Mario Houde, (center) president of the Eka Chemicals operations in the Americas, was recently joined by team members Greg Bengtson, VP, sales and marketing and Tony Colasurdo, director of marketing and business developmentfor an interview with PPI. Eka is a business unit of AkzoNobel and Houde previously led the AkzoNobel Cellulosic Specialties business, and before that, directed Eka's pulp and Paper business in North America. Houde played a central role in Eka's restructuring of the bleaching and paper chemicals businesses into a single operating unit.
PPI: What gives you a competitive edge?
Colasurdo:Eka's competitive edge comes in many ways. It could be as simple as our basic manufacturing position and supply chain network to our complimentary product offerings or our advanced application know how combined with experience in all unit operations of the pulp and paper making process. In most cases its all of the above coupled with our local personalized service that keeps Eka first in mind with our customers. The product offering is kept fresh through our long history of innovation for the global Pulp & Paper Industry.
PPI: What specific offerings from Eka make a difference in cost savings and added value?
Colasurdo:We have a wide range of pulping, papermaking, and essential coating offerings strategically produced throughout the U.S. and Canada to fit customer needs. In some cases we deliver manufacturing capabilities right to the mill site. We have the IT capability to help reduce inventory costs, as well as providing process monitoring of chemical systems, when desired. Eka's ability to understand our customer's needs and capabilities allow us to provide unique solutions. As an example the combination of what we know about producing paper at the wet end and our ability to optimize a coating formulation allows some manufacturers to produce coated papers at higher quality levels, cost effectively. At the end of the day it is all about providing our customers with a competitive edge.
PPI: What's new in advanced chemistry at the wet end?
Bengtson:While we still refer to our principle retention and drainage chemistries as Compozil, invented over three decades ago. Our R & D and applications teams have taken silica nanoparticle and polymeric technologies to new levels of efficiency, and entirely new ways of adding value in the papermaking process and the sheet.
In the past, retention and drainage were always thought of as inseparable, but now, with our Compozil Fx, we have found a way to decouple these functions. If you are running at very high speeds and want to raise filler content, this decoupling approach allows papermakers to achieve high productivity and quality of the sheet.
Managing speed, managing raw material reduction, or substitution (and retaining those raw materials) requires advanced chemistry to deal with sheer characteristics and other factors affecting the sheet.
A major innovation is our 4thgeneration Eka NP 2180. This particular silica sol allows for systematic gains at lower dosages. Notable gains have been measured in productivity, first quality output, and of course, overall cost savings. Just a little Eka NP 2180 has a powerful effect on management of raw material costs, including fiber, minerals, starches and other additives. The sustainability benefit from this innovation on a nano-scale is very large!
PPI: What's unique about Eka today?
Bengtson:Just look at our track record of innovation. We have continued to bring our customers new and interesting things, allowing them to do more. Our high filler innovation platform has huge cost savings potential. Our work in barrier coating will allow for gains with moisture and grease, while at the same time being a solid environmental winner.
Houde:Putting our customers' first sums up our business model today. We've always done this, but in the future, you will see creative partnerships, which combine innovations and sustainability, which would have been difficult to achieve only a decade ago.
Eka Chemicals offers the papermaker expertise covering the entire mill from pulp and paper production to coating operations and the recycled plant. The group has earned a reputation for innovation because its leadership role in ECF environmentally friendly bleaching, as well as the Compozil nanoparticle retention/drainage system, continuously advanced since the original breakthrough in the 80's. Most recently the company has introduced its 4thgeneration silica nanoparticle systems, Eka Purate technology and the addition of coating rheology modifiers, all which it says are proof of strength in developing the most cost-effective solutions for mills.