A journey through time in three episodes which will tell us about the past, the present and then the future of a sector which has revolutionised consumer behaviour: tissue paper.
Episode 1: Diving into the past
Episode 2: FROM THE PAST TO THE PRESENT
In the previous episode we looked at what stood out in the history of the tissue sector. But what has changed in tissue production since 1980? Which events have marked the technological revolution of this sector?
Unquestionably the spread of Internet, starting in 1990 has had a significant impact on the whole global market. The elimination of barriers and the easier, faster and less expensive use of information have helped the development of new production techniques and the adaptation to a working approach which is quicker to respond to changes in consumer demand. A change in consumer demand has also been felt with the Internet era. The need to differentiate products in terms of different target markets, increase production levels and work with greater flexibility required the creation of more precise, and cutting-edge machines.
These new, intelligent, machines can reconcile the need to create differentiated products without neglecting quality. With this kind of products, quality is affected by a large range of different variables such as the raw materials used, production equipment and working processes used. The process used to make sheets of tissue paper starts with work using the paper machine. This device, which is now installed in all paper makers, produces a roll of paper called the parent roll. This roll is then worked in the processing line, in which the rolls are printed, cut according to the size required and given the necessary lightness and softness to the touch.
The characteristics of the end product
The continuous machines are the main tool needed to produce the parent roll. These machines function according to the database inserted into the technical specifications of the end product. Once the requirements, the client needs and the quality level that the company wants are identified, a document is drawn up, the technical data sheet, into which all the parameters that have an effect on the characteristics of the end product are input. These characteristics are:
- Composition of the wood pulp: this is the first characteristic to be noted, in that it is a feature that is fundamental to obtaining the product required. The pulp can be made up of high levels of short fibres, for soft papers, or high levels of long fibres, for resistant and absorbent papers;
- Presence of chemical products: binders, softeners and processing aids to help resistance are used to change the product’s softness and its resistance to humidity;
- Density: a figure that shows the weight of the product;
- Thickness: the semi-finished product is measured by special mechanical or digital devices installed on the continuous machine. The figure is expressed in millimetres;
- Longitudinal and transverse resistance: this refers to the paper’s ability to resist mechanical strain.
- Dampness, softness and absorption are figures that vary according to the kind of product and consumer needs. Of these three characteristics, the only one that can be measured is humidity, which is done using a special scanner, while the other two are assessed using an ISO standard;
- Creping: when the sheet is malleable and suitable for end usage;
- Candling: this reflects the uniformity of the distribution of fibre on the paper.
Data management aimed at quality
Once the data sheet is filled out, the data are inserted into the continuous machine from which the parent roll will then come out, and which will then go through the various transformation processes. Once the finished product is obtained, this is analysed by defining its final characteristics; if the characteristics that have been produced are in line with those previously set, the product will be defined as being good quality.
And so the tissue production line is nowadays accompanied by software systems which can register and process data and generate information which is useful to the entrepreneur in supporting his or her decisions and in introducing any adjustments to the production process.
Control and error monitoring systems, problem solving and quality control must be present in modern production lines. The new evolved machines which include high-tech software are the consequence of the change that began right at the creation of this sector.
So the tissue sector is not missing out on the digital revolution which is currently taking place. But how will the technology in this sector evolve in the future? And what can the consumers of the future expect from this sector? We will find out in the third and final episode of “A tissue story: a journey through the tissue sector”:
11/09/2018 Episode 3: A look at the future