Pulsar - A Success Story in Africa
When speaking of the African continent, our imagination leads us to think mostly of an exotic destination with famous touristic sites, uncontaminated wilderness, panoramas and immense landscapes where the sun and high temperatures dominate for most of the day and the undisputed land where lions and zebras live free and supreme, but Africa is not only this but a continent rich in raw materials such as minerals like diamonds, copper, gold, and petroleum.
What about the paper industry, and more specific the tissue paper used in hygiene? The Tissue market in Africa is very interesting, and must be monitored as its development is on an upward trend even though currently great soars are not registered and volumes compared to the production of finished product consumptions are still relatively small. Therefore, the factors of its potential development must also be sought in fields such as tourism, the social/environmental-climatic situation and even in investments of large multinational corporations: consumptions in general are constantly increasing as a consequence to the gradually upgraded living standard, and labour costs do not weigh heavily on investments, which make it a sought-after destination for capital investments. All factors which lead to new and diverse lifestyles and consumption requirements more like those of Western economies. Regarding a general overview, North Africa is currently suffering from social-political turbulence which continues to cripple both development and investments in these countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. While prospects in stable countries are good such as in Morocco and Algeria where few tissue mills started up during the last 5 years. Even South Africa remains an interesting country showing a steady growth and this is clearly reflected in the new projects, at Twinsaver, United, etc.
Tissue Industry in Nigeria
Located on the western coast of sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria has a population of about 195 million. It is one of the groundbreaking countries in the tissue production industry in the continent. After a setback a few years ago with the closing of some paper mills operating in the region, now it seems the industry is recovering; among the big players in this industry Bel Impex owned by the Lebanese Boulos Group, which definitely helped the local economy surge.
The virtuous circle linked to the improvement of the living standards of local inhabitants in certain geographic areas and the slow but constant growth of a local middle class is changing consumer habits which are currently more oriented to Western ways of life and more demanding than in the past. This affects the consumption of finished products undoubtedly linked to AFH (Away from Home), such as facial tissue, always present in the luxurious bathrooms of lodging structures, and toilet paper. And it is in Nigeria itself that Pulsar has installed one of its most important African references, with an entire conveyor line and system at Bel Impex Ltd in Lagos.
It is also important to highlight the protectionist policy undertaken by the local government which imposed high duties on imported products favouring the consumption of local products.
In 1936, George Boulos was among many Lebanese who chose Nigeria as an immigration destination at a time when many Lebanese left their country to experience life and wealth in Africa, Brazil and Australia. Soon after followed by his sons, Antoine and Gabriel, he established a jewelry business and, as a family, they worked on expanding their business. In 1943, Antoine and Gabriel Boulos started their business operations in Lagos, mainly focusing on trading and importation of general merchandise including some brands of motorcycles from Western Europe. In 1958, they established a partnership under the name of Boulos Enterprises Limited (BEL), first located at Oregun, Ikeja, and later relocated on its present 25-acre plot at Ogba Industrial Scheme, Ikeja. 1959 was a turning point in the motorcycle business in Nigeria, Boulos Enterprises Limited saw the opportunity and signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) / Japan In 1964, BEL was incorporated and the partnership with the SMC Japan became a limited liability company. Fifty years later, the association with SMC is still going strong: BEL built a state of the art assembly plant - the largest worldwide after Japan itself - under license from SMC. In 1987, seeing it was time to look into alternative fields of business, the Boulos brothers invested in waste recycling tissue production and founded Bel Papyrus Limited (BPL). In 2001, Bel Impex Limited (BIL) was incorporated by the Boulos Group. Its purpose was to be the converting arm of the Paper mill operation. It started producing and distributing several lines and sub brands of tissue paper such as facial tissue, toilet tissue, table napkins, kitchen towels and paper handkerchiefs. In 2002, the Boulos family bought a second tissue machine, PM2, and a Crescent Former Tissue