Nip Impressions logo
Thu, Sep 16, 2021 11:36
Visitor
Home
Click here for Pulp & Paper Radio International
Subscription Central
Must reads for pulp and paper industry professionals
Search
My Profile
Login
Logout
Management Side

Writer for Nip Impressions

Recent Articles

Week of 13 September 2021: Video Games and Paper Machine Operation

Week of 13 September 2021: Video Games and Paper Machine Operation

I was assistant project manager in the engineering department at a mill back in the early 1980's. I have referenced this experience a number of times in this column over the years. One of the upgrades we made at the time was to go from pneumatic controls to digital computer control. This means that the machine, which only a few days ago was operated from benchboard on the floor was now operated from a control room. Now a mere month later, the bench boards are gone. Keep in mind, the crews on this machine had been running it from benchboards for about 14 years...

Read More

Week of 6 September 2021: Management Today

Week of 6 September 2021: Management Today

This is my 52nd September in the workforce. I think management is tougher than ever. Think about it--when I started even OSHA did not exist. People were glad to have jobs and they put up with all sorts of things at work that simply aren't tolerated today, both from the standpoint of society's mores and from a labor regulatory perspective.

Read More

Week of 30 August 2021: Fos wraps up for 2021

Week of 30 August 2021: Fos wraps up for 2021

Silas, the CEO of REO, wasn't finished last week. He had another story he wanted to relate.

Read More

Week of 23 August 2021: Fos continues...

Week of 23 August 2021: Fos continues...

After a few lights of recreation, the Great Mother convened us once again. "Rats," she announced, "Let me introduce the Rat 'Em Out Detective Agency. You can just call them "REO" for short." Six wizened looking old rats came to the front of the room.

Read More

Week of 16 August 2021: Fos continues...

Week of 16 August 2021: Fos continues...

The Great Mother called the meeting to order after a short break. "Who has a case for us?" Dis came up the side aisle. There were a lot of rats at the meeting. They had been attracted by the thoughts of a trip to the Big Things capital city and to their building where the biggest rats of all congregated. The Great Mother seemed to be in a benevolent mood, "And what is your story, my child?" "In the mill where I work, there is this female Big Thing. I should say, 'there was.' She is in jail now."

Read More

Week of 9 August 2021: Fos continues...

Week of 9 August 2021: Fos continues...

The Rats arrived at the big building with the big half ball on top. What we didn't count on is how bad it stinks inside! Don't know how the Big Things stand it, but after a day or two, we pretty much got used to it. I guess because it has been here a long time and gotten saturated with the residuals of Big Thing's activities causes it to stink so. The Great Mother called us to order. "Thank you for coming. As usual, the Big Things have been working overtime again creating havoc and committing crimes throughout the land. What's on the docket today?"

Read More

Week of 2 August 2021: Already, it is corruption month again!

Week of 2 August 2021: Already, it is corruption month again!

By Jim Thompson interpreting for Fos the Rat: You Big Things may think we rats are in the dark about your activities. Of course, if you have been reading this column for any length of time, you know that is not true. I (Fos) have been reporting on your misdeeds and malfeasance since August of 2015. Yes, this makes the seventh year Mr. Jim has yielded his column to me for the month of August.

Read More

Week of 26 July 2021: Environmentalism--an (un)educated public

Week of 26 July 2021: Environmentalism--an (un)educated public

If you have read this series of July columns, you might be thinking I take a dim view of environmentalism principles. I don't--as long as they are measured in their application or make good economic sense. Don't trust the public to be informed. I'll use an example that is not necessarily environmental to prove my point and to show you some of the ways misinformation abounds...

Read More

Week of 19 July 2021: Environmentalism--Marketing

Week of 19 July 2021: Environmentalism--Marketing

You would be hard pressed to find a topic or concept more universally and shamelessly exploited as a marketing aid than environmentalism. Positive vibes from environmentalism are used by nearly every marketer on earth to show alignment of their products and services with clean air, clean water and less landfill waste. It is a safe bet--who doesn't want clean air, clean water and less landfill waste? Sadly, as an industry, we were a bit slow on the uptake.

Read More

Week of 12 July 2021: Environmentalism--Weaponized

Week of 12 July 2021: Environmentalism--Weaponized

Never heard of the Sunrise Movement? You should check them out--www.sunrisemovement.org. On 28 June 2021, they blocked all entrances to the White House to get attention. Some were promptly arrested. One might characterize the Sunrise Movement as Greenpeace on steroids. Youth oriented, the Sunrise Movement has a multifaceted activism focusing on the environment and the Green New Deal. On their website, they list twelve principles. You will have to deal with them.

Read More

Week of 5 July 2021: Environmentalism--Science

Week of 5 July 2021: Environmentalism--Science

In the innocent days of the 1970's, the US Environmental Protection Agency was formed. It came into being on 9 July 1970. Other countries had formed similar bodies in the same era. Sweden's was founded in 1967, for instance. Others were formed as late as the 1990's. Back in those days, air and water pollution were spewing forth with little control and little was being done about it. The correct approach was science coupled with appropriate regulations. This has happened worldwide now, by one of two methods.

