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Paper handling from pulp to print

Jim Hardisty, Managing Director at Goplasticpallets.com, summarises the recent global trends in the paper industry and offers an insight into how plastic pallets are helping paper businesses improve supply chain processes from pulp production to finished print.

Despite the advances of digital technology paper consumption is rising. According to the Daily Mail, global consumption of paper in recent years has increased by almost half since 1980.

Sanitary products, such as toilet tissue and paper towels, account for much of the growth with tissue consumption reporting a rise of four per cent in 2013. There are some areas however that are witnessing a steady decline, including newsprint, which saw a four per cent decrease in paper consumption this same year.

Although there are a few exceptions, on the whole paper production in the UK continues to thrive with us producing a staggering 4.4 million tonnes of paper and board last year.

We have been supplying businesses in the paper and board industry with plastic pallets for more than seven years, from paper mills to publishers. The industry’s diverse requirements call for customised pallet solutions – pallets that are suitable for use in highly sophisticated handling systems, from rotating forks to fully automated palletisers.

Safely transporting wet-lap pulp
In 2008, M-real Office Papers approached us looking for a solution for transporting its recycled wet-lap pulp. The company, which was then manufacturing 550,000 tonnes of office paper every year, needed help moving the pulp from its Kemsley paper mill in Kent to its paper mill near Rouen in Normandy, and then returning the recycled office paper to the UK.

Wet-lap pulp is transported at about 50 per cent moisture content. The recycled matter is stacked in large bales measuring approximately 1400mm (L) x 1200mm (W) x 1200mm (H) and weighs a hefty 1.3 tonnes. M-real therefore needed a pallet that offered optimum strength and could fit the specific bale dimensions.

Initially, M-real asked us to look at sourcing a made-to-measure pallet. While bespoke pallets offer the advantage of being designed to suit individual requirements, on small orders they can often prove more costly. Following consultation with our technical team, we ruled out designing a made-to-measure pallet on the basis of high moulding costs and instead looked at suitable models from our existing range.

The plastic pallet we recommended was the APB 1420 Full Perimeter pallet, which measures 1420mm x 1120mm and is produced by Cabka-IPS. Although the width of the pulp bales exceeded the width of the pallet, M-real was able to slice the bales at any width, making this pallet fit for purpose.

Manufactured in high-density polyethylene, the APB 1420 Full Perimeter pallet has a low-pressure injection moulded construction that provides strength, close tolerance, dimensional consistency and stability.

Whilst we selected this pallet primarily for its size and durability, another important criteria in transporting wet-lap pulp is being able to record batch production for quality control purposes. With recessed areas for UPC barcoding on all four corners, the APB 1420 Full Perimeter pallet allows users to quickly identify any batch of wet-lap pulp.

One problem we had to overcome in handling the wet-lap pulp was the tipping process. When offloading wet-lap pulp, the pallets are lifted on rotating forks and tipped to remove the recycled matter. This tipping process together with the weight and consistency of the wet-lap pulp applies considerable stress on the pallets. As a solution, during the manufacturing process we incorporated a specially moulded section inside the pallets, to strengthen the design and offer further reinforcement to withstand manual handling.

In early 2008, M-real ordered 4,500 pallets, which we delivered efficiently during a two-week period. The operation was so successful that they then placed two further orders totalling 1,400 pallets.

Later that same year, the Kemsley paper mill was sold, however the new owners continue to use the same plastic pallets and have ordered a further 6,500 new ones to help increase production.

Delivering newspapers to meet tight deadlines
At the other end of the paper industry production line, we have been supplying plastic pallets to Associated Newspapers, one of the UK’s largest publishers of national newsprint for the last five years.

Associated Newspapers prints 24 million newspapers per week including the Daily Mail, the Metro, The Mail on Sunday and supplements You, Weekend, Travel Mail and Live. Tight deadlines mean that packaging solutions have to fit a very demanding schedule.

The company’s print centres print the newspapers ready for distribution to start at 10.30pm and distribute throughout the night to 90 different wholesale points who supply some 55,000 retailers. Distribution must be finished by 8am the next morning to ensure the newspapers are ready to go on sale.

The decision to switch to plastic pallets from wooden ones 12 years ago significantly benefited Associated Newspapers’ loading logistics. As they use fully automated palletisers to load their pallets, using plastic pallets reduced the number of potential equipment jams; if a pallet gets stuck in the system, every minute spent fixing it means that 100s of papers are not printed and targets are missed.

In 2011, Associated Newspapers placed their first order with us for 4,000 IPS 1210 Medium M5R plastic pallets, which they continue to reuse and top up with additional orders, as and when required.

Using robust plastic pallets that are lighter than their wooden equivalent, helped Associated Newspapers reduce costs in transportation and fuel spending. They’ve also made a further saving by following our advice and switching from heavy duty plastic pallets to medium duty ones.

In order for newspapers to reach their readers on time, the supply chain has to be flawless at every stage. Associated Newspapers uses a specialist logistics management company for the hugely time critical task of distributing its newspapers.

Each night on average 88 vehicles arrive at 12 locations throughout the UK from Weymouth on the South Coast to Cardiff in Wales, and from Newcastle on Tyneside to Horncastle on the East Coast and many other areas in between.

Associated Newspapers uses double deck trailers that can carry up to 27 ¼ tonnes per vehicle. Using plastic pallets ensures that as much of this load as possible is taken up by newspapers and not heavy pallets, offering the best value for money on each trip. This can be 50,000 to 150,000 magazines or newspapers depending on the size and weight of each copy.

We recommended customising the plastic pallets to make them both easy to identify and help avoid loss – a costly factor in the UK’s daily transportation of 12 million newspapers. Associated Newspapers chose a light grey colour pallet with a moulded-in insert with the message ‘This pallet remains the property of Associated Newspapers’.

Once the newspapers have been offloaded, the plastic pallets are collected by the logistics company’s drivers and returned to Associated Newspapers’ print centres ready for the entire process to start again the next day.

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