“We are constantly exploring opportunities to add capacities to the current machines and through new machines at our factories,” says Mr. Vadiraj Kulkarni, Chief Executive, ITC Ltd. – Paperboards & Specialty Papers Division (ITC-PSPD).
ITC’s Paperboard & Specialty Papers Division (ITC-PSPD) is known for its continuous steps in the realm of innovative ideas and ground-breaking technologies. Recently, the largest paper and paperboard company in India expanded one of its paperboard machines at its Bhadrachalam unit by around 50000 MT. Not only this, but the unit has also got a modern state-of-the-art recovery boiler that happens to be significantly larger than the boilers previously delivered to India. The recovery boiler represents a new era in Indian recovery boilers and has high power features that enable the mill to increase its energy production.
In an interview with Paper Mart, Mr. Vadiraj Kulkarni, Chief Executive, ITC Ltd. – Paperboards & Specialty Papers Division, talk more about such developments along with industry 4.0 initiatives taken by the company.
Paper Mart: ITC-PSPD has expanded one of its paperboard machines by around 50000 MT in the year 2021-22. Tell us more about this project. How will the expansion help in driving competitiveness and growth?
Vadiraj Kulkarni: The expansion of capacity for virgin paperboards at our Bhadrachalam Plant has enabled us to sustain our market share in the growing segment. The expansion has also helped us further improve the product quality on this machine. The additional capacity has helped us to feed the growing export market.
PM: Please share details about your mill modernisation and mill expansion projects.
VK: The pulp mill modernisation and upgrade project is progressing well and is on time, despite COVID-19 disruptions in the second and third waves. We are constantly exploring opportunities to add capacities to the current machines and through new machines at our factories.
“The 2700 tonnes of dry solids per day capacity boiler, designed and built in Finland and India, boasts of high energy to renewable fuel ratio and global benchmark in emission standards.”
PM: A new recovery boiler was installed at Bhadrachalam Pulp Mill which happens to be significantly larger than other boilers. Tell us more about the distinct features of this boiler along with its advantages.
VK: In line with its triple bottom line philosophy, ITC-PSPD has commissioned a state-of-the-art high-efficiency recovery boiler (the largest in the country) to replace three medium and small-size recovery boilers at the country’s largest pulp and paper/paperboard mill at Bhadrachalam. The 2700 tonnes of dry solids per day capacity boiler, designed, and built in Finland and India, boasts of high energy to renewable fuel ratio and global benchmark in emission standards. The boiler is part of the INR 1920 crore project comprising pulp mill capacity upgrade and the new boiler. At full capacity utilisation, the project will save 1.50 lakh tonnes of coal, thus contributing to greener manufacturing.
PM: ITC-PSPD has always been at the forefront of digital adoption. Kindly elaborate on some of the industry 4.0 initiatives taken by your company.
VK: ITC-PSPD has embarked upon a comprehensive digital transformation program to achieve significant bottom-line benefits and operational excellence. These include manufacturing, pulp-wood plantations, procurement, sales and marketing, sustainability, finance, IT, HR, logistics, etc. It is also collaborating with partners from start-up ecosystems, as well as established solution providers, in building solutions custom-fit to business requirements. These interventions got a significant boost amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which provided further impetus to step up digital transformation. Over 50 use cases have been developed and implemented across various spheres of the business and enabled PSPD to expand its margin by 230 basis points over the last two years.
Paperboards’ business division is leveraging digital technologies such as IoT, advanced analytics, and image analytics to strengthen its leadership position in the global pulp, paper, and paperboard sector. The multi-dimensional digital interventions encompass industrial IoT for smart operations, integrated data infra/platform, AI/ML algorithms for ‘Golden Batches’ in the process, AI/ML-based image analytics, IoT-based crop monitoring & advisory.
PM: The biggest challenge faced by the Indian paper industry is the uncertainty regarding the availability of uniform raw materials. How do you cope with raw material supply chain issues, price volatility, and import challenges?
VK: While this has been a challenge for the last one year, our strategy of backward integration in terms of raising plantations for wood security, integrated mechanical and chemical pulp mills helps us reduce the impact of external market dynamics. Having said that, ITC has strong inventory norms for various imported items, thus helping us tide over the crisis quite well.
We have also diversified our sources geographically which reduces the impact of unforeseen events in one geography. Price volatility has hit the entire value chain of the industry, so the only way to deal with it is to have tight control on costs and build structural cost advantages for the medium to long-term.
“The multi-dimensional digital interventions encompass industrial IoT for smart operations, integrated data infra/platform, AI/ML algorithms for ‘Golden Batches’ in the process, AI/ML-based image analytics, IoT-based crop monitoring & advisory.”
Also Read: Innovation is the Growth Mantra of ITC-PSPD
PM: What steps have you taken to increase in-house pulp production? Also, shed some light on the strategic changes implemented by ITC-PSPD.
VK: Our both pulp mills – mechanical and chemical are fully utilised. We have been able to increase the capacity of the pulp mills through frugal innovations and digital interventions. ITC-PSPD’s project on upgrading and modernising both pulp mills is underway and on schedule.
PM: Is there anything else you wish to add to the interaction?
VK: The paper industry would face challenges in ensuring the availability of wood (for integrated mills) in the future. So, I urge the wood and fiber-consuming mills to scale up plantations program in their respective catchment areas.