On June 25, 2012, Scott Springmier, Eric Fletty, and I accepted a previous invitation from long-time TAPPI member and a young, Mike Ditka look-alike, Jim Niemiec, to visit NewPage in Wiscosin Rapids, Wis., USA. At the time we had no idea that (current TAPPI board-member) Jeff Hamilton was in the process of accepting the mill manager's position at this very mill. Jeff was instrumental in bringing PIMA under TAPPI's wings a few years ago. We are proud to have him on TAPPI's board.
It felt like a family reunion. We had meetings with several of the mill employees, many whom we had met at various TAPPI functions over the years. We had the opportunity to present a TAPPI update as well as tour the mill and their Research and Development Center.
This location is an industrial complex in itself convering more than two miles end-to-end from the pulp mill, waste water treatment plant, and to the shipping dock, with all things in between. The mill houses the largest off-line coater in the U.S., and produces one of the very best coated free sheet products in the industry. The pride in the mill's 1,050+ employees was apparent as soon as you walked in the door.
The mill was extremely clean and, according to Jeff Hamilton, you could eat off of the floor. Thank goodness I was full from the catered lunch that they provided us upon our arrival, or I may have taken Jeff up on his offer. In Jeff's words, the mill's "if it isn't bolted down, it needs to have a proper home" attitude really drives the immaculate house-keeping that is apparent throughout the entire complex.
The mill offers a broad range of basis weights from 80 lb to 146 lb on a 246-inch wide machine. If you want to see the future of parent roll storage, you have to see the automated system in Wisconsin Rapids. This state of the art system resembles something right out of Star Wars, with nine stories of roll storage. Labor relations are very good at the mill, which is apparent with a union contract that runs through 2018.
Some of the key members of the Wisconsin mill team. (and also fans from TAPPI)
From there we went to the Reserch and Development Center, which is overseen by the Director of Research, Dean Benjamin. The building was built in 1959 and has undergone several expansions and equipment upgrades since its inception. It houses a pilot coater and calendar. The center is located in a 42,000 sq ft building on a 40 acre site. The 46 employees support eight mills in the NewPage system. R&D provides world-class process support to advance the products and services that NewPage provides.
"The R&D function provides cost-effective and innovative product and process development to meet customer needs and to enable our long-term competitiveness and prosperity through the proper application of science, technology, and innovation. We accomplish this with our internal resources as well as working closely with leading universities and other external research institutions," Benjamin noted.
R&D manages the NewPage intellectual property, including their portfolio of 44 U.S. and 48 foreign patents, as well as 27 pending patents.
Team members and some TAPPI folks (including Larry) at the Research and Development Center.
One of the more recent shining stars in the new page family of products is the TrueJet™ brand. This is a line of coated papers for high-speed production inkjet printing. The product won the 2011 Intertech™ Technology Award
for innovative excellence, from Printing Industries of America.
This was a breath of fresh air in our industry where many have cut back R&D efforts over the past 10 - 15 years.
NewPage, at a glance, does $3.6 billion in annual sales. It produces 3.5 million tons of paper annually and has nearly 6,000 employees. The product line breakdown is 75% coated, 14% specialty, 6% supercalendered, and 5% other grades of paper.
More information about NewPage is available online.
More information about TAPPI is also available online.
There are two types of people in our industry - TAPPI members and those who should be.
Until next time.......