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The ANDRITZ GROUP employs 29,000 people at more than 280 locations in more than 40 countries. Last year, the plant manufacturer generated sales of a good 6 billion euros. The Pulp & Paper division contributed more than a third of this figure. Dr. Joachim Schönbeck, the responsible member of the Executive Board, talks in an interview about the reasons for growth, successful digitization and a new research center

Dr. Schönbeck, how has ANDRITZ Pulp & Paper developed since we conducted our last interview in April 2016?

Dr. Joachim Schönbeck: We grew faster than the market, so we gained market share. In 2018, we increased our sales by eight percent to 2.23 billion Euros, thus contributing a good third to the ANDRITZ Group's total sales. We are a leader in the pulp market. Our Paper Machine Division has also been convincing in demanding customer projects. It remains our goal to develop this market with staying power. The development in the service business, which now accounts for almost half of our sales, is encouraging. This makes us less dependent on major orders, although there is currently no reason to complain: in 2018 we recorded a 26 percent increase in orders.

What are the most important growth drivers?

Schönbeck: One factor was a major order worth EUR 300 million to equip a pulp mill in Chile. Our acquisitions Xerium Technologies, Diatec and Novimpianti also contributed to the increase in orders. In addition, there is organic growth in the Pulp & Paper division: many regions have catching up to do in food packaging and hygiene products, and growing e-commerce is also contributing to this.

What is your outlook for Pulp & Paper?

Schönbeck: Very good! I am also thinking of the trend towards paying more attention to sustainability in packaging. Many petroleum-based solutions will be replaced in the coming years by biocompatible, CO2-neutral products based on renewable raw materials.

ANDRITZ reports significantly increased productivity and resource efficiency in pulp mills. Does this only apply to completely new works?

Schönbeck: No, great progress is also possible in the course of modernisation. It is of course a nice challenge to build a whole new plant in Chile, as it is now. Arauco is building a factory there with an annual capacity of 1.5 million tonnes at an existing site. We supply the woodyard, the fibreline with our DD-washers for the washing and bleaching stages as well as the evaporation plant and the recausticizing. The customer was convinced that our solutions can save a lot of energy and chemicals. We also achieve these advantages by bringing individual plant components up to the state of the art. The service life of a plant can be doubled with cleanly planned and technically installed modernizations.

What role do digitization and automation play in this?

Schönbeck: The efficiency gains that we can promise our customers today would not be possible without Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). With Metris OPP (Optimization of Process Performance), we offer an IIoT system that supports our customers very effectively in their continuous improvement processes without any investment. Metris OPP significantly increases the performance of the plants. The product quality or fluctuations in plant operation are analyzed in real time. From this, the software derives concrete suggestions for improvement. The market is taking this very well. We have already installed 50 systems for our customers worldwide.

Is there a trend towards autonomous pulp mills?

Schönbeck: We are not quite there yet, but the development of our Metris OPP system is going in this direction. The algorithms make fewer mistakes than humans and react faster to deviating parameters. This enables them to maintain the optimum operating point for longer. Metris OPP processes all data on site. Customers can be sure that their data will not flow into general pools, not even anonymously...

...which raises questions about cyber security. How do you respond?

Schönbeck: A very important point! Last year, we founded the joint venture OTORIO in Israel specifically for this purpose, which offers cyber security solutions and services for industrial plants. Our partners are proven experts for Cyber Security, we ourselves contribute our industry knowledge. Our customers are becoming increasingly aware of the latent risks, which is also reflected in the brisk demand for our security solutions.

What role does your new research centre TIAC play?

Schönbeck: Our Tissue Innovation and Application Center in Graz serves as a high-tech pilot plant in which we work with customers, universities and other developers to develop new, more energy-efficient processes for tissue papers with increased absorbency. It is the only plant in the world in which all known technologies of tissue paper production can be tested - to analyze the influence of individual variables in stock preparation, chemical addition, vacuum application, machine clothing, pressing or hot air and steam drying. The plant has a complete stock preparation system in which different types of pulp based on long and short fibres can be treated. We have thus created a platform in Graz on which we can intensify cooperation with our partners. When ideas are exchanged, everyone involved benefits and learns, and the pace of innovation increases. We have said goodbye to the belief that we alone can do it best.

Has your view of the year 2030 changed since the 2016 interview?

Schönbeck: I said that we wanted to expand our leading role in the pulp sector and grow in the hygiene and packaging sector - and that continues to apply. But I would like to add that data-based process optimization using artificial intelligence will become increasingly important in the next decade. We are experiencing a dynamic here that has changed the way we look at things significantly in recent years. The same applies to platform approaches. The pace of innovation is increasing rapidly. We want to get faster and better!
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