Read More

Week of 28 June 2021: Procurement Expediting Tales, part 3

Week of 28 June 2021: Procurement Expediting Tales, part 3

In this final set of scenarios, I was in the role of Services Manager (responsible for maintenance, engineering, and the technical and power departments) at a mill in Ohio. We were having trouble with contaminants in our recycled fiber supply. The state-of-the-art solution at the time was to replace screen baskets with holes with ones with very small slots. Of course, like all such situations, this solution had spread around the industry as fast as it would on Facebook today (but this was pre-internet). We had screen baskets of the requisite specifications on order, but delivery was months away.

Read More

Devon Barnes (L) and Jim Thompson
Devon Barnes (L) and Jim Thompson

Visit to Industrial Air, Inc.

On Thursday, June 17, 2021, I had the great pleasure visiting our client, Industrial Air, Inc., of Greensboro, North Carolina. This visit was a year in the making, given the travel restrictions of the lost year of Covid 19.

Read More

Week of 21 June 2021: Procurement Expediting Tales, part 2

Week of 21 June 2021: Procurement Expediting Tales, part 2

We were in the middle of engineering and planning a rebuild. Our instrument engineer comes strolling into my office one morning. He's concerned about the delivery of the new distributed control system. On the paper machine, we were going from bench boards on the operating floor (with pneumatic controls) to a digital system in a new control room. Huge change. Our instrument engineer, I'll call him Jeff, was getting conflicting stories from the supplier concerning delivery. I told him to make a couple of more calls, and if he was not happy with the answers he was getting, we would jump on a plane. We jumped on a plane.

Read More

Week of 14 June 2021: Procurement Expediting Tales, part 1

Week of 14 June 2021: Procurement Expediting Tales, part 1

As I mentioned last week, we are in a new era of shortages, delays and high costs. Back when many of you engineers and purchasing agents in the mills in the United States were still watching Sesame Street, some of us were going to extraordinary lengths to get the goods our mills needed to stay on schedule and operating. You may need to start thinking this way, too--but be sure to read the safety cautions at the end of this column.

Read More

Week of 7 June 2021: Procurement Month Arrived Early This Year

Week of 7 June 2021: Procurement Month Arrived Early This Year

This is the month I talk about procurement. If you buyers or purchasing agents have been moping around for years, thinking you are not getting any recognition, those days are over. Suddenly, you are the center of attention. Pricing and schedule are paramount these days.

Read More

Week of 31 May 2021: Energy Decision Caution

Week of 31 May 2021: Energy Decision Caution

As I wrap up the energy columns for this month, I wanted to leave you with a few words of caution.

Read More

Week of 24 May 2021: Energy Strategy--does this make sense?

Week of 24 May 2021: Energy Strategy--does this make sense?

We have traditionally calculated the investment in energy projects based on savings against alternatives, fuel supply availability or regulatory requirements. What if we drag the marketing folks into the equation and ask them how much more product they could sell or what kind of a competitive advantage they could realize if they could say your facilities and products are more favorable on the carbon question than other manufacturers? Is there a piece of the economic question that could be answered with this discussion?

Read More

Week of 17 May 2021: When your infrastructure is worth more than your mill

Week of 17 May 2021: When your infrastructure is worth more than your mill

For decades I have been saying the pulp and paper industry is one of the most exciting sectors in the manufacturing world. It is full of surprises, never ceases to be entertaining and is continually offering new ways to succeed. Now an outfit called Allrise Capital has once again reinforced my beliefs in this thinking.

Read More

Week of 3 May 2021: What is your energy strategy now?

Week of 3 May 2021: What is your energy strategy now?

Regardless of your personal beliefs or the science you (do) (do not) believe, carbon neutrality is in your energy future. There are many high-profile companies and CEOs involved in the "CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge" including our own advertising partner, SAP. The Carbon Neutral Challenge has a list of six guiding principles.

Read More

Week of 10 May 2021: What is your energy strategy now? Part 2

Week of 10 May 2021: What is your energy strategy now? Part 2

Here in the United States, with a change in administrations, there is often a change in energy policy. It seems no different this time. If you will recall, many times I have said all energy policy is political. This has not changed. My confidential touchstone on energy activity tells me energy research requests are up, too.

Read More

Week of 26 April 2021: The Extremes of Safety--Discernment

Week of 26 April 2021: The Extremes of Safety--Discernment

Occasionally you will run into a safety situation that is not covered by your training. What to do? My approach to such situations is multi-pronged. Urgency, risk, obvious and unknown are adjectives I would use to describe my approach in these matters, coupled with a heightened awareness of my surroundings.

