A manufacturing company specialising in engineered consumables and services for pulp and paper industry, Coldwater is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, with manufacturing facilities in Atlanta, Appleton, Wisconsin, USA; Kil, Sweden; and Kunshan, China. It recently entered into an agency agreement with MR Mac-Tech Private Limited, an Indian company serving the pulp and paper industry.
Coldwater is the world’s largest manufacturer of suction roll sealing strips and accessories, with nine distribution points around the globe. Its ColdFlex flexible rubber graphite is now the most widely used product in the industry.
A full-service doctor blade manufacturer, with all common materials from metals and epoxies to carbon fibres, Coldwater offers a variety of wet end products and services.
The Paper Mart team recently interviewed Mr. Karl Whelan, European Sales Manager, Coldwater-Jocell AB, and Mr. R.K. Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, MR Mac-Tech Private Limited, to gain a proper understanding of the company’s core strengths, product portfolio, research and development activities and marketing strategy in India.
Here are some excerpts from this lively interaction.
Speaking about his company’s corporate journey, Mr. Whelan said, “We are a company based in America, a global supplier of suction roll seals, dewatering elements and doctoring systems. We originated back in the 1980s in Atlanta, USA, and we’ve since expanded into the European market. We currently have a facility in Sweden and a manufacturing facility in China. We are the number-one global supplier of suction roll seals and intend to develop all of our other products so that they are on the same level as our seal products.”
Shedding light on Coldwater’s product portfolio, Mr. Whelan said, “Suction roll seals are our number-one product line, and this range has been so for many years. We supply premium products in suction roll seals. There is no other product that can match our suction roll seals. In the suction roll seal range, we also include technical backup and service for suction roll development at each individual customer.
“Our second product line at the moment is dewatering elements. We put this together in the form of UHMW, ceramics, Vacuum control systems and edge control systems. What we are trying to develop is the technical side of dewatering together with providing knowledge and experience of how to improve the formation and drainage on the wet end.
“Our third product line is doctor blade systems. We have a full range of doctor blades, which are manufactured in Sweden. We also have the opportunity to supply doctor blades accessories and doctor blade systems that generally come from our US facilities. We offer a full range of blades for the wet end, press section, dryer section, etc. And we have a full range of product variables that is commonplace in the marketplace.”
Research and Development Activities
Elaborating on the company’s approach to research and development, Mr. Whelan said, “We are always doing internal development and testing of different materials to see if we can, one, reduce the amount of water that’s needed and, two, increase the life time of seals or reduce the wear on them. So, that’s ongoing, and we have developed various materials over the years – ColdFlex being a prime example. This is a flexible seal that we developed back in the mid 90s. It is now commonplace in the industry. As far as dewatering is concerned, we have been looking at slower machines and finding out if we can improve formation, trying to develop equipment that will give better profile, better strength, etc.
“As far as doctor blades are concerned, we are looking at materials that would extend their life time, particularly in critical positions for centre press rolls, calendars, etc. So, we do ongoing developmental materials. And then we are also looking at equipment that may benefit customers in certain other areas, particularly dewatering and suction rolls. These are our two main developmental areas.”
“Our core strength definitely lies in materials on the suction rolls and the development we have done in the past with our ColdFlex material. It also lies in the experience and service we offer. We are not like other companies… . We share our experience and knowledge with our customers, providing them with an understanding of how to enhance their efficiency. We don’t just keep supplying our products to our customers. That’s the kind of backing that customers get from Coldwater. There’s a lot of technical reliability and performance in our complete product range,” said Mr. Whelan.
The Industry Scenario
Commenting on the Indian pulp and paper industry scenario, Mr. Whelan said, “The Indian paper industry has a huge potential for any supplier these days. I think the Indian paper industry has not been covered much by our type of supplies in the past. The Indian paper industry is a growing industry, and we’ll offer our experience and knowledge to develop it.”
