Foreword: Annica Larsson Ahlstedt
If you’re wondering why the link to this piece mentions the Head of Product Quality talking about maintenance shutdowns, it’s because pulp production is a balancing act.
My job is to ensure we deliver high-quality pulp, consistently, but there are many aspects to this role to ensure that this happens and many factors to be taken into consideration, from competitiveness and cost-effectiveness to equipment optimization and safety. Paper producers rely on us to supply their raw material, whenever they need it and they expect deliveries to be stable and consistent.
Quantity, however, is not enough, even when supply is tight. We are always keen to keep the mills running, of course, and it can be tempting to measure success in terms of production speed and volume, but not if these come at the expense of quality optimization and most importantly “Safety first” as we always tell our employees.
In theory, we could avoid maintenance shutdowns by working piecemeal on parts of the mill as and when problems arise, but such an approach is risky in so many ways. “Safety first” is our motto. We have a legal obligation to ensure we maintain our equipment from a safety perspective, and prevention is always better than cure. Some areas of the mill are highly complex and potentially dangerous. The consequences of not conducting preventive maintenance could be severe. There is also the risk that fixing even minor faults in one part of the mill while running the rest could have a knock-on effect elsewhere in the process and disrupt quality parameters, something we of course are keen to avoid.
Shutdowns take many months to plan and involve several hundreds of external contractors on site. We use them to get as much done as we can, from checking existing equipment to installing new technology at the same time. Mörrum’s short stop this year, for example, includes controls to secure safe equipment, repair of worn-out equipment and rebuilding to improve energy efficiency. New equipment includes online quality measurement.
Värö will have a new improved press section at the drying machine, several large reinvestments for safety and availability in the recovery boiler and lime kiln, as well as improvements in the woodyard’s chipping eqiupment and a new bale press for flash-dried pulp. We have also used some of the shutdown time to prepare for the installation of new PulpEye sensors later this year, which will enhance the availability of real-time data we can offer customers.
When it comes to balancing production considerations, the decisions we take are within the framework of certified management systems that help ensure standards and that our routines and procedures follow best practice. We plan very carefully with our production and sales operations teams to stagger mill closures to ensure that the other two mills provide sufficient backup so that deliveries are not interrupted. Differences of opinions arise, of course, but all are united in the common goal which is to make the right decision for our customers, our employees and our forest-owning members.
Annica Larsson Ahlstedt, Head of Product Quality
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