Read More

Week of 19 April 2021: The Extremes of Safety--Routine

Week of 19 April 2021: The Extremes of Safety--Routine

Last week, we talked about excitement creating dangerous safety conditions. This week let's talk about the opposite--routine creating dangerous safety conditions. Because we work around large machinery, clamp trucks and so forth, which, for the most part behave as they should, we become complacent that about these items. Paper machines can kill--and they have. Clamp trucks can kill--and they have. Dynamic accidents (things flying apart, things falling) are dangerous.

Read More

Week of 12 April 2021: The Extremes of Safety--Excitement

Week of 12 April 2021: The Extremes of Safety--Excitement

One of the most dangerous times, at work, home or wherever is when we get excited. When excited, we often don't think about safety. How many times have you come into the mill excited (perhaps by the traffic you had just driven in)? How many times have you left the mill excited, with plans to go on vacation or do something else exciting when you got off shift that day? How do we fix this?

Read More

Week of 5 April 2021: The Safety Conflict

Week of 5 April 2021: The Safety Conflict

The pressure to meet production goals is directly in conflict with safety procedures unless you work hard and creatively to take the conflict out of this scenario, for there is a conflict here, no matter what anyone says. In reality, doing tasks the safest way is often the most efficient way.

Read More

Week of 29 March 2021: Boneyard Blues

Week of 29 March 2021: Boneyard Blues

I hate boneyards. These piles of junk provide a false sense of security, causing clueless managers to think there is something there that can get them out of a maintenance jam. I haven't kept track, but my perception is that boneyards in my past caused far more problems than they cured.

Read More

Week of 22 March 2021: Overdependence

Week of 22 March 2021: Overdependence

From July 1925 to December 1970, Popular Science Monthly, a familiar magazine here in the US, ran a feature called Gus Wilson's Model Garage. The typical story was an automobile owner who came to the garage with a vexing car problem. Gus, through his experience, wit and intuition, could figure out the problem and put the driver back on the road, problem solved. In our pulp and paper mills today, perhaps we need more Gus's.

Read More

Week of 15 March 2021: Maintenance--it is not just wrenches and volt meters any longer

Week of 15 March 2021: Maintenance--it is not just wrenches and volt meters any longer

Risking raising the hackles of the IT department, this writer thinks it is time to fold IT into maintenance, for that is what it often is. IT should be held accountable for downtime, just like regular maintenance. Downtime should be broken into scheduled and unscheduled, just like regular maintenance and KPI's should be kept on it. Recently, one major company in our industry experienced a ransomware attack. Within two months, the CEO suddenly retired. Coincidence perhaps, but who on the outside knows?

Read More

Week of 8 March 2021: Who dominated your mill design--operations or maintenance?

Week of 8 March 2021: Who dominated your mill design--operations or maintenance?

With experience, one can walk on to an operating floor and determine which faction, operations or maintenance, had the larger influence in a paper mill's design. It is really quite easy. The first giveaway is the width of the operating, or tending, aisle versus the drive aisle.

Read More

Week of 1 March 2021: Maintenance Month

Week of 1 March 2021: Maintenance Month

Is there anything left to be said about maintenance that I have not already said in the last twenty years of writing this column? Yes, there is always something to be said about maintenance. We have more tools, monitoring devices, tracking systems, more than we have ever had before, yet we still have unscheduled maintenance above the levels that should be acceptable in most mills. What should be our standard for maintenance? May I suggest the airline industry?

Read More

Week of 22 February 2021: Improving Society One Boxcar at a Time

Week of 22 February 2021: Improving Society One Boxcar at a Time

By accepting graffiti laden railcars on your site, you are approving of a certain level of mediocrity and malaise associated with your business. Further, you are contributing to a plague on society, every time those railcars pass through any town in the country, not just when they are near or on your property. Cleaning up the railcars will be a huge boost to the overall morale of society.

Read More

Week of 15 February 2021: Horizontal Transportation

Week of 15 February 2021: Horizontal Transportation

The containerboard industry sorely needs its own "conex" for rolls wider than 110 inches. This needs to be a system that allows rolls to be placed horizontally, or perhaps, at an angle to reduce the height normally achieved by vertical rolls.

Read More

Week of 8 February 2021: Vertical Transportation

Week of 8 February 2021: Vertical Transportation

Vertical transportation systems, that is, those which stack goods vertically, tend to occupy disproportionately more space than one would first think due to the need to have aisles to retrieve those goods in storage. From a floorspace allocation perspective, only half of the floor is devoted to storage, the other half is devoted to space for retrieval equipment to operate. One system I have seen that overcomes this problem is a vertical storage finished roll warehouse.

Read More

Week of 1 February 2021: Electric Trucks

Week of 1 February 2021: Electric Trucks

In transportation month last year, we talked about electric trucks. We are still talking about electric trucks today and for years to come.

Read More

Week of 25 January 2021: Do not forget to purge your files

Week of 25 January 2021: Do not forget to purge your files

Engineers and scientists have a propensity to save their data. Saved information can come back and bite your company and you. Many a career has been ruined by a fastidious hoarder. Even worse, most think, "it can't happen to me."

