With the emphasis on email and personal electronics such as smart phones, tablet computers and electronic books, people might have the impression that paper use is declining. But that’s not the way TAPPI President and CEO Larry Montague sees it.
“If you were to close your eyes and think in your mind’s eye how your day started, I could assure you that paper was involved somehow or another,” Montague insists. “The mattress you slept on was shipped in a corrugated container. When you brush your teeth, the toothpaste came in a folding carton. Try to visualize a day you could get by without paper.”
“The grades that are mature are the newsprint grades and the magazine stock,” he concedes. “Those are not growing by any stretch in our country. They are growing in India and China. The ones that are really growing right now are anything with packaging in it – corrugated or folding carton grades, chipboard grades and things of that nature. We’ve also added a new tissue and paper towels division, which is a huge growth market, as are the nonwovens, such as diapers.”
The association for the worldwide pulp, paper, packaging and converting industries, TAPPI helps members elevate their performance by providing solutions through management training and networking that lead to better, faster and more cost-effective ways of doing business.
At its Centennial Celebration Week April 18 to 25 in Atlanta during PaperCon – the association’s annual convention and exposition – all of its divisions will be meeting to offer technical programming and networking. A gala dinner will be held April 20 in Atlanta, which is near TAPPI headquarters in Peachtree Corners, Ga.
“We’re expecting over 1,000 people at the gala,” Montague says. “We will have guests and visitors from other associations around the world. China has contacted us about bringing a delegation of several people. We have members in 66 countries, and they want to be able to celebrate our 100-year anniversary with us.”
The TAPPI Centennial Celebration will feature a series of outreach events and educational offerings showcasing the history of the global pulp, paper, packaging and related industries, as well as looking toward the future. Activities and items will include local Paper Industry Management Association and TAPPI sections and student chapter events, a student competition, an online calendar highlighting for each day innovations in the industry and a coffee-table book titled, “Celebrating a Century of Achievement.”
How TAPPI Started
TAPPI was formed in 1915 as the technical arm of the American Paper and Pulp Association (APPA) by 30 papermakers. It was named the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry. “When the paper industry was in its infancy, companies started shipping outside their comfort zone to other customers in other parts of the country, who wanted the exact same paper,” Montague explains. “We had to come up with some standards. TAPPI has been successful because it gave a common language to all the paper mills in the United States, and since that time, it’s worldwide. They all make this paper a certain brightness or strength from the TAPPI standards so they’re all talking the same lingo. The test they run it through is a TAPPI test.”
TAPPI is a nonprofit, volunteer-led association that is built around a community comprised of thousands of member engineers, managers, scientists, academics, suppliers and others from around the world. Its members work not only for paper manufacturers, but also companies that supply machinery and chemicals used by the manufacturers or who disseminate information about the industry.
“We have over 300 independent committees of TAPPI,” Montague says. “We do soup to nuts, from safety to how you ship it and load securement.” TAPPI has tests for the strength and printability of many different pulps, including ones made from hardwood or softwood with a blend of recycled fibers.
“People talk about papermaking as being a science, but it’s also an art,” Montague emphasizes. “The guys who have been around a long time do a really good job using different pulps and recycled products.”
TAPPI’s eleventh division is the new International Nanotechnology Division, whose purpose is to share and disseminate knowledge and information on the responsible production, use and disposal of renewable nanomaterials, especially those produced from forest biomass such as nanocellulose.
“What we’re doing is less expensive than carbon nanotubes and is a renewable resource,” Montague says. “If you think about the strength of a tall tree that can withstand winds, you wonder how it does that at the microscopic level.”
Nanocellulose can be used in transparent paper, as reinforcement for polymers and in automobile panels, flexible batteries and printable electronic papers. Cellulose nanocrystals are stronger than metals and can be used in water filters, biodegradable medical implants, lightweight composites, adhesives, biomedical tissue and military body armor.
Research universities in Georgia, Maine and Japan and the United States Government Forest Products Lab are investigating the production of nanotechnology from forest biomass, Montague says. Nanotechnology is being developed for printed electronics that can be used as television screens, to create whole walls that light up or ones whose color changes with the throw of a switch, he adds.
