After a year of COVID-19 related reductions and shutdowns, Kruger Products announced in February that its new state-of-the-art tissue plant in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada had been completed on time and within budget.
An air-drying tissue machine (TAD) and three conversion lines were installed at the plant, which had already been put into operation.
In the latest edition of Pulp & Paper Canada magazine, Michael Yang, vice president of supply chain and operational excellence at Kruger Products, said: “We originally envisioned a multi-year maturity curve, which is very common in the industry. Right off the bat, this is as close to a vertical start-up, specially in the tissue machine, then I’ve seen in my career.”
As many of the mill’s 180 employees are new to the pulp and paper industry, Kruger has partnered with local suppliers to conduct training covering mechanical and electrical safety features and toilet paper machine technology. To assist with this training, employees from other Kruger Products plants traveled to help the new hired.
“We have far more digital information on this site than any in Kruger Products plant so far, so we are able to solve the start-up problem that you would typically see in an operation like this,” Yang says.
Kruger Products installed its first TAD at its plant in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2013. This $322 million machine adds 60,000 metric tons (tonnes) per year to Kruger’s production. The Sherbrooke plant is responsible for an additional 70,000 tons of ultra-premium toilet paper and paper towels, sold in Canada under the Cashmere®, SpongeTowels® and Purex® brands, and as White Cloud® in the United States.
TAD tissue machine uses virgin fiber sourced from a variety of North and South American pulp suppliers to produce 2.5-meter-wide parent rolls for toilet paper and paper towels. The machine uses less fiber overall than its dry-crepe counterparts, which in turn leads to reduced fiber costs at the mill.
“We’ve invested heavily in the site in terms of digitalization of the manufacturing,” says Yang. “The amount of data points that we have is quite advanced.”
Customized dashboards allow operators to immerse themselves in production data and access reports on usage, consumption and other metrics, helping the company work toward its lean manufacturing and operational excellence goals.
The company creates a culture of continuous improvement through the commitment and training of the team that works in the operation. “It is also empowering our teams to obtain their own results and have autonomy in decision-making,” says Yang.
Yang mentions that the start of the new facility operations is not the end. In February of this year, Kruger Product CEO Dino Bianco announced that the company will increase its investment by $240 million to further expand over the next three years, in addition, starting in 2022, a paper machine for light-dry crepe tissue, converting line and facial line will be added.
“It really is the beginning of a new installation. They take on their own character: there is a personality and a culture there that we are building”, he concluded.