Read More

Week of 18 January 2021: Capital Project Leadership

Week of 18 January 2021: Capital Project Leadership

Project management is about leadership, not democracy. The objective is to complete the project at the least expenditure of time and money. Treat others with respect, yes, but have clearly defined roles for each person and hold them accountable for their piece, replace them if they cannot successfully accomplish their role. These days, we often spend too much time with our eyes off the prize.

Read More

Week of 11 January 2021: Learnings from quasi-public funding for Capital Project Management

Week of 11 January 2021: Learnings from quasi-public funding for Capital Project Management

Much of the mismanagement of capital projects could be eliminated, from my experience, if companies adopted the discipline of quasi-public funding project monitoring. These are projects which are not financed through balance sheets but by issuance of tax-exempt or taxable project specific debt. In the last thirty years, I have had experience as the Technical Advisor on 22 such projects (in pulp, paper, energy, steel, medium density fiberboard and cement) with an installed capital base of billions. I have seen a few things.

Read More

Week of 4 January 2021: Capital Projects Month

Week of 4 January 2021: Capital Projects Month

After nearly fifty-one years in the business, my anecdotal guess is that about half of capital projects are successful, meaning: on time, on budget and fulfilling the original scope. The rest suffer from a myriad of deficiencies.

Read More

Week of 28 December 2020: Energy in the Future

Week of 28 December 2020: Energy in the Future

To wrap up this month on energy columns, I thought I would go to the brightest group I know in the energy business--the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (www.nrel.gov) in Golden, Colorado. NREL had an end of year seminar on the future of energy generation in the United States, 2020 - 2050.

Read More

Week of 21 December 2020: Hydrogen?

Week of 21 December 2020: Hydrogen?

As we continue to talk about energy this month, we would be remiss if we do not bring up hydrogen as a potential fuel. Of course, hydrogen is the "perfect" fuel for combustion, for the "exhaust" is water (H2 + O => H2O). The problem in the past has been that it has not be plentiful or economical.

Read More

Week of 14 December 2020: Solar becomes serious

Week of 14 December 2020: Solar becomes serious

In a decade, I've moved from being a skeptic to saying some alternative energy sources just may be possible for our industry right around the corner.

Read More

Week of 7 December 2020: Power and Energy--I told you so

Week of 7 December 2020: Power and Energy--I told you so

Several times in this column over the years, I have told you to not demolish energy assets (that are in good shape) just because you stopped using them. Properly secure and preserve them and wait for policies to change. With an impending change in federal administrations here in the United States, expect an energy priority change within a year. This may come about by regulation changes or economics (the ranking of various fuel costs changing). These changes may be so severe they push some mills out of business.

Read More

Week of 30 November 2020: Strategy

Week of 30 November 2020: Strategy

This is supposed to be innovation and strategy month but up to this point, I have focused on innovation. Strategy is important, too, but strategy must be focused on solid science, statistics and mathematics. I have seen many strategic initiatives fail over the years. That does not mean we should stop doing them, it means we should make sure our foundation was solid.

Read More

Week of 23 November 2020: Innovation by Elimination

Week of 23 November 2020: Innovation by Elimination

We usually think of innovation as being creative and coming up with some gee whiz new idea. If you have been in business for more than a week, it is easier than that. Just use a critical eye to eliminate the unnecessary. The unnecessary comes in many forms.

Read More

Week of 16 November 2020: Innovation--be aware of your surroundings

Week of 16 November 2020: Innovation--be aware of your surroundings

There are many failures in innovation. One chronic failure to keep in mind is to be aware of your surroundings. You may think you have a fantastic idea. But if it is not obvious that it solves a problem or it is a solution more complicated than the original problem, it likely will fail.

Read More

Week of 9 November 2020: Whence comes innovation?

Week of 9 November 2020: Whence comes innovation?

Innovation is a process of the desperate and the opportunistic. There are countless examples through history where, with backs against the walls, innovators have broken through. The Internet, a solution in search of a problem, was probably the biggest innovation of all time, at least in communications. The paper grades that died, had they caught on early enough, may have survived in a better fashion than they did. However, it was not in the mindset of the people and entities involved to (a) perceive they were in trouble or (b) do something about it. So, within our industry, where will innovation come in the near future?

Read More

Week of 2 November 2020: What happened to jute liner? (part 3 of 3)

Week of 2 November 2020: What happened to jute liner? (part 3 of 3)

Finishing up... There are two extraordinary transient conditions at the present time. One is well under way, and the other is just around the corner.

Read More

Week of 26 October 2020: What happened to jute liner? (part 2 of 3)

Week of 26 October 2020: What happened to jute liner? (part 2 of 3)

Picking up from last week... With the push from landfill costs in Europe and the United States, plus the other drivers I have mentioned previously, manufacturers and scientists began to work in earnest on the performance requirements for recycled containerboard products.

