On the whole, the U.S. labor market continues to struggle to find enough skilled workers to meet demand, and Manufacturing is one of the industries most affected by the shortage. With pandemic-related challenges and an estimated 22% of the existing skilled workforce retiring by 2025, it’s anticipated that 2.1 million U.S. manufacturing jobs could be vacant in 2030.1 Currently, roughly 695,000 positions are open.2
The Pulp & Paper industry is not exempt from the impact of the labor gap. Producing the 408 million tons of paper consumed worldwide on an annual basis3 isn’t easy under the best of circumstances; having fewer skilled workers to rely upon only complicates matters.
Practical answers are being found in technologies. As part of the Valmet ecosystem, Valmet is able to interconnect technology and technical expertise to help tissue manufacturers bridge the skills gap, improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and achieve operational efficiency goals.
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Körber solutions incorporate cloud-based data management systems, augmented reality, automation, and other digital capabilities to provide a comprehensive strategic service model that focuses on working smarter to, in part, alleviate ongoing labor concerns.
1. Performance service program
This agreement-based approach to tissue equipment maintenance bundles all needed services, best practices, and expertise into a single service solution for dedicated maintenance, remote support, spare parts management, and technical and performance testing. Tissue manufacturers can choose from pre-set Performance Service Program packages or completely customize a solution to fit converting, packaging, and fold equipment maintenance needs.
2. SAM operational solution
A sophisticated digital technology, Sam operational solution uses sensors to constantly measure and monitor raw materials, finished products, and equipment performance at predetermined points where deviations most often occur. Acting like a virtual production supervisor, Sam enables production line machines to identify production patterns, detect possible deviations from the desired output, and make informed decisions with minimal human intervention — aiding operators of all skill levels in keeping production parameters on track, and keeping them safe through simple HMI panel inputs.
3. Trolley One Touch wrapper automation
The Trolley One Touch system uses a patented robotic mechanical arm developed by Valmet engineers to automate trolley changeover on Casmatic Carbon-T wrappers. The technology automatically replaces the number of trolleys needed for each format — saving time on the line and virtually eliminating operator setup errors. Trolley One Touch enables operators of all skill levels to carry out changeovers with minimal training and no risk of injury since they aren't required to enter the machine.
4. Packaging line enhancements
Two optional HMI panel-enabled packaging equipment technologies from Valmet help operators keep pace with production, which benefits line speed and throughput. The step-by-step format changeover is designed to end guesswork and inadvertent oversights. The technology specifically guides operators through every phase of the packaging changeover process directly from the HMI panel using simple cues. The second Valmet innovation is the 3D synoptic system, which can be used independently or in conjunction with the format changeover. This technology focuses on quickly finding and correcting line errors or maintenance. In the event an alarm sounds, three-dimensional renderings of the line and the location of the error appear on the operator’s screen so they can take appropriate action.
5. Equipment training & optimization
In response to skills gaps and high operator turnover rates, tissue manufacturers need to be knowledgeable about and comfortable with the latest tissue technologies. To that end, Valmet developed the tissue academy that features specific training programs led by a dedicated team of experts and technicians. Training is geared to customer needs and focuses on everything from individual pieces of equipment to advanced setup procedures for performance optimization. In addition, onsite, in-house, and e-training options make staying “in the know” convenient and practical.
6. Auto Web Starter
This system replaces inefficient and potentially dangerous manual web thread-up with an automated solution that simplifies the process with a series of three systems that work in succession — all while the line runs at low speed. Specially designed shuttles allow operators to safely guide web from the HMI panel, web tail transfers are completely automated, and re-start to full-speed production occurs when Valmet Auto Web Starter detects that the paper is completely spread. Since manual operations are eliminated, operators remain safe and also carry less responsibility for proper web thread-up and continuous productivity.
7. Moonlight Unwinder
Built around smart technology, the progressive automation in the Valmet Moonlight Unwinder keeps operators out of harm’s way and makes operations more efficient. Craneless solutions put parent reels in place and robotic arms sense, insert and align expandable chucks within the reel cores — leaving technology and machinery to move the extremely heavy objects. Moonlight guarantees total safety for the operator, there is minimal risk of damage to parent reels, and each automated step tightens production times.
For the U.S. tissue industry, there likely isn’t going to be a return to a labor pool full of highly skilled, available workers. Technology and technical expertise can reduce the adverse impact of the shift, especially when guided by leaders in tissue innovation such as Valmet. Contact our team to discuss services and solutions that leverage smart technology to meet labor needs and maintain operational efficiency.
1NAM Workforce, 2.1 Million Manufacturing Jobs Could Go Unfilled by 2030 | NAM, May 4, 2021
2U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Understanding America’s Labor Shortage: The Most Impacted Industries | U.S. Chamber of Commerce, May 2, 2023
3Statista, Paper and paperboard demand globally 2021-2032 | Statista, 2023
Written by Our Tissue Team