Goodbye to Pulp & Paper?

By: Erik Kane | On: March 9, 2018

We live in a digital age.

An age where everyone carries around a high-definition supercomputer in their pocket that delivers a constant stream of information: local & global news, photos, entertainment, events, and even coupons.  Before the digital revolution and the internet, all of these things were delivered to us by newspaper.  Even way back in 1984 when asked about his opinion on reading, Egon Spengler’s flat response in Ghostbusters was simply, “Print is dead.”  In 2018 it’s even easier for us to imagine the pulp and paper world shrinking into the growing shadow of cell phones, especially here in the United States.  So what really is going on within the pulp and paper industry? Has it seen its best days?

When I think of the paper industry, the top three things that come to mind are newspapers, printer paper, and books.  While the demand for all these things is most definitely shrinking, they also all belong to the same segment of the industry called “graphic paper.” Graphic paper as a segment has been on the decline for years for all the reasons we’d correctly expect, but it’s just one piece of the pie.  As an industry, pulp and paper products are much more diverse and are far from gone.  They’re growing.

Consumer products like toilet paper, facial tissues, cleaning wipes, and paper towels are increasing in demand as our population and quality of life increase. Cardboard packaging for individual consumer items like pizza boxes, Amazon-type shipments, and second-hand items sold on social marketplaces, have increased.  Globalization has created greater need for shipping imports and exports between different countries and increased the need for commercial and industrial packaging.

So What’s the Result?

These changes in demand combine to offset the decline in graphic paper to create a shift that actually translates into growth for the industry.  This growth isn’t necessarily the kind of growth that inspires booming new construction as much as it does conversion. The capabilities of existing plants are being repurposed to accommodate these new demands. Instead of a grassroots plant, we see more large-scale renovations to existing plants to produce different, new, or more products than before.  Also commonly seen are upgrades to provide swing capacity to produce multiple types of products as well as innovations to increase efficiencies or reduce environmental footprint.

Because these projects are largely retrofits and upgrades, they aren’t as straightforward as setting up a new plant may be (as straightforward as building an industrial plant can be that is). Working around existing plant components, piping features, and processing units is tricky when trying to make drastic changes that will have a harmonious end result.  As the industry continues to adjust to this paradigm shift and evolve to meet our demands, it may seem like the pulp and paper world is dissolving into obsolescence, but in fact it’s doing quite the opposite.  As such, they’ll continue to rely on industrial suppliers like Hose Master and our distributors to carry out their construction and maintenance projects.  If you have a flexible connection issue or application in a pulp and paper plant, give Hose Master a call at 1-800-221-2319 or send us an e-mail at insidesales@hosemaster.com and use our industry expertise to your advantage.