Where human/machine interface is going in our paper mills is hard to guess, it seems to be just at the cusp of arriving as we implement Industry 4.0. On one hand, it will make us better papermakers, but on the other, like my automobile experiences, we will likely have many of the unconscious dependencies...
I was assistant project manager in the engineering department at a mill back in the early 1980's. I have referenced this experience a number of times in this column over the years. One of the upgrades we made at the time was to go from pneumatic controls to digital computer control. This means that the machine, which only a few days ago was operated from benchboard on the floor was now operated from a control room. Now a mere month later, the bench boards are gone. Keep in mind, the crews on this machine had been running it from benchboards for about 14 years...
This is my 52nd September in the workforce. I think management is tougher than ever. Think about it--when I started even OSHA did not exist. People were glad to have jobs and they put up with all sorts of things at work that simply aren't tolerated today, both from the standpoint of society's mores and from a labor regulatory perspective.
Silas, the CEO of REO, wasn't finished last week. He had another story he wanted to relate.
After a few lights of recreation, the Great Mother convened us once again. "Rats," she announced, "Let me introduce the Rat 'Em Out Detective Agency. You can just call them "REO" for short." Six wizened looking old rats came to the front of the room.
The Great Mother called the meeting to order after a short break. "Who has a case for us?" Dis came up the side aisle. There were a lot of rats at the meeting. They had been attracted by the thoughts of a trip to the Big Things capital city and to their building where the biggest rats of all congregated. The Great Mother seemed to be in a benevolent mood, "And what is your story, my child?" "In the mill where I work, there is this female Big Thing. I should say, 'there was.' She is in jail now."
The Rats arrived at the big building with the big half ball on top. What we didn't count on is how bad it stinks inside! Don't know how the Big Things stand it, but after a day or two, we pretty much got used to it. I guess because it has been here a long time and gotten saturated with the residuals of Big Thing's activities causes it to stink so. The Great Mother called us to order. "Thank you for coming. As usual, the Big Things have been working overtime again creating havoc and committing crimes throughout the land. What's on the docket today?"
By Jim Thompson interpreting for Fos the Rat: You Big Things may think we rats are in the dark about your activities. Of course, if you have been reading this column for any length of time, you know that is not true. I (Fos) have been reporting on your misdeeds and malfeasance since August of 2015. Yes, this makes the seventh year Mr. Jim has yielded his column to me for the month of August.
If you have read this series of July columns, you might be thinking I take a dim view of environmentalism principles. I don't--as long as they are measured in their application or make good economic sense. Don't trust the public to be informed. I'll use an example that is not necessarily environmental to prove my point and to show you some of the ways misinformation abounds...
You would be hard pressed to find a topic or concept more universally and shamelessly exploited as a marketing aid than environmentalism. Positive vibes from environmentalism are used by nearly every marketer on earth to show alignment of their products and services with clean air, clean water and less landfill waste. It is a safe bet--who doesn't want clean air, clean water and less landfill waste? Sadly, as an industry, we were a bit slow on the uptake.
Never heard of the Sunrise Movement? You should check them out--www.sunrisemovement.org. On 28 June 2021, they blocked all entrances to the White House to get attention. Some were promptly arrested. One might characterize the Sunrise Movement as Greenpeace on steroids. Youth oriented, the Sunrise Movement has a multifaceted activism focusing on the environment and the Green New Deal. On their website, they list twelve principles. You will have to deal with them.
In the innocent days of the 1970's, the US Environmental Protection Agency was formed. It came into being on 9 July 1970. Other countries had formed similar bodies in the same era. Sweden's was founded in 1967, for instance. Others were formed as late as the 1990's. Back in those days, air and water pollution were spewing forth with little control and little was being done about it. The correct approach was science coupled with appropriate regulations. This has happened worldwide now, by one of two methods.
In this final set of scenarios, I was in the role of Services Manager (responsible for maintenance, engineering, and the technical and power departments) at a mill in Ohio. We were having trouble with contaminants in our recycled fiber supply. The state-of-the-art solution at the time was to replace screen baskets with holes with ones with very small slots. Of course, like all such situations, this solution had spread around the industry as fast as it would on Facebook today (but this was pre-internet). We had screen baskets of the requisite specifications on order, but delivery was months away.
We were in the middle of engineering and planning a rebuild. Our instrument engineer comes strolling into my office one morning. He's concerned about the delivery of the new distributed control system. On the paper machine, we were going from bench boards on the operating floor (with pneumatic controls) to a digital system in a new control room. Huge change. Our instrument engineer, I'll call him Jeff, was getting conflicting stories from the supplier concerning delivery. I told him to make a couple of more calls, and if he was not happy with the answers he was getting, we would jump on a plane. We jumped on a plane.
As I mentioned last week, we are in a new era of shortages, delays and high costs. Back when many of you engineers and purchasing agents in the mills in the United States were still watching Sesame Street, some of us were going to extraordinary lengths to get the goods our mills needed to stay on schedule and operating. You may need to start thinking this way, too--but be sure to read the safety cautions at the end of this column.
This is the month I talk about procurement. If you buyers or purchasing agents have been moping around for years, thinking you are not getting any recognition, those days are over. Suddenly, you are the center of attention. Pricing and schedule are paramount these days.
As I wrap up the energy columns for this month, I wanted to leave you with a few words of caution.
We have traditionally calculated the investment in energy projects based on savings against alternatives, fuel supply availability or regulatory requirements. What if we drag the marketing folks into the equation and ask them how much more product they could sell or what kind of a competitive advantage they could realize if they could say your facilities and products are more favorable on the carbon question than other manufacturers? Is there a piece of the economic question that could be answered with this discussion?
For decades I have been saying the pulp and paper industry is one of the most exciting sectors in the manufacturing world. It is full of surprises, never ceases to be entertaining and is continually offering new ways to succeed. Now an outfit called Allrise Capital has once again reinforced my beliefs in this thinking.
Here in the United States, with a change in administrations, there is often a change in energy policy. It seems no different this time. If you will recall, many times I have said all energy policy is political. This has not changed. My confidential touchstone on energy activity tells me energy research requests are up, too.
Regardless of your personal beliefs or the science you (do) (do not) believe, carbon neutrality is in your energy future. There are many high-profile companies and CEOs involved in the "CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge" including our own advertising partner, SAP. The Carbon Neutral Challenge has a list of six guiding principles.
Occasionally you will run into a safety situation that is not covered by your training. What to do? My approach to such situations is multi-pronged. Urgency, risk, obvious and unknown are adjectives I would use to describe my approach in these matters, coupled with a heightened awareness of my surroundings.
Last week, we talked about excitement creating dangerous safety conditions. This week let's talk about the opposite--routine creating dangerous safety conditions. Because we work around large machinery, clamp trucks and so forth, which, for the most part behave as they should, we become complacent that about these items. Paper machines can kill--and they have. Clamp trucks can kill--and they have. Dynamic accidents (things flying apart, things falling) are dangerous.
One of the most dangerous times, at work, home or wherever is when we get excited. When excited, we often don't think about safety. How many times have you come into the mill excited (perhaps by the traffic you had just driven in)? How many times have you left the mill excited, with plans to go on vacation or do something else exciting when you got off shift that day? How do we fix this?
The pressure to meet production goals is directly in conflict with safety procedures unless you work hard and creatively to take the conflict out of this scenario, for there is a conflict here, no matter what anyone says. In reality, doing tasks the safest way is often the most efficient way.