Paper360 - May/June 2017 - 17

dearth of young employees exists, as anecdotally shown by the average age of TAPPI
members. There is a generational bubble
which, when it bursts, can cause a crisis
in skills and manpower.
How does an industry operated by an
aged workforce beginning to retire en
masse ensure a fully-manned future? The
answer lies with training and education.
The traditional career path in our
industry is bottom up. There's much to
be said for an evolution of knowledge
through doing. Couch Pit University-
an industry organization for which the
main entry qualification is having run a paper
machine-is a great example of some of the
advantages of "hands-on" learning. Many
CPU members started out as fourth hands on
paper machines and worked their way up to
superintendent positions and beyond. Anyone
who has been to a CPU meeting cannot help
but be impressed by two things: the members'
depth of knowledge of papermaking, and the
organizational culture. There is a strong sense
of camaraderie, of knowledge sharing, and of
mutual support.
I am not part of CPU; my career path was
different. Yet I think that CPU culture comes
from a shared sense of having endured and triumphed over difficult circumstances with hard
work, stamina, dedication, and cooperation.
This culture has served our industry well for
decades, in no small part because papermaking technologies are evolved and not merely
developed. Good papermaking is thus a mix of
technology and "black magic"-that is, knowledge of a very complex system gained by experience and observation; knowledge handed down
through generations of workers.
I asked Randy Kimpfbeck, a past machine
superintendent and CPU officer, about this generational knowledge. "Couch Pit University was
founded to perpetuate the art of papermaking,"
Kimpfbeck told me. "Membership is a reminder
of the struggle to 'crawl out of the couch pit.'
Our primary role is giving back knowledge to
the industry and its young people. We do this
with scholarships and mentoring."
Does a generational "bubble" preclude the
survival of such a culture? I hope not. The existence of Couch Pit University perhaps indicates
that we recognize its value and will work to
protect and nurture it.
Still, management can no longer rely
solely on the traditional "pass it forward"

Technology and labor in pulp, paper,
paperboard, and selected converting facilities,
1973-1992. (Source: Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics)

culture-not only because of generational
changes, but because an important reason
for increased productivity is elevated technological sophistication. A back tender thumping
the reel with a baton and listening for profile
changes might be picturesque, but it is not
practical on a modern machine. The person
(or more likely, people) responsible for profile
needs be conversant in distributed control
systems and the sensors that feed them. Hence,
the importance of training.
Dr. Mike Kocurek, the pre-eminent paper
technology educator in the US, has recognized
the pressure that management in the pulp and
paper industry is under to hire and develop
skilled employees. In addition to his university experience, he has done a wide range of
in-plant technical training for thousands of
operators in hundreds of mills. He has also
helped develop a range of "portable" training
modules designed to bring new employees up
to speed more quickly, and to fill in knowledge
gaps for experienced employees.
According to Dr. Kocurek, "successful
employee training has three legs: on-the-job
experience; training on equipment design,
operation and maintenance; and technical
training that focuses on what happens in pulping and papermaking and why it happens."
The many modular training programs
developed at Coastal Alabama Community
College under a National Science Foundation
grant are great examples of modern technical
training. Their modular form allows customization to different levels of understanding and
different job functions. Some paper companies
have developed similar approaches to personnel training in-house.

I spoke with a source in management
at a US paper company who describes
how they are coping with that company's
retirement rush. The company has created an extensive repertoire of training modules. The modules can include
books, interactive computer exercises,
and field work. The development of this
material represents a substantial effort,
using resources from the entire organization. A custom training program is
designed for each employee by selecting
appropriate modules. New employees
like engineers with extensive theoretical knowledge can have their practical
skills honed, while hands-on employees
can develop their "how and why" technical
skills, much as Dr. Kocurek described.
TAPPI Press Manager Jana Jensen has corroborating insights. She told me that TAPPI
has recognized the "retirement tsunami" and
the consequent challenges. "TAPPI Academy
encompasses face-to-face education mixed
with on-line, self-paced learning. There are
currently more than 40 TAPPI eLearning
courses, and we have plans to expand the
program to encompass a broad spectrum of
papermaking technologies," says Jensen.
The paper industry has existed for hundreds
of years and has undergone many evolutions,
both technical and organizational. There is
a huge evolution going on right now as the
industry responds to radically shifting market
demands and a generational turnover in its
workforce. This turnover is more traumatic
than normal because of the "retirement bubble" that exists from industry constriction
forces. Even though those of us of a certain age
know that we are irreplaceable and the industry is in dire straits without us, somehow it
seems that the wheels are turning to efficiently
replace us. For that we can all be thankful.
Many thanks to Marlene Harris in the TAPPI
Headquarters Library for all of her help
researching this article.
John Neun is principal of John A. Neun, LLC,
a TAPPI Fellow, and past chairman of TAPPI's
Paper & Board Division and Water Removal
Committee. His industry career includes 38
years in research management and technical
support roles at Albany International and
Kadant, and he holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Reach him
Paper360º MAY/JUNE 2017



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

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
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