Monday, June 16, 2008

Paper mills, model 1908 and 2008?

To produce paper, lot of activities besides technical operation are needed.

IM tries to review a paper mill in 1908 (no matter has not born so early...). Machines have bougth from foreign countries (from U.S.A., maybe?), products have been chosen (obviously there were no very many brands on a single paper machine) and fibers were derived mechanically. Water consumption was high (because no environmental pressures at those times). Lots of people working in non-automatized jobs. Markets were both local and international, but relatively easy to understand.

All has changed significantly in one hundred years.

New products; new processes; new raw materials; diversity of grammages and brands on one machine; international, complicated markets...

Two issues have got overwhelming importance: speed and R&D.

These two are interconnected. A machine without careful R&D already in the construction of pulp, raw material and process systems cannot work very well. R&D is also needed in trouble shooting situations (the price of your lunch may be lower than the cost of one delayed production second of the machine).

What are then the roles of R and D today?

The needs for QC are ever growing: faster analyses to avoid economical losses. Paper mill laboratories work to fulfil this task. R is certainly needed to improve the methods of QC.

D should be connected to R to produce new methods for these analytical and operational tasks - not only to develope new kind of products, which also is very important). The personal opinion of IM is that the gaps between R and D are usually caused by economical reasons: everybody respect R but the connection from research results to improved methods may be long (and long-lasting).

Curiosity and interest in the development of new methods is still worth of all expences. More secure driving of machines, more stable quality, less trouble shooting...