Last May 30 was a bright sunny day, as German papermaker ProGroup decided to pay a visit to its papermachine clothing supplier, Cristini, in Lachute, QC.
Both groups reunited for a complete plant tour, led by John Feola, General Manager at Cristini and Bernard Bigras-Denis, Director, Rope products and Diagnostic Systems at the plant, as well as Marco Bucchi, European Sales Manger for the Cristini group.
As everyone gathered in the conference room for lunch, it became clear that Cristini was not only a supplier to ProGroup and more specifically its ProPapier Division, but a real business partner. "I have been working 30 years in the paper market and while Cristini is a smaller player versus other machine clothing and rope threading suppliers, they have been able to answer our most stringent needs," explained Peter Resvanis, responsible for all papermachines at Pro Papier.
"Our #2 papermachine is the fastest in Europe and consequently, we at Pro Papier are all about speed, tonnage and efficiency. We need a supplier with flexibility, practical thinking and who is open to new ideas when it comes to optimizing the sheet's dry content and control stickies," Resvanis added. PM #2 is a Valmet papermachine, producing lightweight and ultra-lightweight Next Fibre® corrugated board base papers made from waste paper, with grammages ranging from 60 to 115 g/m2. The paper machine's overall concept is designed for careful handling of waste paper as a raw material which is becoming ever more scarce, expensive and of valuable energy. The machine has demonstrated what it can do with several world records.
"Coming to Cristini's plant was very important in order to get a better 'feel' for the product," said Resvanis, who also remarked on the cleanliness of the plant. "For all those reasons and more, our partnership and closeness make us both stronger."
Pro Papier: New Greenfield mill in 2019
Following an intensive search for a site across Europe, the PM3 papermachine project will be constructed in Sandersdorf-Brehna near Bitterfeld in Germany. In addition to the physical proximity to Progroup's other two paper factories (PM1 in Burg and PM2 in Eisenhüttenstadt), it was the excellent links to transportation and the high level of industrial expertise in the region that swayed the decision in favour of the location. The production facilities will be implemented on a greenfield construction plan, covering an area of approximately 450,000 square metres.
The €375 million investment in the papermachine's construction will generate roughly 140 highly skilled direct jobs, and approximately 350 indirect positions in the region, depending on the final technical configuration of the machine. As well as the construction of the paper factory in a second stage, the overall project also envisages the eventual construction of a dedicated RDF power plant which will then supply the new papermachine with energy-efficient steam and electricity.
Production is currently scheduled to start as early as the second half of 2020. The new PM3 papermachine will produce corrugating medium and testliner within the grammage range of from 80 to 150 gr/m². After the initial start-up phase, the plant will have an annual production capacity of 750,000 tonnes of containerboard with a working width of 9.20 metres. Together with the two paper factories PM1 in Burg and PM2 in Eisenhüttenstadt, the total annual production capacity of containerboard will then increase from 1,1 million tonnes to around 1,85 million tonnes per year.
Cristini: Flexibility and a niche market
Cristini has invested nearly $4M in its Lachute, QC facility since 2016, and is poised for success in North America, where a growing number of paper producers are increasing their recycled content. "The fact that we are a family-owned company and our history of working with recycled fibres put us in the driver's seat when it comes to innovation and trying new things," explained John Feola, General Manager of the Cristini Plant.
"In Europe, we have been using recycled fibre for quite a while, and so it was a strategic advantage for us when we came into Canada in 1997 and remains so today. Cristini products have continuously evolved in this market and today's products are ideal for recycled grades," Feola added.
The European lightweight packaging market is more advanced than it is in North America. On average, the weight of a sheet is 20% lighter in Europe, averaging 70-80 g/m2, compared to about 100 g/m2 on this continent. Cristini has also developed a unique press felt for high-speed paper machines, which allows for higher dewatering capacity and high dryness levels. No need to slow the machine down anymore!
The Lachute plant manufactures all the spiral fabrics for the Cristini Group. Each site within the Group specializes in a different product, allowing the supplier to be more efficient and to increase performance and quality. "It is much more profitable this way, even from a transportation cost point of view," Feola noted. Cristini exports to 50 countries worldwide, and in North America.
When Cristini invested at the Lachute plant, the company decided to concentrate on two things: increase production and further boost their diagnostic systems offerings in the paper industry. These objectives pushed the company to begin producing flat yarn spiral fabrics. "We are the only one to offer flat yarn spiral fabrics in North America, which is well suited for a variety of paper grades often produced on very high-speed paper machines," said Bernard Bigras-Denis from Cristini.
Cristini offers products such as carrier rope (nylon and polyester), paper machine clothing (forming, pressing, drying) and energy-saving diagnostic systems measuring moisture and permeability in the press section as well as consistency in the forming section. The spiral fabrics are produces on state of the art equipment and their newest line allows them produce fabrics for the world's widest and fastest paper machines. "That is our strength right there, that versatility and flexibility" notes Feola.
As far as expansion is concerned, the Lachute Cristini plant owns the land rights to the west of the present building, though plans for expansion are leaning more towards the U.S. than Canada at the moment. "We're busy getting our new acquisition in the US up to speed and with the increased yield here and once we maximize what we we currently have in place, we could look at expanding the footprint of our plant in Lachute," he concludes.