Read More

Week of 19 October 2020: What happened to jute liner? (part 1 of 3)

Week of 19 October 2020: What happened to jute liner? (part 1 of 3)

This is a story of quality improvement, one that many today may not know.

Read More

Week of 12 October 2020: Quality--a paradox of Consumer Demand and Employee Performance

Week of 12 October 2020: Quality--a paradox of Consumer Demand and Employee Performance

I strongly suspect this observation has always gone along with becoming a septuagenarian, but I am not sure, having not been one before. Yet when I was younger, it seemed as though older employees around me were always griping about the younger generations (lazy, did not know what they were doing, caused a lot of rework and so forth). Well, this septuagenarian has some of the same feelings. I note at the same time that customer and competitive driven demands of our products dictate higher and higher quality levels. I heard it explained this way once...

Read More

Week of 5 October 2020: They don't make 'em like they used to

Week of 5 October 2020: They don't make 'em like they used to

I belong to a couple of old car groups on Facebook. Every week or so, some folks get into mild arguments concerning the quality of automobiles. The argument always goes the same--the cars of the '50's and '60's were much better than the cars of today. Are you kidding me? The cars of today are fantastic and, for all their gee-whiz features, cheap. A $3,500 car in 1965 would cost nearly $29,000 today. For that kind of money today you can get a car with better safety protection, air conditioning, lane control assist and so forth. I know, because I bought one for that kind of money last year. Same with paper. The paper, any grade, of 50 years ago was nothing compared to the paper of today. On a constant cost basis, today's paper is very, very inexpensive...

Read More

Just around the corner now

Just around the corner now

A bit of technology five years in the making. It is about time.

Read More

Could Industry 4.0 provide transparency for the recycled fiber markets?

Could Industry 4.0 provide transparency for the recycled fiber markets?

An age-old problem in the recycled fiber business has been the lack of transparency in the pricing of recycled fiber. At least in the grade OCC (Old Corrugated Containers) there may be a glimmer of hope.

Read More

Week of 28 September 2020: What are you worth?

Week of 28 September 2020: What are you worth?

Friend of mine recently told me a story. It went like this. Decades ago, when he was first hired by a major company in this industry, his boss sat him down and said, "We have your salary wrong." This was a startling revelation. The boss went on, "When we hire young folks like you, we slot you into the system based on lots of studies and identifying attributes. But it is all just a guess. For sure, what you are worth is not reflected in your salary right now, for we are just not that smart. In a few months, we'll have a better idea of what you are worth. We may be overpaying you or underpaying you now, but the truth will come out in time..."

Read More

Week of 21 September 2020: A curious loss of competitive edge

Week of 21 September 2020: A curious loss of competitive edge

As we continue to talk about management issues this month, I want to bring up something that has been bothering me for a long time. It is simply this...in the human resources area I think well developed countries may be losing a competitive edge when it comes to thinking about the newer generations of employees, hourly and salaried, entering our mills these days. My thoughts are these...

Read More

Week of 14 September 2020: When you are lost as a manager

Week of 14 September 2020: When you are lost as a manager

Especially when I was a younger manager, I would lose sight of the objectives at hand. After all, forces are tugging you in a million different directions at once, it is easily to become distracted. Print this column and carry it around in your pocket if you need to for a while.

Read More

Week of 7 September 2020: So you want a new job

Week of 7 September 2020: So you want a new job

We will cover three topics this week.

Read More

Week of 31 August 2020: The Big Lie

Week of 31 August 2020: The Big Lie

I returned to the convention and another case was just wrapping up. Missed it. Sorry. The Great Mother said, "Any more cases?" The clerk responded, "Gup is here and has something to say about project management." "Come on up, Gup!"

Read More

Week of 24 August 2020: Fos takes a trip

Week of 24 August 2020: Fos takes a trip

Well, while the convention continues, I wanted to take some time to tell you a story I witnessed firsthand. This happened many lights, ago, so many I can't count them. What Mr. Jim doesn't know is that I have been following him around for a very long time, since he was a young man. One time, on a certain project, it was his job to escort Big Things called "contractors" across the sea to check out some equipment that was to be installed at his papermill. When I heard about this, I was certain I did not want to miss it. So, I slid in his briefcase, went home with him, and then along on the trip.

Read More

Week of 17 August 2020: Dealing with Suppliers

Week of 17 August 2020: Dealing with Suppliers

Our convention had finally settled down and we were getting a number of interesting stories. The Great Mother, after a break, ask if anyone had a story to relate, perhaps not from the pulp and paper industry, but that would be a lesson learned. Old Soc raised his tail...

Read More

Week of 10 August 2020: Where do we get these people?

Week of 10 August 2020: Where do we get these people?

Well, we finally got relocated to the new location. Much safer here than it was in that crazy city. The Great Mother called us to order. "Okay, rats, what do we have on the docket for today?"

Read More

Week of 3 August 2020: Corruption Month

Week of 3 August 2020: Corruption Month

Since last year, the Great Mother has passed on to Rat Heaven and we have a new cadre in charge. The word came out early in the year that we will be convening in a big city on a big lake in the middle of the country. There is a lot of pulp and paper business there and so many rats live fairly close at hand.

