Emerging megatrends shape global tissue industry

TAPPI expands activities to help the tissue industry stay competitive. The North American propensity for high-end tissue products that has been playing out over the past decade is continuing to justify investments in structured tissue capacity.

Raine Hyde - TAPPI

North Americans, especially in the U.S.A., have shown a persistent willingness to pay high prices for ultra-premium tissue products, in sharp contrast to even Western Europeans who tend to balk at a certain price level.
However, the US trend toward TAD (thruught-air-drying) technology and various other, more energy - efficient structured technologies, including Voith’s ATMOS and Valmet’s NTT, has slowed in recent months, in favor of conventional crescent former/dry crepe technology - at least from a capital spending perspective. Comparing technology choices between 2013 and 2014, Pöyry reports in the current issue of TAPPI’s Tissue 360o magazine that new and planned U.S. conventional tissue machine capacity additions now outnumber ultra-premium tissue investments, reversing a strong five-year trend.
Current investments by U.S. tissue makers are also going for a variety of strategic purposes, such as backward integration to pulp (virgin and recycled) to reduce production costs, and investments in former market pulp mills such as von Drehl in Natchez, MS. Also, more capital will be spent for leveraging integrated pulp or expanding existing sites that have room to install new tissue machines.


EXPANDING INTO TISSUE. These and other global tissue industry trends are being closely tracked by TAPPI in its publications, conferences, forums, courses, and workshops. Launched in 2012, TAPPI’s Tissue360o magazine, along with its Tissue360o Newsletter, and its bellwether publication, Paper360o magazine, cover the tissue industry worldwide on a daily basis. The association’s peer-reviewed TAPPI Journal also covers tissue along with other industry segments. Bringing all of these resources together into one package, the new TAPPI Tissue Portal (http://www.tappi.org/tissue) encompasses “all things tissue,” including training at Tissue University, technical papers, and Standards.
Earlier this year, TAPPI, headquartered in the Atlanta, GA, USA, area, expanded its efforts in the tissue segment, creating the new Tissue Division to include non-commercial educational content and networking opportunities. Tissue Division committees currently include the Division Steering Committee, the Tissue360o Forum Program Committee, the Tissue Education Committee, and the Yankee Dryer Safety and Reliability Committee. Additional committees are being developed as needed.


SILVER TSUNAMI. As new process developments such as TAD and TAD-like technologies evolve, the need for training becomes critical. This is true worldwide, but especially in the US where 40.3 million people are now 65, with many of these highly skilled “baby boomers” still working. Between now and 2030, that number will grow to 72.1 million. Especially ominous, 27% of engineers in the US reached retirement age in 2010, and that percentage is hovering around 30% today.
In the paper industry, 60% of the most experienced employee base is very near retirement. This leaves only 40% with zero to 15 years of experience to take the industry’s reins in just a few years. The experience exodus soon to hit the industry is nothing short of scary, especially in the tissue sector where replacement of highly skilled employees will be most difficult.
To help the industry cope with what is known as the “silver tsunami,” TAPPI, working through local colleges and vocational training facilities, has taken a very proactive role in getting workers trained to replace the overwhelming talent drain. The association also conducts its own tissue courses, including Tissue 101 – Process and Properties, an introductory course covering basic manufacturing methods and chemistry, and Tissue 201 – Operations and Runnability, an advanced course for those who have experience in tissue mills. Tissue 301 is currently planned for 2015, and other courses will be developed going forward.
TAPPI also maintains Standards and TIPS (Technical Information Papers) for the tissue and other grade sectors of the industry. Its experts have developed many test methods for measuring tissue properties and TIPs for safe operation and maintenance practices in tissue facilities.


THE RECYLING DILEMMA. Of course, troubling issues in tissue and other segments of the industry are not limited to process and personnel problems. For example, sustainability and raw material supply have become hotbeds of activity in recent months, and TAPPI has sharpened its focus on most of these issues, especially the growing recycled fiber dilemma.
With paper recovery rates in North America near 70%, Europe approaching 75%, and Japan nudging 80%, there is growing concern that the global paper industry may soon bump against the ceiling of what can be recovered. With recovered fiber demand still rising, periodic shortfalls could be looming on the horizon, threatening not only existing capacity but future expansions based on recovered fiber supply.
Concerns about a recovered fiber shortage are amplified by the fact that 50%-plus of the world’s paper and board is now being made with recycled fiber. At the same time, growth of global paper recovery has slowed in recent years as key fiber recovering countries push up nearer their practical limits. Currently, global paper recovery (according to Pöyry) is at 223 million metric tons (56% collection rate) and by 2025 should rise only five or six more percentage points to 308 million metric tons (61%-62% collection rate), reflecting a big slowdown in recovery. TAPPI is keeping a close watch on this developing situation, with on-going coverage in its various publications and in-depth analysis and discussion in technical sessions at conferences, workshops, and forums. The situation is also being closely monitored by several TAPPI committees and focus groups. TAPPI’s involvement in tissue and other industry sectors has been expanding beyond North America in recent years, with steady membership growth and reach in countries such as Brazil and China. Especially notable is TAPPI’s programs and projects involving young professionals worldwide. With high quality training and support from TAPPI and other global groups, these young professionals represent the future hope of the world’s pulp and paper industry, especially tissue.



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