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Need To Know

Paper Economy

The pulp and paper industry is undergoing a dramatic period of change in the face of a rapidly evolving print production environment. Catherine Carter looks at the transformation taking place

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With challenges mounting for the paper industry, will it find a way to reinvent itself?

A stack of issues

Highly responsive litho and digital presses, effective prepress solutions to manage a mixed workflow and touchscreen set up green button operation post press systems have been developed to create a highly connected end-to-end workflow for smooth, uninterrupted throughput, to maximise the return on a greater number of small orders. There is also the increasing pressure for print to add value as communication increasingly goes on-line reducing the amount of print being produced.

But these are not the only print-related industries that have had to adapt to the changing landscape—paper manufacturers have had to review their approach to market too. The Confederation of European Paper Industries’ (CEPI) 2013 Key Statistics, reported its members produced 91.1m tonnes of paper and board in 2013, a decrease of 1.1m tonnes compared to 2012, or 7.1m compared to 2005. The figures showed a decline for a third consecutive year in paper and board production largely as a result of “structural decline in graphic paper consumption in combination with the on-going growth of paper and board packaging and household and sanitary paper”.

Perhaps a more insightful statistic is the one that states the graphic paper sector share of all paper and board produced in Europe dropped to 41.9 percent in 2013, while the share of the packaging grades and sanitary and household papers is continuously growing. In 2013 the latter represented 45.9 percent and 7.7 percent respectively of all paper and board produced in Europe.

CEPI states the pulp and paper industry continues to suffer from the slow economic recovery and weak economic conditions “highly affected” the consumption of paper and board. Total paper deliveries fell by 1.2 per-cent compared to 2012, as a result of reduced domestic consumption and a less dynamic export market. Paper imports also fell more than five percent.

Then there have been recent announcements such as UPM’s decision to shut down one of the two newsprint machines at UPM Shotton as part of a plan to cut a further 800,000 tonnes of European publication paper capacity. UPM plans to close three other paper machines over the coming months. They are a newsprint line at Chapelle, France, an SC paper machine at Jämsä River Mills, Finland; and a coated mechanical paper machine at Kaukas, Finland.

Revise to survive

So, faced with declining volumes and interest in a wider variety of substrates, manufacturers have had to review their approach to market. They can no longer request the minimum order volumes from customers and have had to consider ways to address growing demand in certain sectors and falling orders in others. In short, they have had to revise their production capabilities to adapt accordingly.


Sappi’s Alfeld Mill investment included a 135-ton MG cylinder 6.5 meters in diameter
(Below)Arjowiggins Graphic is evolving new product areas for speciality grades




Sappi took this approach with PM2 at its Alfeld Mill in Germany at the cost of €60m, an investment that included a 135-ton MG cylinder, a new head box with dilution system and pre-dryer section. The result is a re-vamped inline machine producing 135,000 tonnes per annum of one-sided coated speciality papers at 1,200m per minute, or 72km per hour. It also offers improved overall quality and enhanced converting capabilities. Among the first grades produced by the new machine were Fusion, Parade Prima, Algro Finess, and Algro Sol.

We have been able to achieve remarkable print results, top dimensional stability, and excellent flatness which we know will help our customers achieve high quality results


Rosemarie Asquino, sales and marketing director, speciality papers Sappi Fine Paper Europe, comments: “We have been able to achieve remarkable print results, top dimensional stability, and excellent flatness which we know will help our customers achieve high quality results. The higher capacity guarantees customers paper availability in the future.”





It is not only volumes where paper manufacturers have had to adapt to market challenges. When looking to service a more disparate customer base, they also have to be able to supply a wider variety of choices to meet those needs. As we have seen, packaging is one sector presenting a number of opportunities. This was another reason for Sappi’s Alfeld Mill upgrade and the papermaker will continue to develop new products for the release liner, flexpack, and label segment market.

Packing in the opportunities

Packaging is presenting opportunities for International Paper Foodservice Europe too. It has announced a £6m investment in new technology at its plant in Winsford, Cheshire, to expand its cup-forming capacity. Colour printing capability will be increased as well as further automation of the facility.

Stora Enso recently spent €32m (£25m) on a biorefinery at its Sunila pulp mill in Finland to reduce CO2 emissions but has also announced €110m (£87m) plans to convert the Varkaus Mill fine paper machine in Finland to produce virgin-fibre-based containerboard.

Incoming chief executive officer, Karl-Henrik Sundström, says the move seizes today’s market forces: “It is all about creating value for our customers, today and tomorrow.”