Read More

Week of 27 July 2020: Not an excuse

Week of 27 July 2020: Not an excuse

Environmental policies and other regulations are the cost of doing business in the modern civilized world. If you are going to operate a business in today's world, you must do it legally, it is part of the job. I have seen a number of excuses made over the years that do nothing to endear customers to businesses when such matters are used as excuses.

Read More

Week of 20 July 2020: Keeping Focused

Week of 20 July 2020: Keeping Focused

I don't think there has ever been a time in my fifty years in industry that I have seen more potential hazards distracting us from our primary purpose in business which is, of course (all together), "spinning the invoice printer." We have been forced to step beyond the traditional corporate responsibilities (environment, regulations, equal opportunity employment and so forth).

Read More

Week of 13 July 2020: Has the Covid-19 experience soiled the Environmental Movement?

Week of 13 July 2020: Has the Covid-19 experience soiled the Environmental Movement?

I have met no one who doesn't want clean soil, water and air for themselves, their families and succeeding generations. How could anyone be against such attributes? Yet there are portions of the environmental movement that hinge on the invisible. The whole discussion on the proper balance of carbon dioxide that is appropriate in the atmosphere, for instance, is a discussion best left to learned scientists and mathematicians. Carbon dioxide, in its gaseous form is invisible. Just like Covid-19. The effects of Covid-19 are visible and timely while Covid-19 is just as invisible as Carbon Dioxide.

Read More

Week of 6 July 2020: Environmental/Regulations Month: the new rules today

Week of 6 July 2020: Environmental/Regulations Month: the new rules today

As we find ourselves mid-year 2020, our standard editorial topics for the month, Environmental/Regulations seem almost naïve. I have not heard anyone talk about the environment for months. There is plenty of talk about regulations, but they are not the kinds of regulations we normally talk about. The world of 2020 is something we have not seen before, and, on top of that, it is not a local thing--it is worldwide.

Read More

Week of 29 June 2020: Purchasing and Graft

Week of 29 June 2020: Purchasing and Graft

The purchasing department should not only set the example for dealing with suppliers, the purchasing department should be the department that sets the policy for the entire mill. And, then, they should be the one that polices it, too. What is the right limit to be allowed for favors brought in by suppliers?

Read More

Week of 22 June 2020: Providing true expediting service to your mill

Week of 22 June 2020: Providing true expediting service to your mill

Granted, it is a long time since I was internal to a mill as an employee and just maybe this probably has been fixed by now, but I doubt it. I am talking about expediting services. By the way, Amazon provides expediting updates for free on the tiniest of orders--it is part of their overall service. So, do not tell me, purchasing department, you cannot do this.

Read More

Week of 15 June 2020: You are not fooling anybody

Week of 15 June 2020: You are not fooling anybody

Once in a while, a purchasing department decides to get clever and extend payment terms. You can pull this stunt about once with each supplier. For when they figure it out, your prices are going up. Your suppliers and their competitors do not have to collude to raise your prices, they all instinctively know that if you are doing this to everyone, all your suppliers are going to pay you back in kind.

Read More

Week of 8 June 2020: Purchasing and Education

Week of 8 June 2020: Purchasing and Education

Last week we talked about the role of purchasing. I never once brought up negotiating a good price. I am not going to bring up negotiating a good price this week, either. This week, we will talk about educating the purchasing department. And we are not going to talk about contract writing as we talk about education.

Read More

Week of 1 June 2020: What is the role of purchasing?

Week of 1 June 2020: What is the role of purchasing?

Purchasing experiences in my career are legion and become cuter and cuter as time goes by. I have the whole month of June (5 columns) to explain this statement, so I'll not bother doing so now, but faithful readers will see it unfold as we go along. What is the first and most important job of purchasing?

Read More

Week of 25 May 2020: One more view on energy trends

Week of 25 May 2020: One more view on energy trends

Energy is saved by the milliliter, not the liter or dekaliter. In order to do this, you must have everyone looking for the opportunities.

Read More

Week of 18 May 2020: More Energy Trend Problems

Week of 18 May 2020: More Energy Trend Problems

This month, I have been telling you, when it comes to energy trends, what you do not control you cannot predict. Thus, I have been admonishing you to know what you control, control it, and then miserly buy what other energy you may need. I thought I would give you a couple of examples, one new, one old, demonstrating energy matters you cannot predict.

Read More

Week of 11 May 2020: What is predictable in energy trends?

Week of 11 May 2020: What is predictable in energy trends?

In a world where every storage tank, every ocean-going tanker, every cavern or old mine that can be modified for oil storage is full to overflowing, what can we say about energy trends? Add to this the popular public anathema to fossil fuels, and one can find themselves in a tight box with no way virtually no way out. In these times, energy trends become what you can control. What you can control means what you own. It was pretty clear in my Mennonite example last week how they control their energy costs. You, mill manager, have to do the same thing.

