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March 14, 2016

4 Key Initiatives for Tissue Manufacturers

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Our team has been focusing on how it can best support tissue clients’ ultimate goal – to provide high-quality products efficiently to the retail consumer.

Changing consumer and retail trends, environmental demands, production safety, and supply chain evolution all impact this ultimate goal and are continuously topics of discussion among both tissue manufacturers and their suppliers.

While the successful tissue manufacturing companies of the past decade share many characteristics, the team found that virtually all have exercised an intentional focus on the following four initiatives:

  1. Environmental stewardship
  2. Distribution network optimization
  3. Operational safety
  4. Minimization of downtime

In this blog, we’ll explore the first two major initiatives.

Environmental Stewardship

Tissue manufacturing facilities can be significant consumers of natural resources. Water, wastewater treatment, fiber, and steam (for the tissue making process); and natural gas and electricity (for tissue making, converting, and packaging) are all used on a large scale. As an industry, there is broad consensus that these resources and utilities must be used with the utmost efficiency.

While challenging to achieve, reducing resource consumption in manufacturing facilities is both morally and financially rewarding. Options for plant utility reductions can be diverse, but almost all are founded in common-sense concepts that can be implemented with relative ease when partnering with a single source provider. Examples include:

  • Combined Heat & Power (CHP) solutions utilize gas turbine or reciprocating engines to generate electricity by burning natural gas. The systems, which are often retrofitted into existing facilities, capture heat from the combustion system’s exhaust stream and convert it into steam or hot water. CHP systems are ideally suited for tissue making because natural gas is readily available in the plants, the electricity created by the generator can be consumed in the tissue making and/or converting processes and the steam can be used to feed the dryer or create hot water. Payback on the capital investment can be quick, and the financial and environmental benefits extend for decades.
  • Plant energy studies require minimal investment risk but can pay large dividends. Generally, a small team of evaluators audit a facility for two to five days to evaluate how a plant consumes energy and utilities. Once this information is collected, the team pinpoints inefficiencies and provides initial engineering for the best solutions. With these findings, a payback analysis that illustrates the plant’s return on the potential investment is performed, and informed decisions can be made regarding which solutions to implement.
  • LEED certification of new facilities and expansions is an internationally accepted roadmap to ensure that your operation is energy efficient, comfortable for your employees, built with sustainable materials, and that the facility receives the recognition that it deserves through the LEED certification system. The US Green Building Council (USGBC) continues to invest in the evolution of the program and officially launched its newest update, LEEDv4, at the 2013 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Philadelphia, PA.

Distribution Network Changes

As populations shift, consumers’ retail habits evolve, pulping expands out of North American, and fuel prices increase, tissue manufacturing and distribution locations are changing. Consequently, new facility site selection is becoming a major focus for tissue industry leaders. With a shrinking inventory of large, greenfield industrial sites, identifying suitable properties with adequate electricity, water, natural gas, and wastewater services is becoming a specialty. Traditional realty resources generally do not have knowledge of tissue manufacturing utility demands and the options they provide are often limited to suboptimal properties in business parks and land marketed by Economic Development councils.

Manufacturers can gain a competitive advantage by utilizing Engineer, Procure, Construct (EPC) firms that also specialize in site selection and evaluation. This approach allows for an integrated approach that includes a non-commission based broader selection of sites, an evaluation tailored to a tissue manufacturing or converting plant’s needs, prioritization of other operational considerations (proximity to highways, labor force characteristics, etc.), negotiation of local and state incentives, and experience working confidentially.

Operational Safety

The tissue business has evolved into a modern, complex manufacturing industry. Worker safety is the paramount concern. It has been made a priority in both the selection of new manufacturing equipment and capital improvement projects that address the safety of existing production lines. E-stops, guarding, egress, eyewashes, fire protection, and ergonomics all must be considered to develop integrated and engineered solutions during plant upgrades and expansions.

Minimization of Downtime

It’s no secret – time is money. With that, the ultracompetitive tissue industry is demanding that production lines are installed, started-up and operated with minimal downtime. While there are countless factors that may initiate unplanned work stoppages, more tools than ever are available to ensure efficient line start-up and production continuity. Examples include:

The use of computerized simulation during line design allows for tissue manufacturers to visualize and run a new or current production process from end to end. By applying this step in the design process, simulation helps with space utilization, equipment placement, and overall production efficiency while providing the ability to address more variables without effecting cost or production. Moreover, simulation and emulation allow operators to run and debug lines in a virtual model before equipment is purchased and the line is built. As a result, modifications can be made during the design phase. Tweaking on the plant floor, and its associated downtime, is drastically reduced.

Manufacturing process design must be properly engineered. This includes allowing for adequate line accumulation. In many cases, manufacturers reduce the length of their conveyors to minimize the initial capital cost or preserve floor space but leave little room for error. Furthermore, line speeds are maximized but do not leave an adequate timing buffer for minor back-ups. Creating the appropriate amount of space between packages and proper back-up and re-start logic allows room for minor delays and the merging products.

Integrating the design and construction of tissue making, converting, packaging, utilities, and facility improvements (or any combination of these work streams) is the dream of any tissue manufacturer’s facility improvement team. An integrated solution provider eliminates coordination errors between systems and the overall solution gets implemented in a shorter timeframe. The result: Less downtime during installation and less downtime during operation. The EPC delivery system allows for this integrated solution and is rapidly becoming the industry preferred method.

The delivery of a tissue manufacturing facility should reflect the goals of the tissue manufacturer. In today’s evolving environment, manufacturers need world-class integrated facility solutions to reduce risk, promote innovation, minimize downtime, align with business objectives and maximize collaboration.

For more information, contact Haskell’s Consumer Products division leader, Erik Lightner.

Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 1,800 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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