With the help of the EIB, Sweden is turning to papermaking 4.0
Demand for paper packaging is increasing worldwide
On 1 October, the Swedish pulp and paper company SCA signed a loan agreement with the European Investment Bank with the aim of receiving EUR 300 million. The money will be used in the digital upgrade of its Obbola kraftliner paper mill to improve the process towards the transition to the so-called papermaking 4.0.
Paper products are becoming increasingly popular as a choice for packaging needs in view of changing trends towards sustainable economies. Their biodegradability is unmatched given the organic origin of the material and the declining relevance of the plastic.
Undoubted demographic growth potential for northern Sweden
Obbola is a suburb of Holmsund (Umeå municipality), located in northern Sweden. In a landscape characterized by massive and seemingly endless pine forests, it is no surprise that industries related to woodworking would emerge – one such is papermaking.
SCA has been in that locality for more than 100 years and is an important economic engine for the region. Kraftliner is the unbleached paper used for packaging and boxes and made from spruce or pine pulp, locally sourced from the northern forests. Its production is only expected to increase due to increasing demands linked to, among other things, online shopping.
That is why the company has decided to digitize and optimize production with the implementation of something called ‘papermaking 4.0’. This is in trend with the ongoing development, which is described as the fourth industrial revolution, characterized by the use of big data and smart software that controls, predicts and analyzes production processes.
President and CEO of SCA Ulf Larsson explained: “Demand for sustainable packaging is increasing and SCA decided in 2019 to increase production capacity at the Obbola mill from 450,000 tonnes to 725,000 tonnes. Through this investment, the need for fossil fuels in critical parts of the production process will be eliminated, which results in a significantly lower carbon footprint. As a result of this investment in the world’s most advanced power liner plant, we will significantly improve the mill’s competitiveness, sustainability footprint and product quality.. ”
Robotization does not mean depopulation
Such news about increased machine involvement in the traditionally labor-intensive production process should not raise any concerns about job shortages into the future. On the contrary, in fact, just as today, Umeå’s municipal website published a call for Holmsund and Obbola residents to gather on 31 October and propose their visions for the future development of their settlements. Authorities reported that by 2050, these areas are expected to grow by more than 5,000 inhabitants.
SCA’s industry characterizes life in these communities and the expansion project made possible by European funding has created a stir. In parallel, investments are planned in the railway sector, which means, among other things, that the current freight yard in central Holmsund can move down to the port area. Detailed planning work is also underway for the construction of new homes.
”There are many started and planned projects that provide new opportunities and conditions for how and where the places can be developed. But with new companies and housing also comes more traffic and other types of issues that must be taken into account in the ongoing planning work. In order to manage the individual projects, an overall picture of the conditions that follow from the development that takes place is also needed, Explained the community planner Thomas Lundgren.