Three weeks after startup, Butch Johnson, CEO and majority owner of Flambeau River Papers, set his sights on process control inprovements. The mill had lost its process control manager following the bankruptcy, but Honeywell had nearly three decades of experience with the installed equipment. They were called upon to provide the necessary guidance, and $3.5 million was invested.
“We can do things with computers today that were physically and mathematically impossible 20 years ago,” says Dennis Davey, regional sales manager at Honeywell. “What this mill needed from a quality standpoint could not be accomplished with control systems that dated back to the early ‘80s.”
The equipment on two of the machines was technically and economically obsolete.
“Technologically, it was well past the 10-year Honeywell guarantee for parts and service. Economically, in the past 20 years to 25 years the industry’s tolerances on quality parameters had grown tighter. Flambeau River Papers needed a modern quality control system that makes continuous online measurements of key paper qualities, such as basis weight, moisture, and caliper [thickness],” says Davey.
Johnson established goals to increase throughput, improve quality and save energy, and asked Honeywell to develop an economic justification for upgrading the equipment. “We identified three products that would return benefits in excess of $2 million per year for the mill,” says Jason Isselmann, Flambeau River Papers account manager at Honeywell. “A new quality control system [QCS] and cross-direction actuators for moisture (Devronizer) and basis weight (AutoSlice) were budgeted for #3 machine, the newest and highest-production machine in the mill. A used QCS System was put on #1 machine, along with an AutoSlice. Devronizers were added to both #1 and #2 machines.” Installation was done in spring, 2007 during a planned series of shutdowns.
The mill saw instant results and the ROI rate is tracking as expected. It now has a technology path forward. “Honeywell brought our paper machines up to a competitive level,” says Randy Stoeckel, Flambeau vice president and general manager. “It was a leap of faith for them to install the equipment in our facility where we did not have a long operating history. They helped us improve production quality, increase our run rates, and realize energy savings.”
In addition, the recovery time from upsets now takes a few minutes versus 20 minutes or longer with the old technology, resulting in at least 20 minutes worth of saved paper following each paper break or machine downtime.