Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 12

trendspotting | MANAGEMENT

An Ode to Small
A bold management decision in 2013 has revitalized Turners Falls Paper.
GRAEME RODDEN

On the left, the stack at Turners Falls still shows the Esleeck name; the stack on the right served the
now-closed Keith Paper (K P Co.) mill.

Find a niche, be the best at what you do,
serve your customers like no others, be quick
to respond to evolving markets. How does a
small papermaker survive, and thrive, in this
era of declining demand-especially when
one's assets date back to the 1930s?
Privately-owned Turners Falls Paper,
Turners Falls, MA, traces its company history back to 1839, although the mill, originally known as the Esleeck Manufacturing
Company, was built in 1898. (See sidebar.)
As with most mills of that era, its main raw
material was cotton rags used to produce a very
lightweight paper (e.g., onion skin), according
to present-day Director of Technology and
Innovation Ken Schelling. The original rag
boilers are still in the mill and were used up
until 2002-03. The mill now buys processed
rag fiber and, depending on the paper grade,
makes up to 100 percent of the furnish.
In the early 1900s the mill was one of the
largest producers of paper for a new technological marvel, the typewriter.
The mill continued as a lightweight paper
producer and also went into new grades.
However, over time markets declined, and
12

Paper360º

MAY/JUNE 2017

by the beginning of the 21st century the mill
was running only three or four days a week.
An older management team was not thinking
of new markets and it seemed like the mill's
days were numbered.
A GIANT LEAP INTO THE UNKNOWN
In 2006, the Southworth family acquired
Esleeck Paper and the Turners Falls mill. Until
recently, the mill was known as Paperlogic, but
in 2016 it was renamed Turners Falls Paper.
The research division, formed in 2013, still
uses the Paperlogic name.
Although the Southworth family still owns
the mill, it made an extraordinary decision in
2013 when it sold the Southworth line of papers
(P&W) to Neenah. The line represented 50
percent of production.
"This was a brave thing to do," admits
Schelling, who has been with the company
since 2009. "What we do today is representative of what we had to do when we sold the
Southworth line."
Although the market was shrinking, the
decision to sell was made quickly. As a result,
there was no infrastructure in place to make

new grades or sell them. Management's decision
was to concentrate on the colored paper market-artists' grades. (The mill had started making colored paper after Southworth acquired
it in 2006.) This would complement the businesses that were kept, such as envelopes, archival paper, and other specialty paper, some with
a cotton rag furnish. The mill still is considered
a preeminent producer of cotton fiber papers.
The bold change in production has paid
off. According to the Turners Falls Paper website, "Colors are a common occurrence in our
manufacturing schedule, often for several days
in a row."
And, although there are several longterm customers for products such as vellum,
Schelling estimates that 30 to 40 percent of
the business comes from customers of fewer
than five years' standing. He says, "Turners
Falls Paper is a custom paper manufacturer.
Most of production is made to order. The only
real line we have is the Byron Weston brand."
There is an everyday reminder to operators
and staff of the peril of an unwillingness to
change. Adjacent to Turners Falls is another old
mill, originally Keith Paper, which went through
various owners (Strathmore-Hammermill-IP)
through the years before being shut for good in
the late 1990s. The two mills built one of the first
effluent treatment plants on the Connecticut
River. Turners Falls still uses it today.

These are two pumpkins bought in autumn 2016.
The one on the left is untreated. The one on the
right was treated with a CNF solution. This shows
the excellent barrier properties of CNF.

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Paper360 - May/June 2017

Setpoint
Over the Wire
Leadership for a Changing Industry
An Ode to Small
The Graying of the Paper Industry
Suppliers Reach Out to Mill Leaders
Making a Difference: 2017 TAPPI/PIMA Awards
RISI’s Asian CEO of the Year
TAPPISAFE Offers Solid Benefits for Mills, Contractors
Reinventing Varkaus
Failure Isn’t Just an Option—It’s Unavoidable
Blower Technology Proves Its Worth
TAPPI Journal Summaries
Global Study: Most People Highly Value Paper and Print
The Changing World of OCC
TAPPI News
ASPI News
Index of Advertisers
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - intro
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - ebelly1
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - ebelly2
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - cover1
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - cover2
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 3
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 4
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 5
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - Setpoint
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 7
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - Over the Wire
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 9
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 10
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 11
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - An Ode to Small
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 13
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 14
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 15
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - The Graying of the Paper Industry
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 17
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - Suppliers Reach Out to Mill Leaders
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 19
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - Making a Difference: 2017 TAPPI/PIMA Awards
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 21
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 22
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 23
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 24
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 25
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 26
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 27
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - RISI’s Asian CEO of the Year
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 29
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 30
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 31
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - TAPPISAFE Offers Solid Benefits for Mills, Contractors
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 33
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - Reinventing Varkaus
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 35
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - Failure Isn’t Just an Option—It’s Unavoidable
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 37
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - Blower Technology Proves Its Worth
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 39
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - TAPPI Journal Summaries
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 41
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - Global Study: Most People Highly Value Paper and Print
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 43
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 44
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 45
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - The Changing World of OCC
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 47
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - TAPPI News
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - ASPI News
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - Index of Advertisers
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - cover3
Paper360 - May/June 2017 - cover4
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