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Week of 26 February 2024: A Possible Answer?

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We have spent the last three weeks talking about transportation issues and challenges in the pulp and paper industry today.

About a year ago, I had an epiphany in the transportation and warehousing area. I went out and got a "patent pending" status on it. Due to all my other activities, I only feebly marketed it. At the time, my idea was to sell the idea. In the meantime, I have now decided to present it here for you to ponder. One of you may decide to take it and run with it, someone may even decide they want to offer me a bit of compensation for it. That is your choice and perhaps says more about you than me. The industry has been very, very good to me and if someone just runs with it, be assured that I will not pursue you for financial gain. I love to see improvements in the industry.

I think in twenty years, this idea will have taken over the handling of all paper rolls. Getting from here to there is messy, but the idea is, I believe, so elegant, that it has to become the de facto method of handling rolls.

I had this epiphany one Sunday evening while we were watching a movie. I went to the refrigerator to get a soft drink from one of those CNK cartons that encapsulates a group of cans. If the carton was positioned in a way the cans were standing upright, that was one thing. However, flip it over ninety degrees and the cans can roll. Now think of the cans as rolls of paper and the carton as a standard intermodal shipping container.

If, at the paper machine winder, we had a device that could receive a standard intermodal shipping container and flip it ninety degrees on its side, then you could load the container without rolls ever being touched by a clamp truck. When loaded, reverse the ninety-degree flip, close the doors and take it away for loading on a train, transporting on at truck, or simply storing outside until needed.

Then at the printing or box plant, the procedure is reversed. The container is brought in, flipped on its side and unloaded.

Think of the advantages...rolls are never handled by clamp trucks, warehouses are eliminated (just store the containers on a paved lot--they are waterproof), fire hazards are reduced, all rolls in an order can be grouped and moved together. This last feature is why I named the system "The Thompson Cartridge Logistics System."

Intermodal containers are available in any length from 10 feet to fifty-three feet, so order size can dictate what containers are used.

A "Phase II" for containerboard is going to larger diameter rolls, say 90 inches. We can't make rolls this big now because the clamp trucks can't handle them. But if they are just being rolled, the clamp truck is taken out of the equation and then, think about the reduction in splices.

A couple of taller sizes of containers will need to be standardized. This should not be a problem. There is already a unit called "SECU" which is the acronym for Stora Enso Cargo Unit. This is a special unit designed for railway and ship use in Scandinavia.

We only need units tall enough to take 130-inch containerboard rolls. Then, by using lowboy trailers to haul them from mill to box plant, the modern 130-inch corrugator is freed up to be located anywhere.

Think of it--90-inch diameter rolls, no warehouses, no clamp trucks and 130-inch corrugators wherever you want them.

Please check out further here: and here.

We have been handling rolls the same way since World War II. Walk into a warehouse today and it looks about the same as they did in the 1960's (with a couple of exceptions where they automatically store and retrieve the rolls--but still, one at a time). Meanwhile, down on the farm, look what they have done. If we go back to the 1960's, the John Deere self-propelled combine of the day was the Model 95. It had a 90-horsepower engine and could handle headers up to twenty feet wide. This combine had the capacity for about 70 bushels of grain.

Today, a John Deere Model x9100 has 630 horsepower, holds 420 bushels of grain and takes headers up to 60 feet wide. This model also has extremely sophisticated electronic controls and measuring devices. It operates on the SpaceX StarLink satellite system for precision location and machine health diagnostics services on the run.

Let's catch up.

Be safe and we will talk next week.


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