The conversion will decrease printing and reading annual sales by €140m (£111m) from 2016 onward and increase renewable packaging sales by €280m (£222m) when the machine is running on full capacity. The machine is scheduled to start up during the fourth quarter of 2015. Following the conversion, Varkaus Mill’s capacity will be about 390,000 tonnes per year of kraftliner and 310,000 tonnes of brown unbleached kraft pulp. Office paper grades production has ceased but uncoated customers will be served by Veitsiluoto Mill in Finland and Nymölla Mill in Sweden.

O Factoid: Some 82 percent of raw materials used by the European pulp and paper industry are sourced in Europe.  (source: CEPI) O


Part of the process of ongoing investment for Arjowiggins Graphic was the €1.5m (£1.2m) investment in the debottlenecking its Greenfield deinked pulp mill located at Chateau Thierry east of Paris. The mill produces white and extra-white deinked pulp mainly used in the manufacture of premium quality white recycled papers. Capacity was increased by 25,000 tonnes to 150,000 tonnes. The paper manufacturer has also been increasing its capability to produce digital cut sizes and reem wrapped products.

Volume decline

Julian Long, national key accounts manager at Arjowiggins Graphic, comments: “We have two separate issues in the market today. The first is acceleration of decline in volumes because of recent financial times coupled with a continuation in western Europe in the reduction of consumption of paper. The latter is an overall trend and that is not going to change. We do expect the reduction in demand to plateau in the next year or so and we don’t expect to see the decline continue on into the future.

“A second overall driver is the financial consideration and change in in printing techniques. We see printers and specifiers being a lot smaller both in terms of length of print run and the mix of print with other media. Analysis completed in recent years showed the most successful are those that mix print and other media. Designers and specifiers are looking to see how they can differentiate them-selves by using a wider choice of substrate.”

Long says a crucial change in approach has been development in the print production process, adding: “In day and age, with the computerisation of the preprint and production of the plates it is almost a situation where the printer takes the next job, is ready to go to press and then looks around for the paper.”

This is why Arjowiggins Graphic has worked very hard to instil a production mindset of great flexibility instead of the traditional paper manufacturing of long runs of one product and one grammage, as Long explains: “We have adapted our production method to change relatively quickly from one to another and can even crash the making programme.

“Our volumes of recycled product are growing year by year. That is in part the result of us setting our stall out as being a supplier of recycled papers rather than a run of the mill operation. We feel we have done a lot of work to change mindset and improve flexibility on the production side.

Now the way forward is to enhance our portfolio of specialist papers. We are, among other things, looking at recycled digital products, recycled envelope grades, and recycled pack-aging products. Packaging, especially, is increasing.

We are a long-time producer of papers for labelling and flexible packaging and we are now in increasing the proportion of recycled products. We are also introducing new products such as recycled products for luxury carrier bags and paper bags.”

Long adds that core volumes will continue to be graphical paper and an increasing proportion of that will be recycled: “We are evolving these new product areas for speciality grades too. Demand for packaging options will continue to grow smartly in that technologists are looking at ways of reducing the amount of packaging per unit, how sustainable the materials are and the impact of packaging after the goods are used.

“We have seen a migration down-wards in terms of the weights of products as manufacturers don’t want to be shipping around materials. Equally the packaging has to be fit for purpose and that can be a very fine line.”

Long concludes: “The fact is every-one has to either adapt or evolve or we shrink.”

Antalis taps into creative stream

One of the paper industry’s biggest players in terms of creative choice is Antalis, which has one of the widest ranges of creative papers on the market. The company has a stated aim of its products providing, ‘inspiration and imagination to designers, printers and end-users’. 

“The launch of our Curious Matter range of multi-sensory papers, with its unique highly textured tactile surface, is a typical example of how listening to designers and printers stimulated production innovation,” explains Emma Oliver, Creative Papers Product Manager at Antalis.

She continues: “Research high-lighted two key demands; a unique look and an impressive feel, and these were the main drivers behind the introduction of Curious Matter.   Now available in seven distinctive colours up to 380 gsm, we’ve recently observed the growing popularity for Andina Grey, which correlates with current pantone colour trends.”

Oliver further advises that the innovation and creativity of the company’s product line-up is based squarely on feedback from cust-omers, and thus trying to anticipate demand before it takes off.  One of the most important points that she additionally makes is that by offering creative papers as a solution, printers will be able to add value to a customer’s product and allow them to differentiate themselves in a heavily competitive market.

Oliver concludes: “Continuing the move away from high gloss finishes towards a more natural flatter texture, Rives Sensation Matt, the recently launched add-ition to the Rives range showcases the current fashion for matt over gloss.  Available in high white or natural white up to 350gsm, its highly printable ultra-matt finish is proving extremely popular amongst the creative community who are constantly looking for substrates that will inject an additional dimension to their work that reflect the latest trends.”

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