By Sondra Townsend
HOPE, AR – UAHT Business Administration Faculty member, Sondra Townsend, took her Texarkana Introduction to Business class on a field trip to Domtar Industries in Ashdown, Arkansas recently. The field trip was a result of a class discussion regarding the conversion process. In the discussion, the students learned that the production process uses either the analytic process (breaking raw materials down to parts to for marketable products) or the synthetic process (combining several raw material components to produce a new product). As a part of the class discussion, several students requested a field trip to Domtar so they could see the analytic process take place.
Townsend contacted Media Relations Director, Tammy Waters, to schedule a tour of the facility. By the time the class was able to go on the tour, they had also covered the topic of facilities layouts. Therefore, in addition to viewing the conversion process, the students also got to see an example of a process layout facility, which groups machinery and equipment based on the functions. They were able to see how the work moves around the plant to different workstations as a part of the production process.
Waters arranged for engineers, Alyssa Jackson and Aleeya Watson to meet the group at the Learning Center building. The first part of the tour began with a trip to the wood yards. The students learned that trucks and trains bring wood into the paper mill as whole logs or chips. The logs are de-barked in huge drums and then chipped up into small wood chips. These chips are placed in large piles, ready to be sent to the cooker. When enough chips are in a pile, they are moved on conveyor belts to the cooker.
The next couple of steps were explained to the class, as they were not able to see these next few steps. Chips are cooked in hot liquid called white liquor. This breaks apart all the fibers in the wood and turns the hardwood into a slurry type material called pulp. After the white liquor is used for cooking the wood chips, it turns into black liquor. This liquid is sent to the Recovery Boilers to be burned, to produce steam and electricity. The inorganic material from the Recovery Boilers is converted in the liquor recovery process and turned back into white liquor. The pulp from the cooker is sent to be cleaned and whitened.
Just like when washing stains out of clothes, bleach is added to the pulp in order to turn it from a brown wood color to a snow white color. Next, the white pulp is sent over to the Paper Machines where it is screened and mixed with dyes and fillers. This helps control the color, the thickness (paper weight), and the quality of the final product.
After the bleaching process, the students were able to view the paper machines. In a Paper Machine, the clean pulp is sprayed out of a Headbox onto a big platform on the machine. From here, water is squeezed out with presses, just as you would wring out the water in a sponge. The paper then rolls over steam-filled dryer cans that get the rest of the water out of the paper. (This is the same steam that was made from the Recovery Boilers). Lastly, the paper is rolled up on a big reel.
These rolls are sent for processing to either our internal converting department or to external customers. The students were able to go to the internal converting department where they watched the machines cut the paper into standard 8 ½ x11 sheets, wrapped as reams, filled into paper boxes, and loaded onto pallets to be delivered to the customer, which concluded the tour.
The students cited as their favorite parts of the tour were watching the chip trucks being unloaded, seeing the huge sheets on those rollers, and then watching the paper cut, wrapped, and placed in boxes.