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Management Side

Writer for Nip Impressions

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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...

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Just around the corner now

Just around the corner now

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

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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.

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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..."

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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!"

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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.

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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...

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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?"

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Week of 27 April 2020: The Safety Gulf

Week of 27 April 2020: The Safety Gulf

Safety failures seem to fall into two categories.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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Week of 4 November 2019: Innovation

Week of 4 November 2019: Innovation

This is innovation and strategy month here at Nip Impressions. The sources of innovation (which can either lead or lag a strategic vision) are many. These days, it is popular to do innovation in an institutional environment with government or other deep pocket funding. That’s OK, however there is another way of which I am fond. That is when we do innovation out of necessity or when a bright entrepreneur has an “Aha!” moment. Here is one of those...

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Week of 28 October 2019: A whole different look at Quality, part 4

Week of 28 October 2019: A whole different look at Quality, part 4

In my travels this past spring and summer, I saw the matters I described in these four columns. In fact, I saw a lot more than I have had space to share. The urban settings were difficult enough, but what really struck me was one rural scene I saw and with which I have a history.

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Week of 21 October 2019: A whole different look at Quality, part 3

Week of 21 October 2019: A whole different look at Quality, part 3

The question for this week gets a bit tougher as we look at quality in a different way.

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Week of 14 October 2019: A whole different look at Quality, part 2

Week of 14 October 2019: A whole different look at Quality, part 2

We talked about lobbies last week. This week let's imagine a valued customer showing up at your facility unannounced. What would they see? What would be their reaction? From what I have seen in my travels this year, I'll give you some examples.

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Week of 7 October 2019: A whole different look at quality, part 1

Week of 7 October 2019: A whole different look at quality, part 1

In quality month, we usually examine product quality. We are going to take the subject in a little different direction this year. This will be a four-week series, so you will want to make sure you don’t miss any of it if you really want to make a difference in quality in our industry.

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Week of 30 September 2019: What will management in the future look like?

Week of 30 September 2019: What will management in the future look like?

Management has changed radically in my lifetime. The future promises much of the same—an evolving landscape with many perils for those who fail to keep up with what society considers acceptable.

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Week of 23 September 2019: The Most Important Machine

Week of 23 September 2019: The Most Important Machine

I would be shocked if I have to tell any Nip Impressions reader what the most important machine is, but in keeping with the theme I am following this month, I will—the invoice printer.

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Week of 16 September 2019: Bean Bags and other Nonsense

Week of 16 September 2019: Bean Bags and other Nonsense

I haven’t seen this situation in any actual pulp and paper mill offices yet, but I am sure it is coming. It is hard to resist fads and the more outlandish, the harder they are to oppose. I am speaking about these modern office layouts.

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Week of 9 September 2019: The Second Most Important Task

Week of 9 September 2019: The Second Most Important Task

You already know what the most important job is (if you don’t, I will be reminding you before this month is out, for sure). Today, however, I want to talk about the Second Most Important Task. The Second Most Important Task (SMIT) is to create new products, or fresh modifications of your existing products.

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Week of 2 September 2019: The Most Important Management Job

Week of 2 September 2019: The Most Important Management Job

Over the years, I have written many columns and books on management, particularly management in pulp and paper mills. However, if I can summarize this subject in one sentence, that sentence is: "Make your boss look good." There is no better way to advance your career or the business of your company than following this platitude. However, this does not come without some caveats and assumptions.

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Week of 26 August 2019: Pulp Rats 2019--Fourth Week:  Fos commutes

Week of 26 August 2019: Pulp Rats 2019--Fourth Week: Fos commutes

One day, when no one was noticing, I jumped in the admin leader's BTI (you may remember from early episodes this is what the rats called cars, trucks, and so forth--Jim). She seemed to always take the most food and I thought she might leave some crumbs in the BTI that I could eat.

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Week of 19 August 2019: Pulp Rats 2019--Third Week:  Fos in the Supply Room

Week of 19 August 2019: Pulp Rats 2019--Third Week: Fos in the Supply Room

In our mill, all the workers wear uniforms and have badges, that is a picture of themselves on a piece of plastic that has their name on it. I found one of these one day and tried to eat it. Not very good and it gave me a tremendous stomachache. Anyway, there is this large room where parts and supplies are kept. Most of the time, an employee is stationed at the door, and this employee retrieves materials for other employees that ask for them. This employee usually eats their lunch there, so the place is guarded all the time. This happens on all three shifts.

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Week of 12 August 2019: Pulp Rats 2019 - Second Week

Week of 12 August 2019: Pulp Rats 2019 - Second Week

Fos the Rat continues...

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Week of 5 August 2019: Pulp Rats for 2019--first week

Week of 5 August 2019: Pulp Rats for 2019--first week

From here on out, Fos the Rat will be writing for the month of August, just like he has for the last four years, while I take a break.

