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Altair Negrello Junior

Forestry Manager at Bracell Bahia


Forest quality control for dissolving pulp production

By producing dissolving cellulose, the Bracell Bahia unit claims to produce specialty products, as the products generated from this raw material are of high added value, such as pharmaceutical and food products, viscose filaments for fabric manufacture and others.

Qualitative aspects, such as basic density, extractive content, purity content, percentage of alphacellulose and hemicellulose, are attributes inherent to the manufacturing processes of these raw materials. However, the lower and upper limits admitted for each of these aspects are different.

Comparing the production of dissolving pulp with the production of bleached pulp destined for the manufacture of paper and derivatives, the qualitative parameters for the dissolving pulp are much more restrictive, implying a greater degree of difficulty in achieving and maintaining the desired conformity for the process and the product. In this sense, verification items, control items and qualitative parameters (product quality) must be defined differently.

Among all the definitions of the term quality found in the literature, in my perception, the most appropriate on this topic is given by Joseph Moses Juran: he says that quality consists of the characteristics of products that meet the needs of customers. In the case of pulp production, we must know the parameters individually defined by customers, understand how the set of processes in the forestry value chain are interrelated, in addition to conceiving the forestry quality management system as a competitive strategy to aggregate value to the final product.

In general, it is necessary to understand the challenges and opportunities regarding quality control in the pulp production process, mainly in the control of forestry operations, which, unlike manufacturing operations, are subject to environmental weathering and various other mitigating factors, such as lower mechanization rate and greater distance between operations. Considering what was observed, we will understand, below, which good practices can be adopted in forest quality control to improve results, increase productivity and reduce costs in the pulp production chain of custody.

Quality control must be built from the unfolding of the organization's strategic planning, considering the short, medium and long term objectives. Then, the goals and the set of key results must be defined for each forest operation, using, for example, the Objectives and main results methodology. Finally, goals must be planned according to the SMART format, being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

The next step lies in the adequate definition of the verification items, which will allow us to identify the causes that affect the achievement of the proposed goal. These items must follow technical standards, statistical standards and operational standards, and there must be convergence and interdependence between them, otherwise the chance of failure will be greater.

In parallel to the previous step, it is necessary to define the parameters of each verification item. These parameters will be determined through the study of the intrinsic quality inherent to the product, aiming to understand how the variation of the parameter of each verification item will influence the loss or gain of the goal associated with each item.

Another very important aspect to be considered in forest quality control is the determination of the sampling intensity for each operation, that is, to determine the ideal number of samples to be evaluated in relation to the existing total sample number, since carrying out the census incurs in high cost and slowness in the decision-making process. Analyzing the factors that cause variability in operations, such as the maturity of the workforce and specific environmental conditions, for example, is preponderant and must be done continuously, as it is a dynamic process.

Finally, there must be an understanding that it is only possible to achieve the strategic objectives if there is integration and synergy between the teams and a sense of ownership of each person involved throughout the entire process, especially those people positioned at the head of operations. Collective interests must always prevail over individual interests.

In my opinion, there is still a lot of room for improvement in forest quality control, either by adapting technologies and/or tools used in other segments, or through applied research focused on cost reduction, increased efficiency and information reliability, configuring greater assertiveness in decision making.

Over time, forestry quality control has absorbed several quality management methodologies that were originally used in industries and that, until today, are part of the routine in forestry companies. This is the case of the PDCA cycle, used for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products, and of the 5W2H, an agile and efficient way to plan and execute an action plan. Also remembering the seven quality tools (flowchart, control charts, Ishikawa diagram, check sheet, histogram, dispersion diagram and Pareto diagram), which allow to determine, analyze and solve the causes capable of compromising the company's performance.

Our experience at Bracell demonstrates, in a practical way, everything that has been said. The necessary efforts dedicated to the improvement of quality control mechanisms in forestry operations are guided by the philosophy of improving Quality, increasing Productivity and reducing Costs and by our fundamental values of Times that complement each other, Owner's Look, People, Integrity, Aware and Continuous Improvement.

The focus of the quality control of Bracell 's forestry processes at the Bahia unit is directed, mainly, to the nursery operations for the production of eucalyptus seedlings, silviculture, harvesting, logistics and maintenance, construction of forest roads, as they generate direct impacts on the productivity and quality of our forests, the cost of inspected operations and subsequent operations.

In the end, I think that the practical application of these approaches in the organization's journey will become a competitive advantage, especially in terms of fully serving its customers. The more value is added to the process and, consequently, to the product, the more business and all its positive consequences are made possible, including for neighboring communities, the forest enterprise and the environment.