Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Technologist

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Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Technologist


Before the invention of paper, other means of recording and communicating written information were used, such as animal skins and parchment. Yet these pre-paper alternatives were both inconvenient and expensive. Moreover, paper in its various grades has many other useful properties, which have contributed to its continuing popularity and success. Paper by-products such as cardboard boxes, tissue paper and insulator in electricity distribution are widely used and environmentally superior to other plastic alternatives. In other words, paper is a necessary part of our lives. Pulp and paper manufacturing technologists help make the paper we use. They operate a number of machines that refine pulp and shorten fibers as pulp flows continuously through machines to prepare pulp for papermaking. They examine pulp, review laboratory test reports, and adjust machines to ensure that pulp meets specifications.

The pulp and paper manufacturing technology career combines engineering with industrial training and seeks to develop effective, organized factory systems that are both people-oriented and cost-conscious. Like other engineering technologists, they focus their work in areas such as research and development, manufacturing, sales, quality control and maintenance. Therefore, they may examine the overall production process of a pulp and paper operation to determine best practices. Also, they might introduce statistical performance measurements to analyze and improve operations and determine materials handling methods.

Some pulp and paper technologists may help companies decide on a prime location to build a plant. They will consider factors such as proximity to water sources and several other environmental issues. Since pulp and paper factories generate huge volumes of wastewater, environmental practices are important issues technologists must consider and act upon. Also, paper breaks down readily for recycling by the simple addition of water and agitating action. Therefore, its recycling abilities make paper a regenerating, positive product. It is the technologist's job to make sure that all practices are environmentally sound.

A great deal of the career deals with studying human behavior and human tendencies in relation to the workplace. When designing the layout of a production line or the materials handling system of a pulp and paper mill, the manufacturing technologist must consider the physical requirements, cost parameters and the physiological and behavioral performance of the human operators. When a pulp and paper company is either starting out or needs an efficiency expert to iron out potentially harmful kinks, a technologist will act as their expert.

Some technologists will also run routine inspections to make sure that the factories or plants are running smoothly and producing products at their utmost potential. Accordingly, they are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in this quickly changing field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Pulp and paper manufacturing technologists have a natural aptitude for mathematics and science and can visualize abstract concepts and relationships. They possess excellent communication and leadership skills because they interact with technicians, service workers and clients on a daily basis. They must be good at troubleshooting, but maintain a positive outlook in order to deal with the constant stream of problems faced daily. Finally, paying strict attention to details is just as important as persistence. Suggesting improvement solutions to companies is only the first step; helping them act on these suggestions is the hard part.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop and conduct production, inventory and quality assurance programs in pulp and paper mills
  • Design plant layouts and production facilities or improve existing systems concerned with the production and distribution of products and services
  • Analyze production problems such as an inadequate supply of components, materials or personnel
  • Prepare the stock solution, fillers and additives
  • Size and coat paper to improve the printing quality and other properties
  • Verify the consistency and reliability of product quality, taking into account such factors as time, cost and quality control
  • Develop and carry out industrial health, safety and fire prevention plans and programs and conduct safety training programs
  • Conduct surveys and feasibility studies for locating new plants
  • Develop work measurement standards and evaluation systems, including environmental issues and practices
  • Manage productivity improvement projects
  • Pulp and paper manufacturing technologists usually work regular hours in offices, research labs and on pulp and paper mill production floors. A majority of their time is spent on the computer, preparing layouts, statistical studies and analyses. Some work in teams with engineers and technicians. Certain technologists travel to plants more than others do while some attend conferences to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Pulp and paper manufacturing technologists generally work for public and private companies or on a freelance contractual basis. In the private sector, they work for pulp and paper mills and manufacturing companies, industrial consulting firms and any other industry that requires some help from a pulp and paper technologist. Government organizations, hospitals and educational institutions also hire manufacturing technologists.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Even though pulp and paper manufacturing technologists are so specialized, it does not mean that advancements are hard to come by. In fact, most technologists have a general industrial or manufacturing technology background and have the ability to shift between career areas. Technologists will start doing routine work under the direction of engineers and as they acquire experience and further knowledge, they will be given more responsibility. Experienced pulp and paper manufacturing technologists may advance to become production managers or quality control supervisors and inspectors. With further training and education, pulp and paper technologists can also become industrial or manufacturing engineers.

  Educational Paths  
Completion of a two- or three-year college program in industrial or manufacturing engineering technology is usually required for pulp and paper manufacturing technologists. A certification in manufacturing or industrial engineering technology or a related field is available through associations of engineering or applied science technologists and technicians, and may be required for some positions. A supervised, two-year period of work is required for employment in the pulp and paper industry.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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