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Jan 21, 2016

Enrique Zarate Caro (from the left) and Dario Palma of Papel San Francisco with Ola Thomasson and Johan Rågård from Valmet.

Both the operations and sales people at Papel San Francisco in Mexicali, Mexico are happy with their first Advantage NTT textured tissue machine from Valmet.

Being the first in the world with any major papermaking technology is never easy. The money involved is big, as are the risk and the pressure. However, if there are any questions about Papel San Francisco’s decision to install the world’s first NTT textured tissue machine, the following statements from the company’s Operations Director and Sales Director certainly address them.

“We have no regrets at all with our decision to go with NTT,” states Dario Palma, Operations Director at Papel San Francisco (PSF). “In fact, I am quite confident that NTT is the design of the future for conventional tissue, due to the high productivity that comes with it. This is an extremely energy-efficient machine, with high dryness going into the Yankee and hood, which gives us previously unheard of productivity. We get conventional products at low energy, and textured tissue as an extra bonus if the market needs it, with a quick and easy changeover. For these reasons, I believe NTT could replace the crescent former as the new standard for conventional tissue-making in the future.”

From the market side, Sales Director Juan Helu is equally pleased, but for different reasons.

“The biggest contribution NTT has made is that our customers now see us as a complete supplier. The market perceives a company as a reflection of the products it sells, and people really like the new NTT products we are offering under our Level brand. So by raising quality with the introduction of our Level products, we’ve enhanced our reputation. We have been able to set prices between conventional and TAD premium grades, with people realizing that the Level brand gives them really good quality at a fair price.”


Juan Helu, Sales Director, is pleased that people like the new tissue products made with Advantage NTT technology.

Energy was the primary focus

Truth be told, PSF originally had no intention of adding an NTT machine, and in fact they didn’t even know what the technology was. Dario Palma explains the background further.

“We needed to add conventional capacity and, due to continuously changing energy prices, we decided that our main focus for a new machine was on reducing energy consumption. We already had four tissue machines, and we were talking with Valmet about a new conventional machine with low energy consumption.”

“At that point, although we had not heard of it, we were told that the new NTT configuration gave the most energy-efficient tissue production in the world. That certainly caught our attention. We clearly required conventional capacity, as our sales department needed product. So when we heard the energy numbers for NTT in conventional mode and were told it could also make textured tissue, this was an additional ‘bonus’ for us that clearly made it interesting. The risk was very low and the upside very positive.”

Running well for over two years now

The machine, known as Mexicali 6, had a good start-up in July 2013, making salable paper in the first couple of days. Of course, says Dario Palma, “it was not a perfect start-up, as none ever is, but it was smooth and we rapidly achieved very high speeds.”

The PM 6 tissue machine started in conventional mode because the company needed that grade for its main market. Eventually the machine moved into textured runs, and Dario Palma says he is pleased to report that, “the machine has been completely full for a while now. As of mid-2015, we have been making about 11% in textured mode and the remainder in conventional, which is traditionally our market and what the sales department demands most, at this point. This is no surprise, as it was always the plan.”

Market niche just below premium TAD

PSF has changed from previously being basically a 100% recycled-based conventional tissue company, to one that also offers a textured tissue quality near the premium grades. Filling this gap has given it the important advantage of presenting the company as a complete supplier to the main retail players in the Mexican market, with good results.

Juan Helu says the timing of NTT has been great since, due to some market adjustments in Mexico, demand for textured tissue has moved up just as the NTT tonnage was becoming available. “Our sales department here is extremely happy that we have the Level brand, and the sales numbers for this new textured product have been very strong. Right now, the textured grades – meaning Level – make up 6% of our bathroom tissue sales. It has rapidly found its place with retailers, including the very biggest ones, at the top of the market, just below the premium grades like Kleenex and Charmin. But NTT is not a premium TAD grade and was never meant to be.”

Limitless potential for belt design

Exactly what more NTT can become is open to speculation, but the early signs are positive. Dario Palma says he sees lots of possibilities: “One of the nice things about NTT is that it basically has limitless potential with regards to the belt design. Lots of new products can be produced by changing the belt design, so that offers high potential for the market. I wish we had more time to experiment and play around with the potential of this machine, but the reality is that our sales department needs the tonnage, so we are limited in our ability to experiment. Eventually, we expect to have more time to work on new product development, which we are sure will give us even more advantages in the market.”

“That will, of course, be for the future. For us right now, the bottom line is that we got a very energy-efficient conventional machine, with textured tissue as a bonus. Working closely with Valmet, I’m happy to say we have achieved all the goals and guarantees that were set up for the project. There is really not much more to be said, as the results speak clearly for themselves.”