“We are proud of everyone who worked together with us to reach this moment,” says Kai Furler, CEO of the Koehler Group. The new Paper Machine 8 has just produced the first tambour. This brings a long construction and planning phase to a close, which began with in-house pilot studies back in February 2017. Furler is looking forward to energetically cornering the flexible packaging paper market.
It is an extraordinary day for COO Stefan Karrer, too. He led the planning and implementation of this construction project with an investment volume of EUR 300 million and knows how much work has been put into it. “The contribution of all those involved cannot be valued highly enough,” he says. “It’s another quantum leap for the company.”
Replacing plastic with barrier paper
It’s not every day that a mid-sized family company can build a paper and coating machine that responds to technological challenges of the future on a green field site. The 150-meter-long machine (492 feet) has a working width of 4.2 meters (13.7 feet) and top speed of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) per minute. Its centerpiece is the world’s biggest Yankee cylinder with a diameter of 7.3 meters (24 feet). It lends the paper its unique smoothness, which is very important for further processing.
Koehler will use the paper machine to produce paper for flexible packaging. “We are starting a new chapter in Koehler’s history,” says Furler, who is himself part of this story. He represents the eighth generation of his family. Koehler will produce standard products in the area of coated and uncoated paper, which are used in composites for bags, sachets and other applications. In addition, Koehler will begin producing barrier paper, which will replace plastic in packaging wherever this is possible and sensible. The company already presented a heat-sealable paper at the packaging trade fair FachPack in September 2019. There is a lot of interest in the market.
Research in cooperation with universities
Koehler continues to bank on its expertise in increasing the value and expanding the possibilities of paper by applying functional coating. Koehler began on this road already 50 years ago with carbonless paper. They further expanded this capability with the production of thermo paper in the mid 80s.
Koehler has thus not only build a new paper machine but also a new coating machine. “We have ideal conditions to supply the market with innovative and sustainable products,” says Karrer, who notes that R&D is being pushed both in house and with the TU Darmstadt. “The Green Coating Collaboration, our laboratory at the Darmstadt campus, is already delivering first results.”
Koehler considers itself ready for the future. “Our strategy is aligned toward sustainability through modern machines, innovative products and renewable sources of energy,” says Furler. “We have worked hard to create these conditions for ourselves. And now we are taking the next step.”