April 27, 2017  
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Redefining the Future: News from PaperCon 2017

This annual event combines an expert-led technical program with a world-class exhibit. AoTC reports back from Minneapolis on some of this week’s event highlights.

More than 1750 industry professionals convened in Minneapolis, MN this week for PaperCon, the annual conference that features a multi-track technical program, seminars, networking opportunities, a large exhibit floor, and more. The event began Sunday, April 23 and concluded Wednesday, April 26. In this exclusive Ahead of the Curve report, we bring you news and highlights collected on site.

Sunday, April 23
As more than 130 different exhibitors began to set up on the show floor at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Sunday gave attendees a chance to register, attend committee meetings, or check out the full-day Coating Course, “Intro to Printing.” At the exclusive Fellows Luncheon, eight new TAPPI Fellows were inducted for 2017:

  • Brian Brogdon, Future Bridge Consulting Services
  • David Clay, Jacobs Engineering
  • Anthony Johnson, Beca AMEC
  • Jim Niemiec, Verso
  • Philip Wells, Wells Enterprises, Inc.

From the TAPPI Board of Directors:

  • Pete Augustine, Fabio Perini North America
  • Paul Durocher, Sappi North America
  • Chris Krumm, CorrChoice LLC

Monday, April 24
Although PaperCon features eight separate technical program tracks, Monday’s opening Welcome and Keynote brought all attendees together to kick off the event. During the Welcome session, TAPPI President Larry Montague and Program Chair Matt Szymanski, Green Bay Packaging, presented the TAPPI/PIMA Executive of the year Award to Mark Kowlzan, Packaging Corp. of America. Accepting the award, Kowlzan remarked, “This still remains such a dynamic, vibrant industry—because of people like you, sitting in this room.”

Following the welcome, keynote speaker Marcus Shingles, CEO of the XPRIZE Foundation, challenged attendees to think about the benefits of disruptive change in his presentation, “Uber Yourself Before You Get Kodaked.” He explained that, in today’s high-tech world, we live with an exponential rate of change, not a linear rate of change. “A lot of large companies, including traditional companies, are asking themselves, ‘instead of a ten percent improvement, can we reach a 10X improvement?’ It doesn’t take ten times more people, or ten times more resources, to get to that 10X improvement.”

Achieving “10X”, however, will require different management and planning, Shingles explained. From quantum computing to “hyperloop” transport technology, he introduced attendees to the types of disruptive changes they must consider. “10X improvement” became an often-heard phrase among attendees during the remainder of PaperCon—a testament to the impact of this thought-provoking presentation.

Tuesday, April 25
Technical program tracks highlighting topics including Process Control and Fluid Fundamentals, Papermaking Additives, and nonwovens continued through Tuesday, with the “buzz” from attendees being that this year’s program was particularly strong.  A host of special activities and opportunities sponsored by TAPPI’s YP Division for students and Young Professionals gave those new to the industry a chance to feel welcomed and engaged.

Yet a highlight of Tuesday’s program was the annual Awards Dinner. The ceremony included acknowledgements of the efforts of the volunteer program committees, Division and Local Section awards honoring leadership and service, and National-level awards for significant achievements.

Announced live at the ceremony was the news that Pamela Cowan of Pulmac Systems International and Chair of PIMA’s Women in Industry Committee, has received the Glen T. Renegar Award, which recognizes an individual who has provided outstanding service and contribution toward the growth and betterment of the PIMA Management Division. Cowan was surprised and honored by the recognition, and credited her fellow leaders and members of the PIMA Women in Industry Committee with the group’s success and impact: “I didn’t do it alone. Really, this award is shared by all of you.”

The evening’s final award was the Gunnar Nicholson Gold Medal, the highest honor that the Association can bestow upon an individual. The 2017 winner is Honghi Tran, professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto. Tran is one of the world’s leading experts on kraft chemical recovery processes and an authority on recovery boiler plugging and fouling, and his research has played a major role in advancing recovery technology.

In his acceptance speech, Tran spoke of the important role his mentor, Doug Reeve (former director of The Pulp & Paper Centre at the University of Toronto); of TAPPI; and of his family (his wife, son, daughter, and son-in-law were all in attendance.) As Dr. Tran closed his heartfelt acceptance speech, saying “Thank you for making my dream come true,” he received a standing ovation from attendees.

Wednesday, April 26
The PIMA Management Program featured a lively Mill Managers Roundtable on Wednesday morning. Murray Hewitt of Cascades Greenpac spoke of his mill’s participative, team-based management philosophy. “Everyone at the mill has been hired in a dual role—a technical role, and a participative role,” he told attendees. Working on teams and committees gives every employee a chance to contribute to the mill’s success, Hewitt added: “It’s really heartening to see the ideas and solutions our teams come up with.”

            Another highly-attended program track was the comprehensive series on Papermaking Best Practices. At Wednesday’s Wrap-up Session, Track Manager Jeff Reese, International Paper, shared a list of “Quotes of the Week,” which included the following highlights:

  1. “If you want to start modeling your process, you have to start by knowing what your process is.” – David Fuentes
  2. “Normalization of deviance is the gradual process through which unacceptable practices or standards become acceptable.” – Doug Sweet
  3. “Best practices are simple procedures bringing big benefits.” – Aitor Lizarraga
  4. “The best organizations have a system for troubleshooting. The best of the best treat every defect as an event.” – Ricky Loveland
  5. “Sometime we get so wrapped up in the details that we forget the basics, such as communication.” – Maja Mejsner

TAPPI wishes to thank the PaperCon 2017 sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, and program planning committees who made this year’s conference a resounding success. Stay tuned for more information about next year’s PaperCon, which will be held April 15-18, 2018 in Charlotte, NC.  Learn more about the 2017 program, sponsors, and exhibitors at www.papercon.org

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