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Technical audits: a technical audit of a paper machine can help prioritize needs when money for improvement is tight.

What is an audit? Most of us relate audits to the financial aspects of a business. In production or technical areas, we do not hear much about them. When an audit reveals bad news, it usually leads to layoffs or cancelled projects. Many people therefore associate a certain amount of fear with audits. This can become very personal if you are unlucky enough to receive a letter from the Internal Revenue Service!

Mills also use audits to foster compliance with industry standards, company regulations, safety procedures, or ISO 9000 quality standards. More recently, international environmental standards are becoming increasingly important.

A technical audit of a paper machine is similar to these other audits because it seeks to establish the condition era machine relative to industry technical standards. A complete audit usually starts at the wet end and covers the entire machine down to the reel. An older paper machine may not be technically lacking. Rebuilds over the years may have kept the machine at a performance level equal to that of a new machine. Yet objectives or paper grades may have changed, and machine improvements or changes may have missed some areas. This is where an audit can be valuable.

The auditor's activities are exactly as you might imagine collect and interpret data, interview operators, consult industry standards, and perform "gap" analysis. If the auditor performs these activities completely and with competence, a company can easily decide where to apply funds to "obtain the biggest bang for its buck." A good auditor will first consider the objectives of the mill, collect the data, compare with industry standards, develop recommendations for improvement, and prioritize them.

In older mills and some that are not so old, specifications and operating standards may not be available for equipment. Some machines may be operating in processes different than those for which they were originally built. Some mills have converted fine paper machines into linerboard or newsprint machines into specialties. Objectives may have changed. For example, the mill may be looking for smoothness and printability now in contrast to its past objectives of strength and production efficiency. The mill may have been shut for a time resulting in loss of older employees with years of experience. These are all good reasons to assess the technical aspects of a paper machine--to perform an audit.


Where do the auditors come from? Will they be unbiased? The auditor must not have an investment in the process. Auditors should come from outside the mill or from a department not closely connected with production. They need training. They must know what to look for and how to interpret the data. They must have knowledge about industry standards.

Some mills use suppliers to audit a machine. The advantage is that the auditor comes from outside and may have excellent industry experience. A danger is that the supplier will concentrate too heavily in one area and miss opportunities elsewhere. A supplier has great difficulty being unbiased. Mill personnel may view supplier results and recommendations with skepticism. After a mill has completed an audit and established its priorities, suppliers can offer valuable help in designing solutions since they certainly have knowledge about the best ways to solve problems in their field. They know what works.

For auditors, experience helps, but it is not always necessary. Auditors can ask for help from more experienced people in or outside the mill. Independence and training are most important. S!

Master machine audits!

TAPPI's Paper Machine Audits Short Course is January 6-8 at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, Florida, USA. Attendees will be able to learn what a complete paper machine audit involves and how an audit can improve productivity. This intermediate level short course will help participants develop the skills and knowledge to participate on an audit team by learning to survey, evaluate, and make recommendations for improvements on paper math has

Call TAPPI Member Connection at 1 800 332 8686 (US); 1 800 446 9431 (Canada); or +1 770 446-1400 (worldwide), Email:

About the author: Clement Edgar is a senior consultant with Klass Associates in Radnor, Pennsylvania, USA. He has more than 30 years of experience in the paper industry specializing in paper machine operation, Edgar has served TAPPI as chairman of the Water Remove/Committee. He has also served as chairman of severe/short courses including the current Paper Machine Audits short course.
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Title Annotation:Four-Minute Focus
Author:Edgar, Clem
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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