The pulp and paper industry represents a large and growing portion of the world’s economy. Specifically, the pulp industry has maintained a strong tailwind for a few years now for several reasons. According to Pöyry’s World Fibre Outlook, the steady growth of the global tissue paper market, together with the tightening supply of recovered paper, dramatic changes in China’s papermaking fibre furnish and enforced recyclables ban, and the strong global economy have all contributed to the present state of the pulp market.
For now, the long-term fundamentals of the packaging, tissue, and pulp markets look reasonably solid, and market imbalances have not distorted the overall positive sentiment of the industry. Although the wave of digitalisation currently sweeping the globe may appear to threaten the pulp and paper industry, the sector continues to grow, albeit at a slower rate than in previous years. While graphic paper has been on the decline for several years, the growing demand in other sectors - such as packaging, tissue paper and pulp for hygiene products - is stepping up to fill the gap.
Despite this, the industry faces challenges - not least the pressure to make wise capital investments, meaning mills need to focus on extending asset lifecycle and improving operational efficiency by new means.
According to McKinsey’s report ’Pulp, Paper and Packaging in the Next Decade’, the industry is experiencing the most substantial transformation it has seen in many decades. The key challenge is cost optimisation and within the operations field, that is being addressed with its own digital transformation.
There are significant opportunities for the sector to benefit from digital technologies to bridge the gap that has traditionally existed between information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT). By applying data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to the growing volume of production data that is available, producers can transform the resulting improved visibility into actionable business insights to improve operational efficiency all along the value chain. One such solution connecting IT and OT comes through the ABB Ability™ digital platform.