Speaking on his marketing strategy drawn up for the Indian paper market, Mr. Whelan said, “We primarily need to look at our best products and offer them to the Indian market. We are looking for quality and want to make improvements in the runnability in all the sections we deal with. Obviously, our price needs to be competitive with that of all the existing suppliers, which is one of the things we have focused on during the last year to make sure we are competitive when we go into the market.
“We intend to add value to Indian paper mills. A lot of it involves improving runnability and productivity of machines on both production and engineering sides. And I think by using our products paper manufacturers will see this almost immediately.”
Enhancing Runnability and Productivity
Explaining how Coldwater can increase runnability and productivity, Mr. Whelan said, “We start with suction roll seals using Coldflex. We’ve got data analysis. We compared over 400 rolls with Classic Rubber Graphite against our Coldflex material and all results proved that with the correct setup and application loading, lifetime of a seal can be improved from one year to two years. Improving lifetime on suction seal means that the machine shocks can be reduced for that particular roll; it is not just the savings on the cost of the seals, it is also ensuring that the running of the suction roll on the machine is longer. Dewatering vacuum control systems…we can look at increasing sheet dryness before the Couch roll, which again would enable the customer to increase either the machine speed or the quality of the sheet or even reduce the power consumption in the press section and the dryer section. We also look at formation improvements in dewatering. Again, formation improvements give better strength to the sheets and may be better quality, so the customer can then sell at a higher price. So, all our developments are done to help on the production side. On the engineering side of suction roll seals, because of our Coldflex material, which is flexible, we guarantee no breakage in transport or installation; with this the suction roll seal operation is improved and maintenance is made easier.”
Adding Value to the Industry
Speaking on how MR Mac-Tech as a representative of Coldwater-Jocell intends to add value to the Indian paper industry, Mr. Agarwal said, “We would be adding value to the industry by offering the good products from Coldwater. Our main focus area is selling strips, in which Coldwater is number one. As far as quality is concerned, undoubtedly, Coldwater has a very good material called ColdFlex. It would increase the life and runnability of the equipment.
We are also trying to focus on the Fourdrinier section, where ceramics are used, and we would be giving the mills our technical data support for ceramics in the form of the design of the wire table, which would result in better formation and better machine runnability. That is a more important subject rather than just selling the physical equipment for the wire part. We would be more involved with the mills as we intend to justify our presence with our products for better quality and productivity.”
ROI for Coldwater Products
Speaking on the positive ROI that Coldwater products will have, Mr. Agarwal said, “When we recommend a product, definitely the ROI for that equipment or investment has to be very fast. I can’t specify the time period, but it would be very fast. And definitely mills would appreciate that by installing our systems or pieces of equipment, they would get good lifetime and support. They’d be more than happy to accept our products with the kind of return they would be getting on them. This is our experience and this is the assurance we offer to the mills. We have received positive feedback from mills on the performance of our products. Mills have definitely gained a lot in terms of productivity and runnability.”
“We have looked into where we need to be costing-wise. We’ll come over with very competitive prices, which will also compete with the prices of the existing supplies into India. We will compete on pricing with our competitors, even though we feel our products are in the premium range and are obviously worth high pricing – what we normally sell – but we’ll see that our customers come back to Coldwater time and time again. This is what we are looking for. We are looking for long-term volumes and commitment that would give us the margins – that would justify our price. In brief, in spite of having premium products with high costing, we will keep the cost for the customer on the lower side to meet the completion,” said Mr. Whelan.
Adding a footnote to Mr. Whelan’s exposition of the company’s costing strategy, Mr. Agarwal said, “MR Mac-Tech and Coldwater have an agreement to corner the India paper market in our product range. Needless to say, most of the installations on the machines will be from Coldwater. It would be in the form of a package deal for paper mills.”
Speaking on the challenges posed by the Indian paper market, Mr. Whelan said,”Finding out what the costing needs to be and getting to the mills on a more regular basis are the main challenges we currently face in India. We have had one week in India, but we couldn’t do more than five or six mills in five days. In Sweden, you can do five or six mills in just a couple of days. Getting from mill to mill is rather time-consuming. Transport in India is difficult.”