COOPERATING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Generally speaking, the digital revolution means tougher times for the paper industry. For tissue paper things are looking brighter with the growing middle class all over the world consuming an increasing volume of diapers, tissues and paper towels. The competition in prices is tough, and for companies like Metso Paper, what matters is discovering cooperation models that keep the costs down – without having to compromise on quality.
Metso Paper in Karlstad is specialized in tissue paper, including toilet paper and paper towels, tissues, facial tissues and diapers. The largest growth in demand can be seen in Asia and particularly in China, which has a sizable middle class. In China, tissue is still widely regarded as a luxury product.
“The outlook is positive and we don’t see an end to the demand within the next 20 years. The challenge lies in the fact that different countries and customers are looking to buy different qualities of paper, which requires a variety of production methods and machines,” says Mikael Åkö, Manager Tissue Technology at Metso Paper.
In China, investment costs and energy consumption are key parameters to focus on. In North America, our largest market area, the characteristics of the paper are what matter. This requires a different type of machine. And the variety of customers between the two is endless.
All the way from development to service
Metso Paper is part of a global corporation with 27,000 employees around the world. The Metso Group offers equipment for the mining industry, energy sector and paper industry.
Metso Paper is responsible for the development, manufacturing, delivery and commissioning of paper machines but does not, itself, produce paper. The Karlstad unit employs 550 people, most of who work within tissue. Karlstad has, for example, a research and development center for manufacturing processes and a pilot plant with a miniature paper machine.
“It’s like a small paper mill. It enables us to test products, invite customers to visit and produce product samples. If the machine were to operate round the clock it could supply the whole of Värmland, a region with some 300,000 people, with tissue,” Åkö says.
Each machine is put together in a machine assembly hall for a quality test prior to being shipped off to the customer. Metso Paper also has experts to help set up the machine at the customer’s end and offers service when required.
“What’s so special and exciting about Metso Paper is that we work along the entire chain from R&D to delivery and service. It takes about one-and-a-half to two years from receiving an order to starting up the machine, and during that time many things have to go according to plan,” says Åkö.
The right person for the job
Both Metso Paper and Etteplan have a long history in Karlstad and can look back at nearly 30 years of collaboration.
“Etteplan has been a trusted supplier for many years. The company stands for a positive mentality, which is something we value highly. It sees possibilities, not problems,” says Åkö.
Traditionally, Metso Paper has hired personnel resources from Etteplan and these employees have worked at the Metso offices together with the company’s own personnel. The larger the order intake, the more difficult it is to maintain a large staff with external engineers who require guidance and support.
Together Metso Paper and Etteplan have found a solution and built up an engineering team that consists of people with different backgrounds and competences that complement each other. This enables better use of competences – experienced engineers can help those with less experience.
Metso Paper and its customers are faced with increasing cost pressure. Metso Paper is the industry leader in terms of technology and volume, but development costs mean that its prices are higher than those of competitors.
“Discovering ways to reduce costs without compromising on quality has been a huge and vital challenge. Together with Etteplan we have come up with a business model that entails performing part of the engineering and drawing work at Etteplan’s office in China,” says Mikael Åkö.
At its Chinese office, Etteplan has put together a team of engineers that work for Metso. They have been trained in Metso’s system, methods and standards. Part of this training has taken place on-site in China in order to create personal contacts that enable smooth cooperation.
Safe solution provides increased capacity
The China model includes the reception of the assignments by experienced engineers in Karlstad. Medium-sized projects, meaning simpler machine engineering and drawing work, is sent to Etteplan to decide whether the work will be carried out in Karlstad or China.
The entire assignment, including supervision and quality assurance of the work in China, is managed by Etteplan according to its specially developed project model that ensures a systematic approach. When the assignment has been quality assured it is handed over to Metso Paper.
“We receive constant information about the status of the project, how we are doing in terms of specified key figures and are kept up to date about any developments. It feels like a safe and secure way of outsourcing work to a low-cost country. This model creates added capacity, improved spreading out of orders and lower costs,” Åkö says.
Cooperation according to the China model has continued for a couple of years and the assignments are growing steadily as routines develop. Etteplan came up with the idea as a counter-proposal to Metso Paper’s request for help with finding alternatives for decreasing its engineering costs.
“We spoke with several companies but Etteplan was the first to take up the challenge and come up with an interesting proposal – the China model. It is a great example of how Etteplan thinks outside the box,” Åkö says.
Quality assured cooperation
Today, the China model is used to complement the regular collaboration. Etteplan helps Metso Paper to keep costs down and, as a result, Metso Paper can take in more orders as expertise is freed up. The company’s own employees can work on other projects and devote themselves to development work.
“Metso Paper has a number of key employees that can act as bottle necks, thus limiting our ability to carry out major projects. Thanks to our cooperation with Etteplan, our delivery capacity is growing. We have also become more adept at assigning the right type of job to the right level of competence,” Åkö says.
For Metso Paper the focus continues to be on cost savings. Engineering costs are affected by how much the engineers cost per hour, how many hours a job takes and, finally, by quality factors – did it go right the first time or does it have to be redone?
After focusing strongly on quality and price per hour, the next step is to cut down on the number of hours used. It means looking into alternative methods such as standardized interfaces and modularizing, reusing designs and not reinventing the wheel.
“We are definitely looking to continue our collaboration in China; we have shown that it works and that it results in good quality. The model is based on Etteplan’s commitment, which motivates them to maintain quality assurance throughout. This benefits us both,” Åkö concludes.
Original text in Swedish by Karolina Nordwall.