Machine, designed to meet the very high demands required by tissue paper manufacturers. In 2009, Boulos Enterprises limited signed a tripartite Agreement with SMC Japan and Jiangmen Dachangjiang Group Corporation limited for supply & distribution of Haojue products. In 2010, Boulos Enterprises Limited signed a Distribution Agreement with Piaggio vehicles Pvt .Ltd, India. In 2011, BPL modernized their existing facilities and bought a third tissue machine, PM3, to double their production capacity. In 2011, BIL launched its 3rd generation Baby Diaper, a product of international standard. In 2012: in order to keep investing in their own growth, the Group set plans to buy a new state of the art tissue converting line to be installed on the Ogba compound, and to start producing aluminum foil, cling film, wet wipes and sanitary napkins.. In 2013, as planned, Bel Impex has completed and finalized the new complete tissue converting line in the Ogba compound, and the new line to produce aluminum foil. With this project, the Ogba compound doubled BPL's production capacity, thus establishing Bel Papyrus Limited as on the most advanced tissue mills in Africa
Bel Papyrus Limited and Pulsar
It was few years ago when Massimo Franzaroli met with Alessandro Libanori, respectively President and Project Manager of Pulsar, to discuss the design of a new toilet paper line to convert the products of the new tissue machine which was to be installed shortly.
“Our vision is clear and our sales steady. We aim at being the largest and the most renowned tissue paper manufacturer in West Africa. Our mission is to define our customers' needs and to fulfill them, providing them with products and services of the highest quality and at the most competitive price. We strive to stay ahead of change and to become leaders in the region and we want our success to inspire others, namely our customers.We believe that the best way to achieve our goal and live by our mission is to apply environmentally friendly processes for continual improvement in all the phases of our operations. This will contribute to our growth, to that of our customers and of the society we live in.” affirmed Riad Baloukji, Bel Impex general manager, during the first meeting.
The challenge was therefore that of guaranteeing the conversion of approximately 24,000 tonnes/year of tissue of the new PM3, which has probably become the largest and most complex line present on the African continent. One of the main features requested at the start of the project was based on the type of product which was to be converted: toilet paper rolls has to be individually wrapped in film, inserted in packs of 6, 8 or 10 rolls and then placed in bags with 48 or 96 pieces each.
To be able to implement a line with the necessary features and which at the same time guarantees the needed flexibility for the future in case of new market requirements, the utmost importance has been given to the study phase of the overall factory layout. The study and design phase of the line layout meant close contact between the Bel Impex Plant team and Alessandro Libanori of Pulsar and the relative internal teams for nearly 18 months. During these months several visits were made both to Italy and Nigeria to share and discuss the various steps of the project and new solutions which developed as time went on.
Pulsar has supplied a turnkey conveyor system including installation and start up. Due to the complexity of the line and the enormous amount of possible work combinations, Pulsar has installed from the start the patented line Harmonization software, which guarantees complete automation of the roll line, of the rewinder and of the packaging machines, providing the system with the maximum efficiency possible at all times. Pulsar has also installed the energy consumption monitoring system of all the machines (extremely important due to the high production costs of energy in terms of kw/h).Constant monitoring and data collection demonstrated that using the Pulsar Harmonization software saved the entire line an average of 6-10% on energy consumption.
The control of the line was the main challenge due to the number of the machines working together and without stops. For this reason the Pulsar Harmonization software was installed to control the operation of the entire line together with the energy consumption monitoring system to have a state of the art line.
Via a direct VPN link, Pulsar can support Bel Impex technicians at any time for modifications and/or fine tuning which could be necessary on the control software both of the line and of harmonization, providing remote assistance and diagnostics, thus contributing to reduce distances between system machine manufacturers and users, an aspect which often penalizes the actual performance obtained by important investments.
Currently the mill is producing 24,000 tones /year in conversion section for the tissue rolls.
After one full year in production both companies have confirmed that the complete installation has been a huge success for both Bel Impex and Pulsar.