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Week of 29 July 2019: Rebuttal to column of 8 July 19,

Week of 29 July 2019: Rebuttal to column of 8 July 19, "Thoughts on the Environmental Dialogue"

It is important to note that I put my comments at the beginning of this column, not the end, for I desire that you, dear reader, leave this column with the words of the rebutters, not mine, fresh in your mind. Now to the rebuttals...

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Week of 22 July 2019: Other Regulatory Impacts

Week of 22 July 2019: Other Regulatory Impacts

When we think of regulatory enforcers, we often think of professionally dressed folks showing up at the front entrance of our facility with briefcases full of forms. Or, perhaps we are thinking of Wall Street regulators, making sure there is no insider trading or those sorts of matters. Other regulators abound all around us. Many are on the payroll of our employer.

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Week of 15 July 2019: Remember this about Regulators

Week of 15 July 2019: Remember this about Regulators

A mistreated regulator can find ways to cost your company money beyond what is necessary to maintain a legal, moral and ethical business.

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Week of 8 July 2019: Thoughts on the environmental dialogue

Week of 8 July 2019: Thoughts on the environmental dialogue

I was asked the other day where I thought our audience’s opinion was on the question of global warming, climate change, and so forth. My unscientific response is that I believe that about 90% of our audience remains somewhat skeptical, down from 100% just a few years ago. I remain skeptical for several reasons...

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Week of 1 July 2019: The Environment and Regulations

Week of 1 July 2019: The Environment and Regulations

If we are going to spin the invoice printer at its optimum and retain as much profit as possible, we must find a way to get the environment and regulations game under control. We have to do it ourselves; no one is going to do it for us.

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Week of 24 June 2019: Purchasing in the future

Week of 24 June 2019: Purchasing in the future

Not far ahead, purchasing is going to be much different from what it is today. With the coming of Industry 4.0 (do you read our monthly newsletter on this subject, Industree 4.0TM?) smart mills will be operated in a totally different way. As equipment self-diagnoses its ailments, it will order its own spare parts. No human intervention.

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Week of 17 June 2019: Fine tuning the procurement function

Week of 17 June 2019: Fine tuning the procurement function

If you survived last week's column on procurement and are back for more, welcome to the continuing discussion.

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Week of 10 June 2019: What should be the scope of the procurement function?

Week of 10 June 2019: What should be the scope of the procurement function?

This story was told about a CFO, but it will serve us well as we talk about procurement this week. It seems as though a certain paper company hired a new CFO from outside our industry. Attending his first budget meeting, the annual budget was being reviewed. This is a large company, the line item for machine clothing was well over 8 digits. Pounding his fist on the table, he said, "This is outrageous. Why are we spending so much on employee uniforms?" He didn't last long.

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Week of 3 June 2019: Procurement 2019

Week of 3 June 2019: Procurement 2019

In times gone by (and, sadly, to some extent still today) procurement has been prone to a considerable amount of graft and general corruption. For party of the first part is trying to persuade party of the second part to buy certain goods and services. Procurement officers are fiduciarily charged with getting the best deal for their companies. Sellers are taught to get the order. Less than sterling ethics on either side can corrupt the process and unfairly cheat one party, often the buyer, with inflated prices, shoddy goods or services and less than maximum value.

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Week of 27 May 2019: Coming changes in Energy Consumption

Week of 27 May 2019: Coming changes in Energy Consumption

Land-grant colleges and universities were funded by the Morrill Acts (1862 and 1890). The beginning of the agricultural revolution in the United States approximates these acts. When I say “the agricultural revolution” I am referring to the phenomenal improvement in the productivity of agriculture that has occurred from the mid-19th century until today. We need go no further than note that at the beginning of this period, over 98% of the population was engaged in agriculture, today less than 2% is, despite massive growth in the number of mouths to feed. Agriculture has always been ahead of industry in efficiency improvements.

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Week of 20 May 2019: Energy Trends outside the Fence

Week of 20 May 2019: Energy Trends outside the Fence

In containerboard grades, relative cost position curves are becoming a metric of the past, not the future. Actually, what may happen is they bifurcate into two distinct sets, one recycled mills and the other virgin mills. We are on the cusp of an era where putting them up against one another is meaningless.

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

A visit to Advanced Coil Technology

I just love to visit our clients. Today (13 May 2019), I was visiting Devon Barnes, President of Advanced Coil Technology, LLC in Owatonna, Minnesota. Advanced Coil makes liquid-to-air coils for any application.

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Week of 13 May 2019: Historical Energy Trends

Week of 13 May 2019: Historical Energy Trends

Sometimes it is worthwhile to look back on where we have come from to assess where we are and where we are going...

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Week of 6 May 2019: Energy Trends 2019

Week of 6 May 2019: Energy Trends 2019

If you have read my columns for a while, you know that for many years, I have been saying "all energy is political." Let me assure you, this reality has not changed. Particularly when tied into discussions concerning climate change, global warming and similar subjects, energy discussions are more political than ever.

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Week of 29 April 2019: Office Safety

Week of 29 April 2019: Office Safety

We spend a lot of time talking about safety in production and forestry settings, often neglecting offices in the discussions. It is easy to be seriously injured in an office, too.

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