinavians do so well as an industry is that the government more directly supports it than in Canada. There are other differences. For one, senior management from Finland and Sweden are more inclined to attend conferences and association-sponsored courses and other educational programs.

Such is not new information, but it bears repeating. “Their association is backed by the mills and the senior decision-makers,” said Jo-Ann Roy, manager of events for PAPTAC. Any one who has followed the industry for years will agree that the North American industry shows less enthusiasm, in general, for their industry associations.

Perhaps one could learn from the Swedish model. After all, there might be a direct correlation between in
dustry support and financial and corporate well-being.

– Perry J. Greenbaum


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