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How to increase profitability with AI in pulp and paper production?

In Brazil, the pulp and paper sector has great market efficiency and can be considered one of the pillars of the national industry. This is because the pulp and paper industry represents investments, jobs, income, and tax collection that contribute to the country’s economy.

The production of paper and cellulose is favorable due to climatic conditions and the yield achieved with forests, mainly eucalyptus, which exist on Brazilian soil.

The two major companies in the sector in Brazil are Klabin and Suzano. Both have their stocks traded on the stock exchange and are high-value companies. However, there are other important players that also contribute to the strength of the pulp and paper sector in national and international territory.

Although the sector is very strong, there are some factors that can pose difficulties for industries. One of them is the reduction in paper consumption around the world, as digital solutions are growing more and more. In addition, it is also important to mention that people’s consumption patterns are always being updated, making it a challenge for companies to meet their customers’ expectations.

Finally, it is essential that the operating costs of activities related to the paper and pulp industry are reduced. This change must take place from the planting and harvesting of wood, until the moment the products reach the final consumer.

Therefore, industries have been relying on Artificial Intelligence technology to find solutions to all these challenges.

5 largest pulp and paper industries in Brazil

There are a number of industries in the pulp and paper sector, and below we list the top 5 of them.

1. Klabin

Klabin’s first factory in Brazil, called Klabin Monte Alegre, was inaugurated in 1946, and is located in the city of Telêmaco Borba, in Paraná.

This factory alone is the largest producer of virgin fiber papers that are destined for packaging in Latin America. Therefore, it is one of the largest virgin fiber paperboard producers in the world.

The company produces kraftliner and cardboard for packaging, and also sells eucalyptus and pine logs to other industries. Its production capacity exceeds 1 million tons of paper per year.

On the other hand, the Correia Pinto unit was created in 1969 and is the largest paper mill for industrial sacks in Latin America. In addition to these units, there is the one located in the city of Otacílio Costa, in Santa Catarina, since 2000. This is Klabin’s second-largest unit, being responsible for the production of paper for packaging, with a capacity of 350 thousand tons per year.

2. Suzano

Suzano Papel e Celulose merged with Fibria, and with that, the company became the largest pulp producer in the world.

In the city of Suzano, the company’s headquarters plant has been operating since 1956, capable of producing pulp from eucalyptus. Today, the production reaches 600 thousand tons of pulp per year, and 560 thousand tons per year of printing and writing paper, coated paper, and cardboard.

There are also large units of the company in Limeira (São Paulo) and Mucuri (Bahia), which contribute to the greatness of Suzano in Brazil and in the world.

3. Bracell

Bracell belongs to a group from Singapore that started its activities in Brazil in 2003. Some years later, in 2018, the company had its structure expanded with the acquisition of Lwarcel Celulose in São Paulo.

Today, the main factories in Brazil are located in Camaçari (BA) and Lençois Paulista (SP). But in addition to the factories responsible for the production of pulp and paper, the company has sales teams in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

4. International Paper

Since its inauguration in the 60s, International Paper’s factory has been located in Mogi Guaçu, São Paulo. It has 4 paper machines capable of producing printing and writing paper, with a capacity of 400 thousand tons per year of pulp and 435 thousand tons per year of paper.

5. Eldorado

The Brazilian company with global operations stands out: its factory is one of the largest and most modern in the world for the production of pulp and paper. Its business model is modern from the forest base to innovative logistics.

The factory is located in Mato Grosso do Sul and the capacity is at 1.7 million tons of pulp per year.

The biggest problems in the paper industries

The paper production process involves a series of steps, which can put machines and equipment in risky conditions. Situations such as erosion, corrosion, abrasion, and chemical attack can happen, among others. Check out below what can cause more problems.

Peeling and chopping

At this stage, the typical problems are: erosion-corrosion in belts responsible for transporting logs, distributors, debarkers, pipes, among others. Furthermore, bases that suffer from high vibration can also be damaged.

Discoloration

At the time of paper discoloration, moderate corrosion and erosion can occur in some equipment such as decanters, pumps, agitators, and piping. This is because chemical products are added and high temperature is used in the process.

Mixing and refining

Also due to the use of chemical products, in the mixing and refining stage, chemical attack and severe erosion can occur in mixing boxes and refiners.

Power generation

Problems especially related to high temperature and pressure corrosion are observed in some equipment. Among them, it is possible to mention boilers, steam turbines, heat exchangers, and piping.

Wastewater treatment

Finally, in the final stage of wastewater treatment, erosion-corrosion can occur in clarification tanks used for sedimentation and flotation, pumps, and centrifuges. And just like in the peeling and chipping stage, the bases can suffer from high vibration.

How Artificial Intelligence can help the pulp and paper industry

Continuous process companies such as the pulp and paper industries must have their production stages well organized. After all, if any equipment suffers an unexpected stop, it can disrupt the entire production line operation.

In this sense, Artificial Intelligence can be used to predict failures and problems, such as those mentioned above. Robots can take on repetitive and frequent tasks, in addition to quickly analyzing sensors and data that are made available during the production process.

Consequently, errors caused by human fatigue are avoided, and thus a new standard of productivity is established.

When AI is successfully applied in the pulp and paper industry, it is possible to achieve benefits such as cost and waste reduction, operational intervention reduction, preventive and not corrective maintenance, reduction of unwanted downtime. All this is because failures and problems were avoided using previously determined sensors and parameters.

Veracel: an example to be followed

Veracel is a pulp industry located in Bahia that uses AI in its operation. The technology is used to predict possible problems and the need for maintenance on the factory’s machinery, avoiding rework or loss of raw material and even the final product.

After implementing the project using AI in its factory, Veracel realized that it was possible to identify equipment failure up to 6 weeks in advance.

This innovation places Veracel as a prominent company in the sector, as Artificial Intelligence is used to generate direct benefits in the quality of production and availability of equipment.

For all this to happen, the technology involved captures information and the AI ​​robots compare this with the database registered by the machines’ sensors. Then, using mathematical and statistical models, it is possible to inform future failures and detail the type of problem so that it can be solved as soon as possible.

This system used, as it is Artificial Intelligence, is able to learn constantly, advance more and more, and make better and better predictions.

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