BRUSSELS, July 8, 2013 (RISI) -A Euro 27 million ($35 million) investment by Metsä Board in its Äänekoski, Finland, mill has, according to vice president and mill manager Jouko Wacklin, put the mill in a "good situation. The investment was well done."
The investment included a rebuild of its board machine, raising capacity by 30,000 tonnes/yr to 240,000 tonnes/yr. Metsä Board also rebuilt two Bielomatic sheeters that were on the shuttered woodfree coated paper machine at the mill. They now handle the 3-ply folding boxboard the mill produces and can make up to 70,000 tonnes/yr of sheeted board, coated one or two sides. The mill does sell some board by rolls but only a small percentage.
The mill sits on an island and the original facility was built more than 100 years ago, in 1899. A kraft pulp mill belonging to Metsä Fibre is located about 1 km away and sends pulp via pipeline to the board mill. The board's middle layer is BCTMP sourced from Metsä Board's Joutseno mill as well as the Kaskinen mill, which falls under Metsä Board's Pulp and Paper business area.
The island is also home to a binder plant belonging to CP Kelco (part of Huber) and a Specialty Minerals precipitated calcium carbonate plant. Both of these companies supply the Äänekoski mill with products. A power plant that is majority-owned (65%) by Metsä Board and Fibre and Metsäliitto is also located on the island.
The mill originally made paper but the machine was shut down recently and the sale of the machine has been agreed upon.This fits into Metsä Board's corporate strategy as having high-end paperboard as its core business. The company wants to grow by maximizing capacity in its existing mills. It sees good growth potential in Europe. It plans to take advantage of its secure fiber supply and its extensive fiber knowhow.
Metsä Board has also developed what it calls its Super Productivity process. Between 2006 and 2012, capacity per employee has more than doubled from just less than 600 tonnes/yr/employee to more than 1,200 tonnes/yr/employee.
The board machine was a 1960s-vintage unit that was rebuilt in 2002. The recent rebuild was done in May 2012 and most of the work was done by Metso. It included a reverse ply headbox (replacing the old headbox), a third coating unit for the top ply, a new winder replacing the 1950s-era Wartsila unit, a threading system and packaging line. This part of the project cost Euro 21 million ($27 million). Maximum machine speed has increased to 800 m/min from 660 m/min. Basis weight ranges from 170 to 330 g/m2.
All rolls go through the automated storage system before sheeting. The warehouse has a capacity of about 3,000 tonnes (3-4 days capacity).
Konecranes rebuilt the roll handling/storage system, replacing a vacuum gripper with a mechanical one. This was done because roll diameter has increased to 2.1 m from 1.5 m and the vacuum gripper cannot handle the larger rolls.
With a successful board machine rebuild behind it, in late 2012, the mill was focusing on maximizing production at the converting end. By October, production was exceeding 200 tonnes/day on the two sheeters. Capacity depends on the grammage and width of the rolls being slit. Maximum roll size is 2.2 m wide by 1.8 m while the minimum size that can be processed is 420 by 400 mm. There is potential to increase sheeting capacity to 100,000 tonnes/yr.
Installed in 2000 and 2007 respectively, sheeters No. 7 and 8 now have flying splices allowing for continuous production.
Rolls are then bar coded and entered into the mill's MES. This Tietoenator system was also upgraded during the rebuild. One benefit is that there is now minimum waste at the sheeter. About Euro 6 million ($7.8 million) of the project was spent in the sheeting end.
The mill does make use of external sheeting capacity at times including its Simpele, Finland, mill as well as Metsä Board's facilities in Germany (Gohrsmühle).
Product safety is an exceptionally important consideration for the end use applications of Metsä Board's board. Traceable raw materials are the starting point, including certification (FSC, PEFC) for its wood. "Traceability is very important because we produce food packaging," says Wacklin. "There is a big effort to maintain the high quality and purity of our products."
These products are Carta Solida and Carta Integra and Äänekoski has been offering them since 2002. Carta Solida, which accounts for a major part production, is a light but stiff board designed for high end packaging such as chocolate and confectionary. It is available in a basis weight range of 185-320 g/m2.
Two bleached kraft pulp layers sandwich a BCTMP layer and there is double blade coating on the top. Brightness is up to ISO 91 on the top, 86 on the non-coated side.
Carta Integra is the more luxurious brand that Äänekoski produces. It is double blade coated on the top and single blade coating on the bottom. Brightness reaches ISO 91 on both sides. Available in a basis weight range of 170-330 g/m2, it is lightweight and sustainable and features outstanding odor and taint neutrality. It is designed for graphical applications and luxury packaging including cosmetics, beauty care and pharmaceuticals.
Their light weight in comparison with other boards of similar strength means a reduced effect on the environment.
The mill's main markets are western Europe and the US but Wacklin points out that they are always on the hunt for new markets. As he says, with only five million people, most of Finnish business must depend on exports and Metsä Board exports about 95% of its production.
Wacklin firmly believes the project at Äänekoski puts the mill in a good position. "We have possibilities to be a big player in the future. We are doing well at the board mill; it is a smart concept we created here."
"Our quality is top of the market and that comes from our furnish and our operating principles," Wacklin adds.