For the Abu Dhabi National Paper Mill (ADNPM), no word has as much significance as “flexibility.” To meet demands of a uniquely diverse market, they need the ability to produce premium, plain or textured paper, in weights ranging anywhere from 10 to 40 gsm, using virgin or recycled paper.
Founded in 2000, ADNPM is today the largest manufacturer of jumbo rolls in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Their paper is used in products ranging from napkins and kitchen towels to facial and toilet tissues, both for domestic sale and export. After almost a decade and a half in operation, the mill decided to invest in a third tissue machine in order to meet growing and ever-changing consumer demands.
The ability to differentiate their offering has been a key challenge for ADNPM. The expanding consumer tissue market in the UAE, combined with lenient import laws, has resulted in an influx of foreign products into the country. Due to tough competition from manufacturers in China, India and other Asian countries, ADNPM was in search of a new tissue solution that would help them to stand out.
Maximizing flexibility was the top concern. Abu Dhabi is a unique market, where foreign workers make up over 80% of the population. At the same time, the UAE capital has become a major international tourist destination, with luxury five-star hotels that only offer the most premium products for their guests. This means a diversity of customers with varying demands for product quality.
ADNPM has also traditionally exported their products throughout the region, including to Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait. Additionally, they have found a big market in South Africa, have sold products to customers in Europe, and have high hopes for expansion to other parts of Asia. To serve such different regions with such different consumer demands, ADNPM needed a tissue machine that could quickly switch production between as many different types of products as possible.
In addition to flexible production capabilities, the Advantage NTT also creates new opportunities to cut costs thanks to substantial savings in energy as well as fiber. This is due in part to the advanced design of the NTT press, which makes it possible to achieve a higher level of dryness before tissue enters the drying section. Less energy is thus needed for thermal drying, translating to reduced power consumption in both textured and plain modes.
Energy efficiency was the primary reason that the Papel San Francisco mill in Mexicali, Mexico decided to invest in an NTT machine. “We needed to add conventional [tissue] capacity, and due to continuously changing energy prices, we decided that our main focus for a new machine was on reducing energy consumption,” explains Dario Palma, Operations Director at Papel San Francisco. “This is an extremely energy-efficient machine, with high dryness going into the Yankee and hood that 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.”
Flexibility was the main reason that ADNPM decided to invest in a hybrid tissue machine for their mill. Hybrid technologies are designed to easily switch between production modes. By changing the belts, ADNPM would be able to go from producing plain tissue to higher quality, textured products in just a matter of hours.
A secondary concern for ADNPM was energy efficiency. Although the UAE is widely associated with fuel production, domestic energy prices have risen dramatically in recent years. Because hybrid technology is designed to produce high volumes with added bulk and softness at a low rate of energy consumption, ADNPM had yet another reason to consider the solution.
However, ADNPM had additional factors to consider before making their decision. One issue was that hybrid machines had never been used in the production of facial tissue before. Facial represents the primary tissue product in UAE and the surrounding countries, accounting for more than 60% of ADNPM’s production. Toilet tissue, in contrast, represents just around 10%.
Bulk and softness are of course major concerns in facial tissue production, but as Helmut Berger, then General Manager for ADNPM, has explained, absorbability was an equally important factor for the mill. “We use facial tissue for everything in the UAE – facial is a kitchen roll, facial can be toilet paper, facial can be everything. So water absorbency was very important.”
Working with Valmet, ADNPM conducted a pilot machine test to see if facial production with the desired basis weights would be possible. “The result was promising as the product turned out to be very soft,” Berger recalls. “Together with the flexibility, this gave us another big argument for investing in hybrid technology.”
ADNPM started up their hybrid machine in October 2015. In textured mode, the machine has reliably run at a stable speed of 1750 meters/minute. Depending on the tissue grade, the mill can produce more than 120 tons per day.
A major advantage has been the increased softness and bulk, even when operating with the plain belt. “This is especially important for facial products, where consumers can actually see the higher bulk,” adds Berger. “Now we have customers who only want products from the hybrid machine.” Because the belts also offer the possibility to create new patterns and textures, Berger has also seen interest from customers who want to produce tissue with their logo or special designs.
“But the big impact is that we have much more flexibility,” he says. “Basis weight from 14 to 40 gsm, recycled or virgin pulp, 2-ply products with one conventional and one textured paper – we have an unbelievable range of possibilities.” Today those possibilities are helping to meet consumer quality demands and stand out among increasingly tough competition.
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Industry level: Intermediate
Est. read time: 5 minutes
Summary: This article relates the experience of a mill in Abu Dhabi that invested in a new tissue machine to meet the demands of a shifting market.