TAPPI has a division for corrugated paperboard, which cosponsored Corrugated Week last September with the Association of Independent Corrugated Converters. “The biggest thing we do is the SuperCorrExpo for the corrugated side,” Montague says. “It’s one of the largest equipment shows in North America strictly for the corrugated industry.”
SuperCorrExpo 2016 will be held for the first time at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 17 to 20, 2016. The expo is held every four years.
The association also has a flexible packaging division called PLACE – which stands for polymers, laminations, adhesives, coatings and extrusions – and a nonwovens division, whose NETInc (Innovative Nonwovens Conference) will be held April 27 to 30 in Nashville, Tenn. “So we have really strengthened our reach-out much further than we have in the past,” Montague emphasizes.
TAPPI has a bioenergy and bioproducts community. Within the next three to five years, an estimated 25 percent of paper mills in North America will be producing at least some volume of second-generation biofuels, from ethanol to synthesis gases and a spectrum of further-processed motor fuels, as well as biodiesel and a broad array of bioproducts, TAPPI says.
An important function TAPPI performs for the pulp and paper industry is creating a standardized safety orientation as part of the TAPPISAFE program. The TAPPISAFE program was created to eliminate redundant training for unescorted visitors to paper mills. It delivers OSHA awareness-level safety training to a mill’s workforce and suppliers while maintaining all records in a centralized database for instant verification. The orientation can be taken online.
A college degree is only a piece of paper, but a paper degree is a course of study that several universities in the United States and Canada have rechristened as biochemistry or biological science. “They’re changing it because, quite frankly, it’s a sexier title,” Montague maintains. “Students are getting the basic chemical engineering degree where they’re still focusing on paper, but they’re not calling it a paper science degree as they used to.
“The majority are chemical or mechanical engineers that the mills are wanting,” he continues. “The ramp-up time for a person hired out of school to go to supervisor or mill manager used to take 25 to 30 years. Now the ramp-up time is a lot shorter than that, because we’re making just as much paper with fewer people because of the technological advances that have come over the last 20 years.”
TAPPI membership – which is individual rather than corporate – enables engineers to develop communication and public speaking skills. “Associations like TAPPI offer a venue for people to grow,” Montague points out. “Members give papers, they become committee members and take leading roles. It really lets them expand their worth to their companies. They pick up a lot of great information under strict antitrust laws. It’s information that can be shared. This is an area of growth for the personal development of people that they might not get a chance to do in other settings.”
TAPPI is helping customers hire engineers. “We have spread out with student chapters around the world,” Montague says. “We had a student summit over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Savannah, Ga., Jan. 18 to get young people interested in the industry when they are young.” Some graduating engineers receive three to four job offers from corporations who recruit during the summit.
Montague spent 26 years in the paper industry before joining TAPPI in 2006. “I was recruited to come in,” he remembers. “TAPPI had fallen on some very tough times. For an 11-year period, they were bleeding red ink and lost $24 million. Fiscal year 2007 had already begun when I came in, and in that short period of time, we took TAPPI from losing $3.4 million to losing $1 million that year, and ever since then, we’ve been in black ink. We did it by going out and listening to people, budgeting properly and giving people what they were asking for – the knowledge and networking. Attendance numbers are going up at every one of our conferences.”
When TAPPI moved into its current headquarters building before Montague joined it, it had 103 employees. “When I walked in the door, we went from 48 people to 24,” he says. “We have good training courses here to try to give people a taste of all the different areas in TAPPI so we could promote people up within the association, if they have a knack for something else,” he says. “We’ve done really well that way. The part-timers we have are unreal. A lot of folks take an early retirement and work maybe 25 to 30 hours a week. We have folks that do that.”
For the future, TAPPI is emphasizing its international credentials. “We’re starting to spread out internationally more than we have in the past,” Montague says. “We’ve licensed our name to China and Japan, and we have sister associations and TAPPI members literally all over the world. We’re trying to strengthen our local sections around the country more than ever.”
The biggest challenge for TAPPI is encouraging members to take the time off for association functions. “Now everybody is wearing so many different hats, it gets harder and harder for people just to leave to go to a conference,” Montague points out. “But if it has the information they’re really looking for, then people come in droves, but again, our competitor is time. That’s the biggest issue.”