Jacques A. Beauchemin, AFT President and CEO
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the global pulp and paper (P&P) industry, forcing it to change and adapt quickly. In many countries, the industry was flagged early on as an essential business sector which allowed manufacturers to continue operating. Despite this, it was not guaranteed that P&P companies would maintain business as usual or even survive.
Everyone saw the rush for toilet paper and assumed that the tissue market was strong and resilient. But it had to adjust its raw material sources due to a shortage in the recycled fiber typically used. These supply shortages came from the dramatic reduction in printing and writing or graphic grades called Mixed Office Waste (MOW). With online learning, working from home, and large venues canceled, there was less demand for printing paper - and therefore less MOW available to recycle. Many graphic paper plants idled their production at first, but many now are closing - with estimates of permanently lost production ranging between 20-50 percent. Conversely, the packaging sector is going strong as a result of increased online shopping, and the recycling of used boxes is growing.
Fiber processing is our primary business, so we strive to do it the best way possible through customized solutions
As a niche supplier to the paper industry, AFT has adapted quickly to these product shifts and become stronger in the process. The company is a global supplier serving customers in many key markets (pulp and paper, food, mineral) with engineered components, capital equipment, and system optimization services. They specialize in pulp and paper stock preparation and approach flow systems with over 100 years of experience in that domain.
Over the past year, AFT’s global manufacturing locations have adjusted to health and safety regulations in order to continue operating during the pandemic with minimum disruptions. They have invested in ways to improve manufacturing capacity and capability, as well as in developing new products and enhancing features in their existing product portfolio.
“We have taken the pandemic challenge and turned it into an opportunity to improve how we do business. We believe that by making these investments, we will better serve our customers as we contribute to their productivity improvement projects and support their sustainability projects in the future,” says Jacques A. Beauchemin, AFT President and CEO.
We offer solutions to customers that help them produce more while using less energy, water and chemicals. Our solutions are tailored to the customer’s furnish, their application and the end product being produced in order to optimize their return on investment
With fiber processing expertise in pulp screening, cleaning and refining operations, AFT is responsible for all the critical steps that lead up to the paper machine to ensure that the tissue produced is soft, cardboard boxes are strong, and milk cartons are both clean and leak-free. To this end, the company works with many sources of virgin and recycled fibers and supplies equipment that transforms raw material into clean, usable fiber. “Fiber processing is our primary business so we strive to do it the best way possible through customized solutions - because a bale of recycled material can vary a lot from city to city, country to country,” mentions Beauchemin.
Furthermore, AFT focuses on sustainability by continuously striving to reduce energy and water consumption. The company has led the industry in reducing energy with low consistency refining technology that cuts energy use by typically 15-30 percent. Their latest innovation, the Gladiator rotor, has demonstrated great success in processing fiber streams with less water. They are industry leaders in paper machine wet end systems with POM® technology: a system that reduces and reuses water while providing uniform stock mixing and air removal for better paper quality. “We offer solutions to customers that help them produce more while using less energy, water and chemicals. Our solutions are tailored to the customer’s furnish, their application and the end product being produced in order to optimize their return on investment.”
Having carved a unique niche in the industry, the road ahead is simple for AFT: focus on what they are best at and continue to improve on it. “We have five manufacturing plants globally. We have invested significantly in our engineering support of larger conversion projects over the past few years. Now, we are investing more in our service business, with a new AFT Service Center opening in Europe. As we prepare for a new year full of possibilities, we must push forward with the same optimism and dedication that has served AFT so well for over 117 years. We are composed of very talented and dedicated individuals that have even more potential as a focused team. The AFT Team will thrive and grow, together”, concludes Beauchemin.