Faced with a pandemic and a complete reorganization of their facilities, Lumipaper NV in Antwerp has had quite a year. We caught up with Plant Manager Ivan De Donder to talk about the effects of the pandemic and what the future holds for the Belgian sheeting plant.
Ivan, can you describe the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on your operations? What kinds of safety measures have you put in place?
“We were allowed to continue production during the COVID-19 pandemic and during the “soft” lockdown in Belgium which started on March 14th. From the moment the government announced the lockdown, all personnel who could work from home began to do so. Those who needed to be present on the work floor had to adjust to new rules and distance measures.
Luckily, we had already started the transformation of our production to food safety standards, which means that no one can enter the production facilities without washing and disinfecting their hands thoroughly. Extra measures were taken to guarantee distance and to limit the total number of personnel in certain areas such as the office facilities, the bathrooms and the canteen.”
When do you expect to ease up on these safety measures?
“Although the lockdown in Belgium has been gradually eased, we expect to continue working under these circumstances until a vaccine or effective medication hits the market.
The spring has shown that alternative ways of working can be implemented very quickly if the sense of urgency is big enough. I suspect some measures will remain in place after all this is over as they’ve proven better than their predecessors.”
What have been the biggest challenges for you throughout the spring? Have you been able to deliver paper on time?
“We’ve managed to keep production rolling and delivering on time has not been an issue at all. The demand, however, has declined significantly and we’ve taken temporary actions to cope with it.
Although Germany and Eastern Europe have started to pick up steam, western and southern parts of the continent seem to be recovering more slowly. However, since the first week of June, we’ve begun to see more and more improvements in the overall market situation.”
How long will you be converting Lumi papers in Lumipaper NV? What are your plans after that?
“We will continue the Lumipaper service for Oulu Mill until the end of the year. Our reel and pallet stocks will be increased to cover the last quarter, depending on the remaining demand for Oulu grades.
Last year, we received good news that from 2021 onward we will start sheeting more board materials from four Stora Enso packaging materials mills: Fors, Skoghall, Ingerois and Imatra. Therefore, we have started to convert our production plant to meet food safety standards and to reorganize our production process and upgrade our mill system to match all future changes. We are really excited and eager to learn about all of the new products, demands, regulations and working processes.
In addition, we still continue sheeting and rewinding specific Nymölla mill papers as we do today.”