Some Useful Strategies for Troubleshooting

Solving operational problems related to papermaking often requires something resembling detective work. But unlike solving a crime, emphasis is placed on resuming profitable operations quickly, rather than proving things beyond any doubt. The following is a quick checklist to help make sure that you have not skipped a key resource or piece of evidence in your efforts to solve a wet-end chemistry related problem as quickly and reliably as possible:

1. Have someone write down a statement defining what the problem is. Check to make sure that there is general agreement. For instance, let's suppose that the problem is "the web is breaking at the size press more often than usual."
2. Pay attention to the time elements. When was the problem first noticed? Have any changes been made to the system, additives, or methods before the problem was first noticed? Is the problem cyclical? Does the problem appear to be random in time?
3. Pay attention to location issues. Where in the system is the problem observed? Is there any sign of changes farther upstream from that point? For instance, if the web is breaking at the size press, is there any evidence of slime in the headbox?
4. In the case of serious problems have the whole team suggest possible root causes to consider. Make a list, and be sure to include all of the suggestions, even if they at first seem to be far-fetched. Consider possible causes related to (a) equipment, (b) people, (c) procedures, and (d) raw materials.
5. Make good use of resources, including the expertise of supplier representatives, and the analytical laboratories that stand behind them. Consult with people from corporate research departments, from universities, or from pulp and paper research institutes. Often a paid consultant can make best use of their time and yours by becoming immersed in the operational problems for several days and then educating key engineers and operators about how to improve the process, based on their specialized knowledge.
6. Document the problem and the solutions so that the solution can be achieved much more quickly the next time, especially if the problem is found to recur seasonally (as in the case of pitch deposits).

PLEASE NOTE: The information in this Guide is provided as a public service by Dr. Martin A. Hubbe of the Department of Wood and Paper Science at North Carolina State University ( Users of the information contained on these pages assume complete responsibility to make sure that their practices are safe and do not infringe upon an existing patent. There has been no attempt here to give full safety instructions or to make note of all relevant patents governing the use of additives. Please send corrections if you find errors or points that need better clarification. Go to top of this page.

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