Since the SCA purchase of G-P’s European tissue business mill manager Brend Bichbeimer has met the ‘biggest challenge’ of a rapid change from a focus on forestry to hygiene… now he wants their tissue machine world speed record back.
By Helen Morris, Tissue World editor
Impressively, SCA’s Neuss site in Germany has held the world record for tissue machine speed for the past five years, running its Beloit TM at a fantastic 2,200m/min. Over the past year however, it has been knocked off the top spot. “There’s a certain Turkish tissue manufacturer that this year has beaten us,” mill manager Bernd Bichbeimer explains. “But we will come back! This is the only year for a good few years that we’ve not had the top spot.”
Located at a 20 minute drive from Dusseldorf, the site produces 105,000tpy of consumer tissue from two paper machines, supplied by Valmet and Beloit. With 430 staff, the site is SCA ’s third largest out o f its f our German production sites. As with much of the SCA group, Neuss has seen a number o f changes following SCA’s purchase of G-P’s European tissue business, as well as the sale of the company’s packaging division.
‘We are increasingly looking to the Middle East, Africa, Asia and China. Demographically, people are getting wealthier.’
“Moving from forestry to a much more hygiene-focused company is currently one of the biggest challenges for us,” he adds. “Some 80% of our €9.8bn net sales in 2012 were from our hygiene sector… it’s been a very fast paced change.” In the consumer tissue business unit, SCA is the world’s second biggest supplier and may soon be boosting its presence in the East further after putting in an offer to acquire a 51% stake in Chinese tissue produce Vinda. Is SCA’s focus increasingly going eastwards? “We are increasingly looking to the Middle East, Africa, Asia and China. Demographically, people are getting wealthier. Incontinence cases in China for example are a big market for us,” he says. However, Europe remains its largest market at 72%, with sales in Germany leading the way at €1.2bn and the UK market taking second place. “The G-P acquisition will strengthen our position in France and southern Europe as well as our brand portfolio,” Bichbeimer says. “The acquisition included the G-P consumer tissue brand Lotus and the AfH tissue brand Lotus Professional. That’s a big asset for us as we now have two competitive brands there. The purchase has helped us strengthen our footprint in Europe.” He adds the market in Europe is very different from the East: “We need to bring products into the market here that add value, where there’s a lot of innovation. We need to deliver very innovative and affordable products.” Neuss is launching a lot of new products that are “high quality and add value, such as Tempo cotton touch. That’s our main market strategy,” he adds. Some 62% o f SCA’s tissue products produced are consumer tissue products that are sold in supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores, while 38% is produced for the AfH market. “We’re growing in the brands area, for AfH and consumer tissue.” For its consumer brands, SCA is globally aiming at 50% brand business share to 50% retailer brand for its consumer tissue brands. “We’re investing in innovation so it’s much easier for us than our competitors,” Bichbeimer says. “The German tissue market has been enormously retailer brand driven for a long time and brands are highly challenged.” As for the retailers, he says it would be a surprise if they got any tougher with their requirements. “They want more sustainable products on the shelves, it’s as simple as that,” he says. “Sustainability is becoming more and more of a big topic.”
‘The G-P acquisition has helped us strengthen our brand portfolio in France and our footprint in Europe.’
SCA’s forests cover some of the company’s worldwide production pulp requirements: with an area of 2.6 million hectares – slightly larger than Wales – “we are the biggest private forest owners in Europe,” he adds. “We need to be financially sustainable as well as environmentally. We are committed to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 and we will also have wind power in our forests, and the production of wind power on SCA forests land will increase to 5TWh by 2020. Our water sustainability efforts will also reduce our water usage by 10% by 2015.”
‘Retailers want more sustainable products on the shelves, it’s as simple as that. Sustainability is becoming more and more of a big topic.’
SCA are the only producers in Germany that can report growth, Bichbeimer says. “The Tempo brand is playing a big part in that. The German consumer tissue market is seeing 1% volume growth and we’re outperforming the market, both for the AfH and the consumer tissue market. Innovations and added value play a huge part in today’s tissue market, they are the drivers for success.” He adds that with the innovations and developments the company and the site have introduced “we are keeping at a constant pace.” “Productivity has increased by 7% per year. We are growing and we want to grow in all our sites that have paper capacity and finished capacity everywhere. We want to grow constantly and that’s looking good for the next five years.”
As for the world speed record. “We are certainly not defeated yet!” he beams.
FACTFILE – SCA Company
Three business units – consumer tissue, AfH tissue and personal care
Production facilities – Mainz-Kostheim, Mannheim, Neuss and Witzenhausen
Brands – include TENA, Tork, Tempo, Zewa, Lotus Professional, Danke, TENA
Sectors – consumer tissue, AfH, personal care
Products – toilet paper, kitchen roll, paper handkerchiefs, facial tissue, napkins, cotton pads, personal care products