Reduce risks by taking risks: Eka interview Part II

Read so far

Reduce risks by taking risks: Eka interview Part II

September 05, 2010 - 23:22
Posted in:

BRUSSELS, Sept. 6, 2010 (RISI) -In Part II of RISI's exclusive interview with the Eka's top European management Byron Smith, head of the company's business unit in Europe, Per Lundgren, regional manager Nordic countries and Jay Hunsberger, marketing director from Europe, share their vision for the coming years, particularly on the points of sustainability and new innovations. Part I of the interview can be readhere.

RISI: How can Eka make a difference on a sustainability basis? Such as reduced energy, raw material usage, and water conservation?

Lundgren:One benefit from process and applications knowledge is efficiency, which means achieving top results with less energy usage, less fresh water, and even better, top quality grades at lowers basis weights and less fiber content. Coming from Eka´s bleaching business, it's clear that high brightness can be achieved through optimization of bleaching sequences. We have a lot of experience over the years, helping customers gain the most from their bleaching sequences.

We have several distinct R & D initiatives aimed at helping customers lower their energy consumption.

We are seeing very promising results in lowering energy consumption for making mechanical pulp, for example.

Now that I am spending a lot of time with retention and drainage chemistries, I am aware of the energy benefits from higher mineral content, because less drying is required. In these times we need to be aggressive about informing customers of opportunities to more effectively compete. Being reserved, or even passive, doesn't help anyone.

Hunsberger:Energy savings are a vital issue in Europe. Because we know a lot about papermaking on a nano level, we are aiming to determine many angles toward minimizing energy consumption. We just signed an agreement with a two major producers with this objective in mind.

Eka's European management: Jay Hunsberger (left), Byron Smith (center) and Per Lundgren

Name a few innovations in your approach to business, which are most valuable in Europe.

Smith:We have a reputation for advanced IT, beginning with VMI (vendor inventory management) and remote monitoring. There is nothing "remote" in terms of problem solving by having experts on hand 24 hours a day - who just happen to be at another location than the mill in question.

Nothing can replace the value of operators in a mill, observing conditions on a real time basis, but another set of expert eyes, has proven to be an advantage to a wide range of Eka customers. In some cases our experts have become experts because of observations during periods of good and bad runnability - leading to best practices not otherwise possible. I am talking about improvements in bleaching, deinking and papermaking. In some cases we optimize the products we deliver. In other cases we help pulp and papermakers enhance overall performance of fiber, other chemicals and additives.

We see this as a way of moving forward, especially from the service side. Why send an expert 400 kilometers away, when that expert could potentially solve the problem almost instantly from our remote monitoring center? We will continue to develop this capability, and are already quite advanced in these concepts.

Hunsberger:No customer will value this capability unless we actually prove something to him or her.

Sometimes it's as simple as monitoring Purate on-site units, or having the capability for making adjustments to ASA sizing rigs. Sometimes a power pulse occurs in the rig at the mill, and all that's needed is pushing a button -from our Stockvik, Sweden monitoring center headquarters vs. the mill itself.

We have about a dozen Purate systems linked up to our center, and the scope of is growing. Basically, we are bringing higher quality service, and added value. Depending on customer desires, we can push this capability further to include more than monitoring, but control.

Describe something entirely new in your business approach.

Lundgren:I would say it this way: "Reduce risk by taking risks."

Being in the chemicals business today is much more than producing products, and delivering them in a timely way. Our focus is on helping customers win in the marketplace, and sustain a competitive advantage. Sometimes this requires new ways of doing business. Take the example of a potential customer, a whitetop board producer, our R & D and applications team, had reason to believe that a particular silica nanoparticle retention/drainage approach would help them improve sheet properties, increase productivity and lower costs. But, we had no proof! Together with the mill, we embarked on a comprehensive effort to explore avenues of change-from the lab to the trials on the paper machine. We also worked closely together on a new way of doing business. We decided to share the risks and the rewards. No one was immediately comfortable with sharing risks, but all parties were eager to achieve a higher level of success than ever before.

This business endeavor took over a year to get out of the starting gate, but, in fact, a demonstration of the rewards happened faster than any of us expected. Rather than wait for the full proof of the concept, the mill pushed us to implement the concept ahead of schedule.

We were eager and stubborn to show that we had the right concept. We were open to risks, and trials that might have some bumps along the way. One trial took a month. However, almost immediately, the customer knew that we were onto something. Does this mean that Eka will run to any invitation to try something new, no matter what the grade, or level of commitment? Absolutely not. But, we will attentively respond to challenges that fit, and pursue them.

What's the message here? Focus on the customer winning in the marketplace; new ways of structuring business agreements, and helping customers and us reap long term rewards.

Where does R & D fit in your future, or the future of your customers?

Lundgren:Without a steady flow of new products from R & D, you end up with nothing but commodities, and little competitive advantage if any. Eka's commitment is to remain at the forefront in R & D across pulp and paper, and to intertwine innovation and sustainability every step of the way.

In the case of the Nordic white top producer success I have mentioned earlier, the origins of the retention/drainage technology came from decoupling retention and drainage, which goes against a fixed idea for decades-where we have been the market leader.

On another front we have aggressively pursued water purity as advanced chemistry, now installing over 20 compact chlorine dioxide units across Europe. More than being a powerful biocide, the impact of ulta-pure water actually improves performance of advanced chemistries, therefore improving runnability, reducing unscheduled downtime, and improving quality output. That's a lot from water!

Hunsberger:Eka cannot prosper with only a focus on commodity products. We must be dedicated to inventing new solutions through fine tuning existing offerings, and investing in the R & D to find entirely new solutions. There has never been a closer linkage between R & D, innovation, sustainability, and a sense of urgency.

Part I of the Eka interview can be read here:Papermaking in Europe - no status quo