The unfolding of the past several months has led to more unpredictability than any of us could have imagined. Stay-at-home orders, social distancing guidelines and consumer panic buying have created major irregularities in tissue and towel market dynamics and consumption patterns. These challenges also present a great opportunity to help tissue and towel producers adapt and respond to these sudden changes. As consumers around the world actively stockpiled supplies and household staple items, tissue makers were pushed to maximize production. In some countries, bath tissue sales increased by more than 50% during the early months of the pandemic. Though machine utilization rates spiked to nearly 100%, there were still difficulties meeting demand. In the wake of the global pandemic, there is a renewed emphasis on hand hygiene that has resulted in more hand washing and hand drying occasions. Many establishments are also replacing hot and jet air dryers with paper towel dispensers in public restrooms. In addition, experts recommend cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces at least once a day to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission via surface contact. All of these trends are driving an increase in paper towel usage and pushing manufacturers to enhance their product requirements.
Koehler Paper in Oberkirch is taking advantage of the summer period to carry out necessary work on its three paper machines, its power plant, and its infrastructure. In addition to maintenance tasks, it is also planning a number of improvements so that when the machines are started up again in mid-August it will be able to continue producing premium paper for the international market.
The paper machines and power plant at Koehler’s Oberkirch site are currently at a standstill. In the facility where specialty paper, decor paper, and carbonless paper would normally be produced around the clock, a very different type of activity is currently underway. Over 100 paper mill employees are currently busy with overhauling the site by dismantling, replacing, and updating all the machine components. More than 150 employees have been brought in from external firms to bolster the Koehler team.
“It is not possible to carry out major works on these complex machines during production. As these machines normally run in continuous operation, these types of stoppages are necessary to ensure that our technology is always up to date,” says Hartmut Felsch, Mill Director at the Koehler Paper site in Oberkirch.
Despite the challenges resulting from availability of materials and the COVID-19 situation, everything is currently running to schedule and the works are progressing well. This means that the machines can be started up again in stages between August 11 and 18. The overhaul works will ensure an extremely high level of availability and that Koehler paper can be produced for customers around the world with its usual high product quality.