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Thunder Bay: Industry Outlook and Realities

Networks are based on friendship and the sharing of information," began Colin Bruce, the publisher of the local Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, setting the tone for the two events, when he spoke to a gathering of the 2004 PAPTAC executive council w...


November 1, 2004
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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Networks are based on friendship and the sharing of information,” began Colin Bruce, the publisher of the local Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, setting the tone for the two events, when he spoke to a gathering of the 2004 PAPTAC executive council with chairmen of standing committees, along with chairmen and vice-chairmen of branches.

The message was carried through to the end of the week, when one of the first-time vendors exhibiting at the Trade Show, Denzil Brown of Prochem, described the show as successful because of the traffic at his booth. “There was a great mix of people here from the industry,” he explained. “Everybody knew everybody, [it’s a] close-knit industry. There was no sense of animosity or competition. It was worthwhile.”

Together, the events portrayed a harmony of purpose in support of the pulp and paper industry.

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PAPTAC joint meeting

The week began with the PAPTAC meeting representing the organization’s membership across Canada and beyond. With an overall picture of the activities of PAPTAC, this was an opportunity to exchange views and assess plans for the future. A session on Best Practices was held and another on Needs Assessment, with all the committess and branches reporting on membership and activities. The wrap-up included a strategic planning session for all participants.

A special tour was arranged for everyone to see the Bowater Thunder Bay mill. With such a large and complex operation, after the welcome by VP and resident manager of the Thunder Bay Mill Operations, Don Campbell, the tour split into three groups in order to better focus on specific interests.

The end of the joint meeting was marked by a reception at the Old Fort William historic site, a reconstruction of the North West Company’s vast fur-trading empire from 1803 to 1821.

MidWest Annual Meeting

Ajoy Chatterjee, chair of the MidWest conference, welcomed the guests to the Annual Meeting & Trade Show which started the day after the joint session ended. “We may not have the numbers but we have the quality,” he said. “The standard set by the MidWest branch is a direct reflection of the hard work done by the mills.”

Jukka Tiitinen, president of Metso Paper North America, gave a keynote address in which he described the need to better serve the customer. This, he stressed, would best be done through costs coming down. Metso accomplished this externally for the customers by developing innovative products and internally for themselves by reducing the cost of producing products and maintaining organizational efficiency.

Among other statistics that he presented, Tiitinen spoke of some of the recent trends in the pulp and paper industry. These included more and more consolidations which mean fewer but larger customers; globalization of the industry and the rise of paper producing and consuming countries like China; a shift in demand which has led to poor profitability for paper producers; a decrease in the number of new paper machines purchased in North America; and the growing importance of rebuilds and maintenance to keep existing machinery operating efficiently.

Tiitinen pointed out that capital spending had stabilized in North America but at a lower level than it had been several years previous. This reflected the difference in the world markets, with those of North America being installed-base driven, just as in Europe, whereas those in South America and Asia were new installation markets.

Tiitinen attributed his company’s accomplishments to the mills, saying, “The success Metso has had is from you.”

Presidents’ Panel

To further enhance the sharing of information, the Thursday morning Presidents’ Panel represented a range of experience covering the mill side, the supplier side and the buyer side. The experts consisted of Frank Dottori, Tembec’s president and CEO, Robin Luck, vice-president marketing of Buckman Laboratories International and Dan Dowis, general manager of newsprint and supply at Knight Ridders’ Shared Services Center. Together, they gave a balanced report on The Industry Outlook and Realities.

The first to speak, Frank Dottori, listed the main reasons that the pulp and paper industry was important to the economic and social fabric of Canada. Despite the billions of dollars contributed towards the balance of trade, the over-350 communities dependent on the industry and the major improvements in environmental performance over the last decade, he pointed out that the media often picked on the industry, reporting only the negative aspects. “We have to start thumping our own chests,” he said, explaining that companies need to take a proactive approach with both the communities and media. There were, he admitted, challenges. Problems included solving energy needs and therefore the industry needed creativity, something Dottori himself was eager to support. “This is why we need innovation,” he said. However, he pointed out that the industry was already exhibiting social responsibility and pro-active leadership, so there was an opportunity to be positive about the industry.

“And what better industry can there be than one based on a carbon cycle?” he asked.

Robin Luck represented the supplier side, saying that if the industry focused on innovation and added value, it could differentiate itself. The culture change should include sharing knowledge freely. “Engaged employees drive a successful company,” he stated.

Admitting that some of the things that he was going to say would be hard to reconcile with the previous speakers, Dan Dowis started by affirming that newspapers were here to stay since about 54% of the population interacted daily with a newspaper. The old paradigm included a focus on a single core print product, distributed once a day. In contrast, the new paradigm showed the necessity of sharing content across multiple platforms. There was, however, a lot of competition and to be successful, the newsprint buyers needed the mills to produce a better product at no additional cost.

“The challenge,” he said, “was to think like a partner, not an adversary. The acid test for all your decisions should be: will this help my partner to improve its business, so we can improve ours?”

Annual Meeting & Trade Show summary

The only criticism Ajoy Chatterjee, chair of the MidWest Branch, had of this year’s show was the total number of registrants which he felt should have been higher.

“I think the conference was very successful and informative, with good sessions,” he said. The trade show itself was sold out, he pointed out, while maintaining a high standard. “We do not accept low quality displays,” he stated.

Given the high quality of the show, the sessions and the hospitality, Stuart Scott of UPM Kymmene, summed it up by saying, “For a regional show, it’s fantastic.”