Sometimes simple solutions are the best solutions. And a similarly simple solution to a very complex problem has recently come to light with transportation, using robotics
As the ball drops in Times Square on New Years Day, the trees in South America grow ever taller, and are much better and more productive than that dropping ball (which mainly yields a great deal of traffic). Interesting things are happening in South America, and I do suspect capital projects for 2024 will be affected, and hopefully started for the upcoming year. Why is that?
Have you ever seen those large, round, glass jars filled with marbles (or candies, or Matchbox cars, etc.) where you had to guess how many objects were in the jar - the answer being some incredibly huge number? (And did you ever win the prize?) Along that same line of thought, I was wondering this week if it were possible to count up the vast number of semiconductors on the property of the average mill (I really do think of this stuff) - not including the semiconductors in every mobile phone that the employees carry.
Switching to green energy seems all well and good until you get into the details.
Quality is the commitment to excellence that drives the relentless pursuit of perfection. But interfering with that relentless pursuit is a strong EU governmental push to go completely digital, particularly with industrial products, medical products and other consumer information. No paper. Digital only. As a result the European print and paper industry is uniting, reminding legislators that going" digital only" is not neutral but would be harmful in some cases. The proposed restriction of paper would result in wide-ranging social, educational, and economic risks, beneficial to no one.
In wood chemistry classes in college, one thing I learned was that trees are fascinating. We spent a bit of time on the root system of trees, but far more on what was above ground. After all, that's what paper makers are most interested in. Since college days, I've learned a lot more about trees. And much of what's fascinating about trees begins, actually, with what's underground.
Today we're looking at the flip side of smart procurement (June's topic): increasing safety and productivity with digital downtime. As a background, if you google the topic you'll get an amusing list of headlines, ranging from how to fight tech addiction, to articles telling you not to bother disengaging from a screen addiction since it's apparently useless. But how does this even remotely relate to the pulp and paper industry???
Right now there's a strong trend of wanting to "take down" paper companies and the government officials who allow them. - There are stories all over the news to this effect. But there is a way to have paper mills welcome in their communities. It is doable. How? It requires a multifaceted approach.
It's not a question of if smart procurement is coming to mills. It's a question of when.
Despite all the safety training, sometimes things happen that you really didn't see coming. This month for safety, we'll cover a couple extra things that aren't usually discussed in those monthly safety trainings, starting with what's in the news...
Pay now, or pay more later, or... pay dramatically more much later. Simple as that. That's the essence of mill maintenance.
You can't make sandcastles without sand, you can't make skyscrapers without steel, and you can't make paper without wood or fiber. And it's trains that are central to the transportation of products into and out of a pulp and paper mill. Back last December, we had quite the problem with the railroads, but what exactly was going on?
Surely you've completed one of those "simple" home projects that ended up requiring multiple trips to Home Depot. Once finished you likely breathed a deep sigh of relief as you quietly kicked yourself for your lack of planning. Similarly, the paper industry is a very capital intensive industry - referring to last month's article, many capital projects focus on reducing fossil fuel usage. But when your capital project ends up requiring multiple trips and delays due to forgotten items, results can be disastrous. So what are proven steps management can take to reduce these needless trips and delays?
Our mill got a call one day from Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO), asking if we were doing anything unusual? As it so happened, we were restarting the mill after the spring shut down and maintenance. Why did they ask?
We've come a long way - from disintegrating paper straws to being on the verge of having plastic-free packaging, and a fully recyclable beer bottle with a wood fiber outer lining. Cellulose and pulp are in the forefront of the away-from-plastic movement (as it should be).
Giving allowances is easy, but those expenses add up alarmingly quickly. Not a great solution. So to use returns and allowances to boost sales in your mill, let's take a page out of an experienced consultant's book and learn about the changes made at one mill, which led to significant mill-wide improvements in just three months. The strategy was quite simple.
One of the best managers I ever had the privilege of working with was in charge of our pulp mill. We'll call him V.C. He was an unassuming fellow, but when V.C. stepped into the control room to address an issue - anything at all - things got done. Best management practices can fill volumes of books and occupy weeks of classes, but V.C. had three characteristics in particular, finely honed, which kept employees in the pulp mill working extremely well together.
So what's the real story about the EPA and power plant regulations?