Paper Mill Increases Production Without Capital Expenditures

The Client

Two company-owned mills – one a newsprint mill, the other a kraft pulp mill

The Challenge

Both mills faced growing competition that forced prices down even as recessionary factors reduced demand. Management decided to seek help from an expert in process improvement. USC Consulting conducted a feasibility study to identify key areas for improvement in process control, inventory control, supervision, central management, production and maintenance. The study found paper machine efficiency at 85%, serious communication gaps between production and maintenance, and a lack of faith in the mill’s ability to produce to budget.

The Solution

Our team worked side by side with mill personnel on all shifts. Together, we set new production goals and implemented new plans of action. In the newsprint mill, we set an increased production goal from 546 to 600 tons per day without capital expenditure.

First, we established new benchmarks for process performance and set indices to give operators clear targets. We then standardized methods of operation and trained all operators in optimum practices. Supervisors learned new management skills and effective problem-solving techniques, as well as how to inspire employees to work as a team to maintain productivity at targeted levels.

Our approach emphasized managing the mill’s operations in detail. It called for involvement from all levels of management in the daily operating activities, holding them accountable for achieving their goals.

Unlike the newsprint mill, the pulp mill had been operating above its rated capacity. We set a goal of increasing current volume from 624 tons per day to 670 tons per day. After implementing a system of production planning that synchronized all stages of the process, output increased consistently. The area with the least capacity at any one time set the pace for all interdependent areas. This assured a smooth, uninterrupted production process.

To encourage shared responsibility for continuous improvement, senior managers, maintenance crew and support staff met daily for a 15-minute, informal meeting. Everyone was encouraged to raise concerns and suggest solutions. Each participant contributed solutions from their own hands-on knowledge. As a result, a serious fault in the programming sequence of the batch digesters was uncovered and corrected. This would result in a dramatic drop in lost time and an increase in the number of blows.

Performance Results

Digester cycle time reduced 11% (Newsprint Mill)

Stone downtime reduced 47% (Newsprint Mill)

Winder bad starts reduced 34% (Newsprint Mill)

Machine efficiency improved 7% (Newsprint Mill)

Overrun inventory reduced 78% (Newsprint Mill)

Finished goods inventory reduced 19% (Newsprint Mill)

Saleable tons/day increased 10% (Newsprint Mill)

Digester lost time reduced 63% (Kraft Pulp Mill)

Digester losses, due to lack of white liquor, reduced 89% (Kraft Pulp Mill)

Digester production improved 8% (Kraft Pulp Mill)

Chemical cost reduced 11% (Kraft Pulp Mill)

R8 puffs reduced 67% (Kraft Pulp Mill)

Blowbacks reduced 100% (Kraft Pulp Mill)

Saleable tons/day increased 7% (Kraft Pulp Mill)


Thanks to a process of strict accountability through an action control system, a 100% improvement was achieved. Our work also uncovered the cause of a blowback problem that had been occurring for years.

As a result of the project, both mills achieved their production goals. According to the mill manager, “In addition to the increase in tonnage, the project has produced needed gains in process, quality and cost control.


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