“We are ready for challenging goals”

VDMA ready for solutions on the road to a circular economy

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Dr Michael Weiss, vice president new business and research at Voith, Heidenheim, talks about indispensable climate protection, the technically feasible goal of more energy- and resource-efficient paper production, and the desire for stringent, reliable framework conditions.

By the middle of the century, the leading industrial nations want to have a climate-neutral economy. Is this target realistic in your view?

The targets are not only realistic, but necessary. There are many positive approaches and developments to focus on climate neutrality in the economy. Paper as a material makes an important contribution here, for example as a substitute for petroleum-based materials for sustainable packaging solutions, as it is obtained from renewable raw materials, and it is recyclable. As a leading technology supplier and full-line provider, Voith supports its customers worldwide in establishing the most sustainable paper production possible. Based on decades of experience, we have the necessary know-how and can develop individual and target-oriented solutions for the entire paper production process.

What are you doing to minimize the energy requirements of your production?

Sustainability plays a key role in Voith’s strategy. We want to be a trendsetter throughout the industry and, as a family-owned company, we are committed to ecological, fair, and economically successful business in the long term. With the help of new technologies, we are continuously optimizing the energy and resource efficiency of our production processes. We make our commitment to sustainability transparent and measurable with our sustainability report. One of our goals is for all Voith locations to be carbon neutral by 2022. The ISS ESG rating agency has awarded Voith a B-rating for its commitment to sustainability. Based on more than 100 criteria, Voith’s performance in the environmental, social, and corporate governance areas was rated above average. This makes Voith one of the three best companies in the plant and mechanical engineering sector worldwide.

How do you support your customers in producing more energy efficiently?

We deliver state-of-the-art technology solutions that minimize the use of energy, raw material, and water. Our goal as a full-line supplier is to offer the most efficient and sustainable solutions in the market. Our fully integrated XcelLine paper machines, which cover the entire spectrum of paper grades, are just as much a part of this as our highly energy-efficient and market-leading BlueLine stock preparation solutions, our service and spare parts portfolio, and our Papermaking 4.0 solutions. With the help of state-of-the-art digitalization and automation technologies, our customers can achieve significant increases in efficiency and productivity throughout the entire process and at the same time produce more sustainably by improving specific energy use, increasing plant availability, and ultimately reducing specific CO2 emissions. In addition to optimizing existing technologies, new, disruptive approaches are needed to achieve the ambitious CO2 targets in the paper industry. These pioneering approaches are also part of our sustainability strategy and are an integral part of our research and development activities.

What role does this topic play in your research and development?

Sustainability, and decarbonization in particular, are the focus of the optimization and further development of our product and technology portfolio. Innovations play an important role here – for example, we have set new standards with our AquaLine water management concepts, which significantly reduce freshwater consumption in the papermaking process. In new research projects, we also cooperate with many partners along the entire value chain of the paper production. One example is the Modellfabrik Papier gGmbH in Düren, Germany, where more than 17 industry partners are jointly researching solutions for carbon neutral paper production. Voith is also a member of many other sustainability initiatives, including the 4evergreen alliance, which has set itself the goal of increasing the recycling rate of fiber-based packaging to over 90 per cent by 2030. We are also setting the course for sustainable packaging papers with our modernized pilot coating machine in Heidenheim. Customers can test a wide range of different coating variants on the world’s most modern test facility for coating technologies. The test trials provide our customers with significantly greater security for possible future projects.

What would you like to see from legislators on the road to climate neutrality?

Clear framework conditions and reliable decisions on the part of politicians and legislators are important. It is important to set the course for the long term and to support the transformation of the industry in a profitable way. The expansion of renewable energies and the associated necessary infrastructure, such as transport networks and storage systems, should continue to be supported. In addition, it is important to promote low CO2 emission production technologies.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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