Interviewing Juanma López, technician of process and corrugator

I am a process technician of process and corrugator. I am currently working for C&D, the No. 1 supplier of ready-made glues in the world.

Well, it’s almost like a family tradition for me, as I am the 3rd generation of my family to work in this sector.

It’s been 24 years since I started in Iberoamerica del embalaje, then we became Assidoman and finally Smurfit kappa, all in Sant Viceçns dels Horts. In this stage of 12 years I started as an apprentice in corrugator and step by step after 4 years I became Supervisor of Corrugator until I reached 12 years in that company. Then I started working for C&D until today. It was a personal challenge, as it totally changed the way of working, but it was a very nice challenge and I was offered to learn a lot technically in the corrugator process.

It is one of the most critical points in corrugated carboard manufacturing, together with the temperature. You can have the best machine on the market, the best papers, the best machinists, but if you don’t have a stable glue that is safe both in terms of gluing and performance, you can’t do anything. At C&D we are focused on wheat-based glues because we can get much more performance out of the current corrugators as the demand is increasing every day. Nowadays corrugators can reach 400 m/min, agricultural production can reach 250 m/min and the economic margin is getting smaller and smaller. You need glue that can guarantee all this without any problems.

The vast majority of companies call me because of production problems. Problems with gluing on the edges of the board, a lot of waste, especially on agricultural board, glue stability, etc. Papers are becoming more and more difficult to glue as they are very closed.

It is true that the corrugating machines when I started have nothing to do with the current ones. Before, almost everything was manual and you needed technical training to be a good machine operator, but not now, the machines are all automatic and the machine operator of a corrugator group is almost just a reel replenisher.

On many of the machines I visit, the person in charge of the corrugator has only been in charge for a short time and many of them are not even from the sector. Not to belittle anyone, but I think this is a mistake.

Good question, if I had the right answer I would be an entrepreneur!

I can only speak from what happens to me in many of the tests I do.

For example, in all the tests I carry out with C&D starch, the results are very positive, a production increase of up to 20%, waste reduction of at least 0.5%, higher ECT in the cardboard sheets, etc. Results contrasted with the customer, they admit this improvement, but the only thing they look at is that the price of our starch is more expensive.

Has anyone stopped for a while to calculate and see if it is really profitable to consume my starch? Do they know what it means to reduce waste by 0.5%? Have they analyzed that making a more stable board automatically increases converting production without doing anything?

My answer to these questions is NO, they only look at the price.

My advice would be to calculate, but with real numbers of what can be profitable or not, not to calculate only to tell the superior “look I have bought this product and we are saving X per tonne”.

Obviously, the first project is to get back to normality as soon as possible. A large part of my work is in America. The plants there are very different from those in Spain, and a factory there can easily be like four here in terms of production.

It is a very interesting market with great growth prospects.

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