Twin Pines Paper: A very small converter with very big plans

Starting with a very small operation, Twin Pines has grown slowly. The long-term plan is to become a vertically integrated operation with a paper machine making tissue from office waste as raw material and converting at the same site to provide excellent products and service to the local markets.

Hugh O’Brian

Located in Romulus, Michigan, USA, just a few miles outside Detroit, Twin Pines Paper started in the tissue converting business in 2001 when Raj Mital, now the company’s President and CEO, was approached by a venture group and asked to invest in the project. The plan was to make away-from-home JRT (jumbo roll tissue) rolls for the commercial market.

After studying the proposal, Mital decided to go ahead with the investment, which he says amounted to three million dollars over the next 5 years. A medical doctor by profession, Mital is now 63. Originally from India, he came to the USA in the 1960s and since then had spent more than 30 years in the medical profession.

A few years ago he wanted a new challenge. “I was a bit bored with the routine of being a Doctor. I couldn’t get too excited about the work any more and started looking for something more interesting. This project came along and since then, I have been very excited about it.”


ROUGH START FOR AN OUTSIDER. It was far from smooth sailing from the start, he explains, as there was personnel turnover and some of the original partners behind the idea left. The company lost money in the beginning and the learning curve was very steep. “I knew nothing about the tissue business,” says Mital. “I can truly say that I was learning something new every day. Eventually we were able to get our feet on the ground and are now successful.”

The company which today employs a staff of six people got the operations under control and started making excellent products using a Fabio Perini SpA model 710 industrial rewinder. A big part of Twin Pine’s initial business was doing contract work for one of the big multinationals but then the contract expired. Thereafter, Mital says, they went about building a customer base of their own which has turned into a stable business. Self reliance and cost cutting has helped in becoming profitable.

In 2007 the company was converting about 200 tons/month of parent rolls into JRTs, Hardwounds & Center Pull towels. That number is expected to increase in 2008 to 300-400 tons/month with new customers coming on board.


MINORITY OWNED BUSINESS. Twin Pines Paper is a Certified Minority Owned Business that offers its customers a “Diversity Brand”. In the USA there is a guideline which encourages large corporations and government entities to seek participation of the minority owned businesses to encourage the growth of such businesses and give them a chance to prosper. These programs, says Mital, “give us an opportunity to enter in the door. Of course, we must meet the competition in the marketplace as far as quality, price and service is concerned.”


MORE CONVERTING AND POSSIBLE PAPER MACHINE. For the future, Twin Pines has big plans. Mital has outlined several steps which he feels would help the company grow significantly. The first would be to add more converting lines to make bath tissue, kitchen towels, folded towel and napkins. Currently Mital is looking for investors to make this a reality, he explains.

The much bigger project would be the installation of a paper machine, with office waste as recycled fiber, which would give Twin Pines greater control of their parent rolls supply. The concept is to make 30,000 tons per year of tissue from office waste collected from Detroit and other surrounding cities. Mital has a basic plan and he knows that the jump from converting to papermaking is very challenging but, he says “with proper detailed planning and association with right investors for adequate capital requirements, most of the risks of the venture can be covered.”

“Of course,” continues Mital, “it would be challenging but if you look at papermaking technology it has become much simpler in recent years. The entry-level tissue machines that suppliers are offering are much less complicated than they used to be. At this point, it’s only a dream. But I am usually able to make the things that I want to happen, become a reality. So, while it may take me a few years, I am pretty sure that we will eventually have a paper machine and an integrated converting operation here.”

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