Pulp & Paper plant in Chile

How Pulp & Paper Manufacturers Optimize Operations via Proactive Maintenance

6 min read
Guilherme Silva
Industrial Sales Director

In pulp and paper operations, maintenance carries significant weight, with the power to make or break productivity and profitability. As a result, leading pulp and paper manufacturers are embracing proactive maintenance and automation to fully harness the benefits of optimized operations.


Costly, But Not Effective

While quantifying maintenance’s full impact can be elusive, an estimated 10% of pulp and paper operating expense is spent on it. This is a significant overage relative to other industries. Despite this hefty investment, approximately 60-80% of pulp and paper equipment malfunctions are caused by incorrect or insufficient maintenance. Why the gap? An estimated 80% of pulp and paper operations use reactive maintenance approaches, leaving operational and financial risks unaddressed. Therefore, proactive maintenance via condition monitoring is transforming operations by providing optimization where and when it is needed most.  

Four Key Application Areas

In terms of maintenance costs, all operational areas are not created equal. Four key application areas that expend more money on maintenance include the turbogenerator, boiler, wood handling, and drying area.



Number 1
Wood Handling.

In the wood handling area, pulp and paper operations use condition monitoring solutions to increase the reliability of chippers and chip pumps. One customer installation leverages online monitoring to proactively identify impending bearing issues and identify bearing lubrication issues in chippers and chip pumps. This enables correction prior to failure and when maintenance cost and operational impact at the lowest possible point. 

In the wood handling area, remote 24/7 monitoring of multiple data points and industry-tailored algorithms generate insights that optimize both the amount and productivity of uptime.



Number 2
Drying Area

In the drying area, condition monitoring solutions generate significant value. Early identification of bearing faults and drying roll / roller belt issues has direct impact on production.

A drying roll can take 2 full days to replace and the lead time for a new one can take months. Thus, the ability to pinpoint approaching failures in the dryer area prior to occurrence is essential to operational viability. Further, predicting failure allows optimized planning and scheduling of maintenance to reduce planned downtime events and to minimize costs.



Number 3

Anomalies in the boiler operation typically stem from fans and feed water pumps. Condition monitoring is used to assess the on-going health of these fans and pumps to ensure the boiler operates as needed and without fail.



Number 4

In pulp and paper operations, the turbogenerator is a crucial asset that requires specific and consistent attention. Most often, customers ask for assistance and expertise in implementing condition monitoring systems for the turbogenerator. To more effectively advance knowledge and provide expert support, an increasing trend is “condition monitoring as a service” where condition monitoring technical staff can better support pulp and paper staff.

Through the development of highly advanced, industry-specific algorithms, pulp and paper companies are successfully deploying condition monitoring solutions that detect failure modes earlier in the process. This is possible because failure is a process, not an event.

These four operating areas are leading the adoption of proactive condition monitoring systems. However, it is the engineering details of a condition monitoring solution that make it most effective.


Moving Beyond Vibration
Pulp and Paper Industry Plant


Pulp and paper operations are harsh environments with elevated temperatures, acidic conditions and high humidity. Thus, specific condition monitoring technologies and sensors must be designed to work reliably in these harsh situations. Together with industry-knowledge, tailored technology is a prerequisite to effective condition monitoring solutions. For example, if a sensor doesn’t work properly (generates incorrect data or fails to detect the right data) or the alarms are set incorrectly (generates false positives or false negatives), then the effectiveness of the entire condition monitoring system is compromised.

Also, vibration is a key element for asset condition monitoring in pulp and paper operations. However, there are different root causes to vibrational anomalies such as process, mechanical, oil condition, etc. Looking beyond vibration to understand the underlying issues is a crucial element of success.

Additionally, when an alarm is triggered, that is just the starting point. It is not enough to know that vibration is increasing. The most pressing question is “What’s the cause of the increasing vibration?” Data is needed to solve for the answer. Potential root cause issues include thermal expansion, preload, rub, misalignment, operational modes, changes in process, oil and lubrication issues. Thus, the collection and correlation of more sophisticated and multi-dimensional variables, paired with deep machine and process knowledge, are required to analyze the facts and make an accurate and timely recommendation. (Another great blog holistic plant-wide condition monitoring)


Maintenance in pulp and paper operations is ripe for proactive, on-going optimization via condition monitoring systems, starting with the four plant areas mentioned here. Asset protection is the starting point. To further improve effectiveness and decision making, condition monitoring solutions can provide comprehensive connectivity to all machine data sources on the edge and generate a holistic operational view. Further, moving beyond data modeling to embrace the use of industry- and application-tailored algorithms provides significantly more valuable insights. Thus, plant-wide predictive failure capabilities become possible – a vital capability that will transform pulp and paper companies to next-level operational optimization.

Guilherme Silva

Guilherme Silva

Industrial Sales Director

Industrial Asset Management


Guilherme has more than 20 years of experience in asset condition monitoring management, working with different industry segments. Guilherme earned a mechanical engineer degree by EFEI and an MBA in UFRJ COPPEAD.