Mercer Holz trucks parked in the parking lot of the Mercer Rosenthal pulp mill, forming the Mercer "M"

A Maintenance Outage and Wood Supply Planning: A Mercer Holz Perspective

A Maintenance Outage and Wood Supply Planning: A Mercer Holz Perspective 

Max Gewecke, Head of Woodchip Purchasing, Mercer Holz

Rosenthal am Rennsteig, October 5, 2020 – Mercer’s pulp mills regularly carry out planned and extensive safety inspections, cleaning and maintenance of the vessels and equipment, which requires an overall break in production to ensure we run reliably. This break in production can take several days or weeks.

At our sister plant in Rosenthal am Rennsteig, Germany, Mercer Rosenthal has a general overhaul (or maintenance shutdown, as we call it), currently taking place. The technical and organizational preparations have been underway for months in advance. This involves the scheduling of employee and contractor support, as well as creating a work scope and major footprint of the activities critical to ensure resources are in place in a safe, timely, and cost-effective manner. 

With the current short maintenance shutdown at Mercer Rosenthal, our wood supply company, Mercer Holz, has been preparing proactively as well. Our team at Mercer Holz have been adjusting volumes of deliveries, which involves looking at different ways to manage the wood inventories they normally provide to the Mercer Rosenthal pulp mill. In the run-up to this maintenance shutdown, our mill has significantly reduced the wood stocks, which is important. This ensures our suppliers are able to continue to deliver wood during the outage period to replenish the chip piles. We have redirected long-term planned volume to ensure continuous delivery of required quantities, especially of wood chips, to our sister plant, Mercer Stendal, in Arneburg, Germany. 

At Mercer Holz, we understand the importance of contingency planning, which requires ensuring there is a proactive response to any unforeseen event. Using situational modelling, we examine alternative solutions, for example, whether quantities of wood can be diverted to external storage areas and stored temporarily; or whether a further reduction in deliveries is possible. A complete delivery stop of wood is the last alternative. 

Stopping our wood deliveries is always the most difficult decision to make, as this measure impacts the entire supply chain. Logs may be left in the forest, or the wood chips stay at the sawmill. We are very cognizant of these negative impacts, especially how a wood delivery interruption would impact our supplier companies (and their employees). This is why we plan our activities so far in advance and work with our suppliers and stakeholders to achieve the best possible outcome.

As all employees at Mercer Holz are involved in the execution of a maintenance shutdown, we know there may be special circumstances requiring us to be more adept, highly flexible, act quickly, and in a solution-oriented manner. We are trained and competent to ensure operational issues are resolved in a safe and timely manner; and after an issue is resolved, our team works to analyze the information together with a focus to improve the planning process for subsequent outages.

At all our Mercer Operations, our employees look forward to maintenance shutdowns. This period is always an exciting time; and at Mercer Holz, everyone – Mercer Holz employees, forest owners and sawmills – are happy when our maintenance shutdown has been successfully and safely completed.