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Production problems at Fibre-Excellence were solved through Performance Agreement

Fibre-Excellence is a pulp mill located in Saint-Gaudens, South-West France. A few years back the mill was facing frequent breaks and severe losses. To solve their production problems, Fibre-Excellence decided to partner with Valmet. After signing a Performance Agreement, a team of experts from different parts of Valmet was appointed to work with the customer. Co-operation proved to be the key to solving the problems!

Fibre-Excellence and Valmet had been doing business together for some years: minor projects, maintenance work and consumable deliveries. As mill faced repeating problems with losses and breaks at their pulp dryer, Valmet was the natural choice to partner with to find a solution. A Performance Agreement was signed in 2013.

Definition, assessment and execution

There were severe losses and frequent breaks at the pulp dryer, but it was not known what was causing them. Valmet proposed a three-step approach to launch the project in 2013.

First, the problems were listed and specifications were defined. Then the required skills were assessed and the Valmet Task Force was selected. At this point it was already clear that expertise was needed from different teams and organizations, which later proved to be the key for the successful execution. The Key Performance Indicators (KPI) were defined together with the customer and everything was settled through a performance agreement.

From audits to actions

A vast number of audits and tests were run to begin with in order to find the root causes to the problems. The following are just examples of the improvements made – in addition there were dozens of big and small adjustments done to reach the goal.

For example, during one audit, crushed surface of pulp sheet was detected and it was recommended that the basis weight should be reduced to gain better sheet strength. At the same time sheet edge defects were eliminated. There was also pulp accumulating along the deckle liner and it was fixed by providing a new edge deckle liner. These actions helped to reduce the breaks in the production process.

For capacity increase it was recommended that the steel presses should be covered by a grooved polyurethane cover. A long term fabric agreement was made to ensure stable performance of the steel press. Also quick release nets were installed to the airborne dryer and a new coils cleaning method was introduced.

Co-operation was the key

The key finding of the two-year-long journey was the importance of co-operation for successful improvement projects. First of all, experts were invited to join Valmet’s task force over organization boundaries to guarantee top-class know-how. Also, local expertise was utilized to a great extent while the project responsibles stayed more in the back. It is important to keep the communication flowing continuously and openly and for that the local contacts are the best.

The project continued until the end of 2015 and resulted in a dramatical drop in the number of breaks and a 10 % increase in the capacity. The co-operation continues on a smaller scale and Fibre-Excellence has continued to execute their improved production process successfully.