Silent Spring

This week the western world has settled into “shelter in place”. Rosy forecasts of quick recovery have mostly disappeared. Potus extends USA lockdown to April 30. In Pulp and Paper, publication grades are suffering, and some curtailments have started. Tissue and packaging are the top grades. However, the OCC supply chain is already seeing significant reduction in Europe. Can USA be far behind? In the USA there is growing discussion of ways to restart parts of the economy without risking increased fatalities to higher risk groups. The pulp and paper industry is in a position to do a good job now, while operating, as an example to other manufacturers.

At the plant level most mills have in place a Covid19 plan. These plans involve distancing workers, minimizing contractors and all visitors, staggering breaks and shift changes, in some cases extra break rooms. The newest papermachines like Greenpac or Botany Bay have fewer workers, more automation, and semi automatic winders. (In a papermill the winder poses unique distancing challenges) . Corporations , recognizing the need to keep workers to run plants have made adjustments. GP has announced a new 14 day consecutive paid leave if caused by Covid19.

You need a “Covid19 positive test “ plan! If you and your employees develop one, the event will not cause nearly as big a disruption as if you are unplanned. Golbey France and UPM Caledonian shut down for 14 days on their first positive test. They make newsprint and coated magazine, so probably sensible response as they get more concrete plans in place. “Shutting down” is not a plan. An orderly shutdown with detailed schedule of activities may be the best plan followed by a disinfecting plan. Then a restart plan.

Your checklist

Employee Safety (Your complete Covid-19 operating plan. Give all your employees and suppliers the best safe practices guidelines and reinforce them. This is not a two week exercise)

Customer needs (Prioritize these as disruptions may happen)

Your supply chain ( Watch for raw material disruptions and plan and cost substitutions now. Call your suppliers, do they have solid Covid-19 plans? Critical Spare parts? Machine clothing?)

Workforce supply ( Absenteeism will rise, do you have bench strength? Contingency plans? Can a junior bleach operator and a home based chemical engineer keep the bleach plant running like a senior operator?)

Viability ( This isn’t a normal economy. Will you selling price or freight change? What extra costs will Covid-19 put on your product? Can you pass any of these on? Have you reduced your current spending significantly until you can project profitability confidently?)

Related Articles

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North American Manufacturers Association update

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