Submitted: The Two Sides Team January 16, 2013
Appropriately, Domtars Rock Hill converting center in the Tech Park off Dave Lyle Boulevard is hidden by trees. Historically, trees are what Domtar is all about.
December 29 2012
by Don Worthington
Appropriately, Domtars Rock Hill converting center in the Tech Park
off Dave Lyle Boulevard is hidden by trees. Historically, trees are what
Domtar is all about.
Inside Domtars facility, rolls of paper
from the companys mills in Arkansas and Kentucky are stacked to the
ceiling, six rolls high in most cases. Adjacent to the warehouse are the
converting machines. They look like giant printing presses, but instead
of dispensing ink, they turn the rolls of paper into smaller rolls, or
into individual business forms.
The machines run round the clock, producing on average between 175 to
225 tons of business forms a day. The plant employs 58 people. Several
have been there since the plant opened in 1988.
At one time, the
Rock Hill operation was one of seven Domtar-owned plants making forms
for businesses such banks, insurance companies and credit card
companies. A plant staple was the pin-wheel form used in large
dot-matrix printers. The pin-wheel forms still come off the line, but in
Now, because of the push to go paperless, the Rock
Hill plant is one of three Domtar converting centers. It ships forms
mostly to businesses east of the Mississippi River, but some forms make
the cross-country trip.
We are the largest producer left in the
business, said plant manager Drake Roach. Were the best in the
business in what we do and these folks care about sustaining this
Sustainability is the key word for Domtar and other
paper companies. By Domtars own estimates, it is losing 2 to 4 percent
of its market share annually because of changing consumer habits.
industry decline has been felt regionally as Resolute Forest Products,
formerly Bowater, has suspended some operations at its Catawba Mill
because of market conditions. Union workers at the plant recently
ratified a new agreement they hope will result in no more layoffs or job
One of Domtars strategies is finding new markets for its
pulp. In 2011 it acquired Attends North America, and in 2012 it
acquired Attends Europe. Both plants produce adult diapers, and Domtar
foresees great growth in the adult incontinence market. Growth in the
fluff pulp market, said David Struhs, vice president of sustainability,
is predicted to be between 6 and 8 percent annually.
Domtars sustainability conversations take place at its Fort Mill
operations center, where one half of the company leadership team is
located as well as sales, customer service and mill manufacturing
operations. In all, 450 Domtar employees work in Fort Mill.
conversations follow two tracks. One is the traditional sustainability
talk of how a business make an environmentally friendly product.
Domtars case, it means working not only with environmental groups, but
with tree farms to make sure whats being done is in the best interest
of Domtar and the area where the trees are being harvested.
It means looking at sustainability from the perspectives of economics, local social impact, labor and the environment.
also means looking at pulp differently. It is not just a part of the
paper-making process. Domtar, and other paper companies, are looking at
pulps components to see if there are more profitable uses.
is the glue that holds wood fibers together, Struhs said. It is removed
during the paper-making process, yielding a substance called black
liquor. Historically, it has been burned in boilers at the mills not
used to its highest value, Struhs said.
Lignin extracted from pulp has the potential for high-value commercial uses, Struhs said.
could be used in bio-fuels, in industrial bulk chemicals, or in some
resins. It has also been studied for use in coatings and for use in
carbon fiber manufacturing.
Domtar is installing a lignin
extraction system at its mill in Plymouth, N.C., near the coast, and
should be in production in early 2013.
Resolute Forest Products also has a lignin extraction project at its Thunder Bay mill in Ontario.
process is extracting nanocrystalline cellulose from the pulp. Domtar
has a pilot program with FPInnovations at its Windsor, Quebec, mill.
Struhs said nanocrystalline cellulose, or NCC, has several interesting
It can conduct or resist electricity; it can reflect
or absorb light; and it can be a green way of making carbon-fiber
materials, he said.
NCC is lightweight, super-strong and non-toxic and could be spun into high-strength fibers.
second phase of Domtars sustainability conversation focuses on making
paper relevant in a world thats being pushed to go paperless.
has launched a campaign called Paper Because. The campaign examines
the benefits of paper and its place in a multi-media world.
As a producer of paper for textbooks, Domtar says there are demonstrated benefits to reading from a book rather than a e-reader.
its Paper Because campaign, Domtar cited a number of studies that
claim paper is a better tool for learning information. A study by
researchers at Cambridge University found it is easier to be distracted
when reading online. A study at the University of Virginias Darden
School of Business concluded e-readers were too rigid for a fast-paced
classroom environment where students needed to move between pages,
documents, charts and graphs quickly.
Struhs said paper is a
better alternative when assembling thoughts. Typically, a person will
outline his thoughts, jot down questions and connect ideas by drawing
arrows or circling things.
What you are doing is mapping your
thought process on paper, Struhs said. Its more difficult to do that
on a screen. Computers are better to store and sort information. The
creative process starts on paper.
A recent survey by the Pew
Internet Research Center showed an increase in e-reading over the past
year. In 2011, 16 percent of Americans participating in the poll said
they read an e-book. That percentage jumped to 23 percent in 2012.
the book-reading population, according to the Pew survey, those most
likely to read e-books include those with college or graduate degrees,
those who live in households earning more than $75,000, and those whose
ages fall between 30 and 49.
The Domtar campaign also suggests
that paper serves a valuable role in prompting action, particularly in
area of finances. Struhs said he recently got some financial information
in the mail. He opened the envelope and reviewed the information.
It prompted me to check out my accounts. Would I have come home and goneon the computer to do that? Not likely, he said.
hopes to expand its Paper Because campaign in 2013 by focusing more
on youths, said Kathy Wholley, director of advertising and
communications who directs the campaign.
Paper is relevant, paper is valuable, Wholley said.
while Domtar will continue to use a multi-media approach in its
transition from a paper company to a fiber technology, much of that
story will continue to be told on paper.