How the Pulp and Paper Industry is Innovating Itself

pulp and paper

Over the past year, businesses across the globe had to learn how to adapt, improvise, and innovate like never before. Luckily for the companies in the pulp and paper industry, the business was already innovating itself well before the pandemic. 

This change and innovation must be capitalized on for the industry to continue to grow. Complacency won’t cut it. While there are plenty of trends affecting the pulp and paper industry today, here’s a look at two specific trends that firms must capitalize on to put them in the best position for success. 

Growing Skill and Worker Shortages 

The last few years have seen a decline in the blue-collar workforce, not only in America but across the globe. Organizations spanning numerous industries are short of the staff and manpower they need. The pulp and paper industry is no different. Many companies are struggling to hire and retain the loggers they require to meet demand. Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that between 2016 and 2026, the talent pool of loggers will decline 13%. This statistic is problematic for pulp and paper companies to say the least, and those who source from domestic timber firms should be especially concerned. 

On top of worker shortages, the pulp and paper industry has to face the ever-evolving skills required of their staff as the industry modernizes. Companies everywhere are turning to digital alternatives and leaving traditional hands-on setups behind. Technical knowledge is now prioritized over muscle memory and brute strength. Most mill workers today, however, are not equipped to run the robotic assets in a mill or act as technical support staff for the newer technology. 

Resolving these staffing issues starts in the procurement department. Department members must prioritize strategic sourcing initiatives over traditional relationship-based acquisition methods. These strategic sourcing initiatives must facilitate optimal flexibility through expanded vendor pools. Prompt adjustments in procurement will address price increases and/or logistical problems correlated with staffing issues. 

To address skill shortages, personnel training must be prioritized. Companies should implement upskilling and apprenticeship programs as quickly as possible to catch their existing staff up on the innovations taking place in their mill and the industry as a whole. Combining seasoned employees’ knowledge base with this new set of skills is sure to boost productivity and optimize mills across the country. 

Constant Evolution and Innovation 

The world is becoming more digital by the day and if mills aren’t prepared to keep up with the times, they will be left behind. The internet boom has made paper products such as newsprint, magazines, letter paper, and even greeting cards obsolete. This digitalization is combined with the growing environmental conscientiousness that customers increasingly demand from their suppliers, leaving the paper and pulp industry struggling to keep up. 

There are ways for mills to adapt their strategies and seek more profitable ventures. One example of how mills are evolving is by turning to brown paper products such as cardboard which is in high demand, especially with the shipment industry. By switching to brown paper products such as cardboard, which is recyclable, companies are able to tap into a hot market while staying environmentally friendly. 

The downside is that the brown paper industry is highly competitive and challenging to break into, which drives the need for companies to find other ways to innovate as well. Some companies are innovating by experimenting with fiber-based alternatives to plastics. Regardless of their means of innovations, manufacturers across the paper and pulp industry must innovate from top to bottom to keep up with the market trends and stay profitable. 

Facility Protection Fosters Innovation 

It doesn’t matter how innovative or productive your facility is if it isn’t protected. Whether your facility needs emergency screw replacements for live bottom metering bins or a total draft system upgrade to improve efficiency and drive down costs, with ProcessBarron, you’ll receive lasting solutions for all of your fuel, air, and ash handling needs. Don’t fall behind—contact us today.