Read More

Week of 4 May 2020: When energy is precious

Week of 4 May 2020: When energy is precious

In July of 2018, I received a letter from a gentleman who lives in a Mennonite community in southern Ohio. He had been reading my opinion column in a small southern Ohio town's newspaper for several years. He, and the leaders of the community, liked my viewpoints. They invited me to visit them. We corresponded a bit and I arranged to come see his family and the community in October of that year. I got off the bus (the method of travel he recommended) at another small southern Ohio town and he was there to meet me with a buggy. It took us a couple of hours to make the ten-mile trip from the bus stop to his farm. Our method of propulsion for this buggy journey was, I kid you not, "Rocket"--a small middle-aged black gelding, about thirteen hands high.

Read More

Week of 27 April 2020: The Safety Gulf

Week of 27 April 2020: The Safety Gulf

Safety failures seem to fall into two categories.

Read More

Week of 20 April 2020: Robots mean maintenance safety

Week of 20 April 2020: Robots mean maintenance safety

In the current pandemic, we are seeing grocery stores accelerate their adoption of robots to restock store shelves. Once done, this will never go back to the old ways. The world of maintenance in our pulp and paper mills (and downstream plants) can work the same way.

Read More

Week of 13 April 2020: Lurking Dangers

Week of 13 April 2020: Lurking Dangers

If there is one thing the current COVID-19 crisis should teach us, if taken as an allegorical experience, is that dangers affecting safety are not always out in the open. I've told this story many times before, but perhaps you have not heard it...

Read More

Week of 6 April 2020: How appropriate--it is safety month!

Week of 6 April 2020: How appropriate--it is safety month!

No, I am not going to give you another COVID-19 advisory. You have no doubt already read countless admonishments on that subject. You do need to take them seriously, of course. But at this point, for the literate and sighted part of the population, I say let Darwinism take its course--you have been warned. For the infirm, the weak, the young and the very old -be generous and help them out. What is appropriate, though, in this first week of Safety Month, is to warn you about distractions. I can't think of another time in my nearly seventy years of life that I have ever seen the entire world focused on one subject as it is now. And, admit, it is a distraction. Distractions take our attention off safe practices.

Read More

Week of 30 March 2020: Brave new world: How do you do maintenance with a 6 foot separation between employees?

Week of 30 March 2020: Brave new world: How do you do maintenance with a 6 foot separation between employees?

The first thing that popped into my mind was to dress all your maintenance people in pre-Civil War hoop skirted ball gowns. Although it will maintain the distance, I can think of many other reasons this won't work. For the future, this just emphasizes more predictive maintenance and solid maintenance monitoring. If you know the condition of your equipment and the failure curve it is on, you can plan on how to prepare it in a timely fashion.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 23 March 2020: Maintenance Contractors need to step up their game

Week of 23 March 2020: Maintenance Contractors need to step up their game

OK, everything today is coronavirus. No matter which way you turn. Reminds me of a year's worth of Reader's Digest that I bought at a flea market years ago. The year was 1944 and nearly every story in every issue of that year was about the war. Well, one might say we are in a war now. If you are a maintenance contractor, likely you need to step up your game.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 16 March 2020: Ford vs. Ferrari

Week of 16 March 2020: Ford vs. Ferrari

When you look at auto racing, at least 50% of the difference between winners and losers is maintenance. The recent movie, Ford vs. Ferrari, drives this point home. Watch the movie, watch the maintenance. You just may learn something and improve your operations.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 9 March 2020: What to maintain?

Week of 9 March 2020: What to maintain?

Seems like a simple question, but it is often missed. How do you determine what to maintain? It starts with what you intend to keep. How do you determine what to keep?

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 2 March 2020: Maintenance Again

Week of 2 March 2020: Maintenance Again

“Maintenance Again” is pronounced in many mills with a slight groan and downward inflection in the voice. In many CFO offices, the words “Maintenance Again” are recognized about as easily as any phrase in Klingon. By the way, you can translate “Maintenance Again” to Klingon—it is “leH jatlhqa” so don’t let the person holding the checkbook in your mill get by with feigning ignorance of the necessity of maintenance, no matter what language you use. I have been writing this column for over eighteen years and I have railed against the cheap maintenance managers for nearly fifty years. It is absolutely criminal to not do prescribed maintenance.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 24 February 2020: Transportation entities must watch their Public Relations

Week of 24 February 2020: Transportation entities must watch their Public Relations

Whether truck, rail, air or jitney, transportation companies often have a public relations problem.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 17 February 2020: Conveyors are transportation, too!

Week of 17 February 2020: Conveyors are transportation, too!

Throughout my career, I have seen lots of goods moved within many facilities' sites...

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 10 February 2020: Cancer!

Week of 10 February 2020: Cancer!

Expecting a column on transportation here in February, you may have been slightly startled by this week's column title. This is the way cancer strikes, you are going along, minding your own business, planning what you'll do next and cancer rears its ugly head.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 3 February 2020: What's developed in transportation in the last year?

Week of 3 February 2020: What's developed in transportation in the last year?

We last visited transportation in February of 2019. What's new?

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 27 January 2020: Dainty and Rugged Capital Projects

Week of 27 January 2020: Dainty and Rugged Capital Projects

I have seen few project engineers successfully transfer their skills between the two extremes of the paper industry. On the front end, we find incoming long wood, chippers, chip piles and so forth. At the other end of the business, we find printing and packaging lines with the daintiest of doodads, which must nevertheless work properly and flawlessly for long periods of time.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 20 January 2020: Leveraging Capital Negotiations

Week of 20 January 2020: Leveraging Capital Negotiations

If you have the corporate foresight to do so, leveraged buying can provide tremendous savings for the procurer and savings for the supplier as well.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 13 January 2020: The Emotion in Capital Budgets

Week of 13 January 2020: The Emotion in Capital Budgets

When you are in the trenches looking up, it is often easy to see the perceived capriciousness of capital budgets. Hence, as the project manager overseeing the actual project implementation, it is sometimes easy to be lackadaisical about the funding. Do this at your own peril.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 6 January 2020: Do low interest rates make for sloppy capital projects?

Week of 6 January 2020: Do low interest rates make for sloppy capital projects?

I have been around long enough to remember when retail interest rates were in the +20% range. At the time, corporations were not usually being charged at these levels, but they did reach into the mid-teens. The usual reaction at that point was not to do capital projects, but to wait. Even if corporations were self-funding, they often waited because they could make larger and safer returns with their money at interest in the bank. Today, interest rates are trivial, even for construction loans. Gone are the days when there was a sharp focus on construction interest costs.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 30 December 2019: Power & Energy: Hubris and Finality

Week of 30 December 2019: Power & Energy: Hubris and Finality

As we wrap up December's Power & Energy Emphasis, I want to offer a caution or two.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 23 December 2019: Power & Energy: Fossil Fuels

Week of 23 December 2019: Power & Energy: Fossil Fuels

I have admonished readers a number of times over the years not to demolish their fossil fuel-powered assets. Although they may be out of favor at the moment, history indicates nothing is ever permanent in the energy sector.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 16 December 2019: Power & Energy: Hydroelectric

Week of 16 December 2019: Power & Energy: Hydroelectric

Hydroelectric power has been a significant component in pulp and paper mills for over 120 years. Early modern paper mills quickly adopted electric power produced by streams near their facilities. It was a natural--the pulp and paper mills needed water and when the ability to generate hydroelectric power came along they quickly built dams and harnessed this renewable power.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 9 December 2019: Solar is getting closer to making economic sense without subsidies

Week of 9 December 2019: Solar is getting closer to making economic sense without subsidies

Solar cells are continuing to improve in efficiency. My best source tells me that within a few years, we will likely be seeing solar arrays of multiple layers, each layer tuned to a particular wavelength emitted by the sun. Why is this important now?

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 2 December 2019: For the 46th Year in a row...energy is a big topic

Week of 2 December 2019: For the 46th Year in a row...energy is a big topic

I largely look at energy on a cost avoidance basis. Yes, we all want clean air (low emissions) but let's not go crazy following ideas that are not well proven scientifically (don't send me surveys on what scientists believe about energy consumption--people's opinions are not science). Nevertheless, when looking at places where energy is dear makes me realize we still have a long way to go to make our industry as efficient as possible.

Read More

Week of 25 November 2019: Creativity, the imperfect mortar in the Innovation and Strategy Structure

Week of 25 November 2019: Creativity, the imperfect mortar in the Innovation and Strategy Structure

If the problems with Innovation and Strategy are that we can never be certain as to how they will turn out, Creativity, the mortar that holds the other two together, suffers this fate in an even larger measure.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 18 November 2019: Strategy Pitfalls

Week of 18 November 2019: Strategy Pitfalls

There is the old children's story of the blind men describing an elephant. As the story goes each one of them walks around the elephant and feels different parts of it. As they do so, each has a different impression of what an elephant might be, based on the parts they touch. Some companies operate as the blind men did when it comes to setting a future course--their strategy. They are so lost in their myopic view of the world they miss the big picture.

Listen to this column in your favorite format

iTunes or MP3

Read More

Week of 11 November 2019: Sources of Innovation

Week of 11 November 2019: Sources of Innovation

Many years ago, when I purchased a motorcycle, I wanted the equivalent of a "cruise control" for it. I shopped around and found this clever little mechanical device that fits on the right handlebar and gently locks the accelerator into position. With the flick of a handy little lever, you could turn it off. My cousin, a machinist, saw this and said, "I can copy that." I didn't let him. I think inventions should belong to the originator in perpetuity (I think we should still be paying royalties to the descendants of the inventor of tables and chairs--marvelous inventions in and of themselves). At least that is the way I used to think...

Read More


Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: