Sustana Lowers Costs and Achieves Environmental Gains

Sustana, an industry-leading producer of quality fiber-based products and services, takes sustainability to the next level help from Matthews V-Series and MPERIA platform

Industry: Paper Products 

Application: Automated Marking System, Product Traceability 

Products: V-Series, MPERIA Controller 

Summary

Sustana is an industry-leading producer of quality fiber-based products and services with a history that extends back to 1882 and a deep commitment to sustainability and continuous improvement. They deliver high quality goods to other sustainability leaders, including Patagonia, Burton, Ford, and Starbucks. And in 2023, they earned a Gold Medal Sustainability Rating from EcoVadis, an honor which puts them in the top five percent of most responsible companies ranked by EcoVadis. 

As part of their mission to develop sustainable solutions with clean materials and a circular mindset, Sustana embarked on a project to switch from a wet pulp to a dry pulp process at one of their plants. As a result, they needed a customized marking system that could keep pace with their increased output. Working with Rocket Industrial — a packaging solutions provider on a mission to Package With Less™ — Sustana installed a flexible application-specific Matthews Marking Systems solution that met all the requirements of their environmentally-focused line addition and allowed them to increase production with efficiency.  

The Challenge

Sustana operates three business units across nine recovery facilities, a paper manufacturing facility, and two fiber recycling facilities — one in Quebec and the other in De Pere, Wisconsin. Sustana’s production operations use proprietary processes to manufacture sustainable recycled fiber from recycled paper content (pulp).  Products are used to make printing and commercial papers, tissue paper, and packaging, including food-grade packaging products. 

As part of their ongoing efforts to improve product quality, increase output, and support the circular economy, Sustana added drying equipment at the De Pere facility and moved away from the wet lap fiber production process they had been using for over 30 years. Dry pulp not only results in higher product quality (improved appearance, strength, brightness, bulk, and ink receptivity), it is also more environmentally friendly than the wet pulp process, has an indefinite shelf life, and is much more economical to ship.  

Large product cubes wrapped in white paper on a conveyor. The cubes have been marked in black ink with QR codes and alphanumeric characters.

Sustana processes nearly 2.2 million pounds of recycled material each day (approximately 750 million pounds per year), which removes over one million cubic yards of waste from landfills each year. The De Pere facility now has a production capacity of 170,000 air-dried short tons of pulp per year, sourced primarily in the Midwest. 

To accommodate the move to dry pulp, Sustana repurposed fluff drying equipment — two 130-foot-tall towers, heaters and blowers — acquired from a decommissioned Canadian mill. The new process bypasses the sheeting section of the wet lap machine and instead pushes the wet pulp through a fluffing and drying process. The resulting dry material is then pressed into dense 500-pound bales not much larger than a standard hay bale. 

The plant produces 50 to 60 bales per hour over three shifts and requires a marking solution capable of delivering prints on both sides of the bales with characters up to 3 inches in height. The marks are used for internal routing and traceability within the facility and are critical to ensuring uninterrupted and efficient production. 

While Sustana was very happy with the Matthews Marking solution on their existing lines — which had also been implemented with the help of Rocket Industrial — they needed a unique solution for their latest sustainability innovation. 

The Solution

The teams from Sustana and Rocket Industrial knew three things early on in the process. First, they knew they wanted to work with Matthews. Second, they knew they were going to need a custom solution. Third, the project was on a tight timeline. The team held an onsite meeting to review print samples on an existing line running a similar product, the complexity of the database, and the physical parameters of the new dry pulp product. From there, the Matthews team set to work on developing a solution that would give Sustana a consistent and perfect print each time. 

The solution had to stand up to the mill’s harsh environment, print large characters, and enable simultaneous printing on two sides of each bale with food-grade inks. It also needed to be easy to implement quickly since Sustana had an aggressive timeline for getting the new line up and running. 

The winning marking solution that met all of Sustana’s requirements uses a custom configuration of the ultra-reliable V-Series valve inkjet marking system. To accommodate the need for multiple rows of large characters, the team used a stitch plate to align three precision 32-valve printheads to print brand information, lot codes and 2D barcodes for traceability on each bale. The modular design of the V-Series allows for a great deal of flexibility without compromising mark quality or line speed, and the V-Series’ efficient ink delivery system helps Sustana reduce the cost per print. 

The rugged V-Series also allows for flexible mounting (over, under, or beside the production line), which makes it the perfect choice for the Sustana solution, which must be able to withstand two traversing arms that allow the fiber bales to be sandwiched securely between the print heads. 

To control the V-Series printers, the team installed the MPERIA marking and coding automation platform, which ties into a Sustana database to provide accurate message/lot information to the printheads.  Additionally, a camera installed just after the printhead scans each printed 2D barcode and ensures that the code can be easily scanned. This data is relayed via the MPERIA controller to Sustana’s network. The verification process allows Sustana to have full confidence that each product is coded accurately and can be identified easily by customers. 

The Results

Working with Rocket Industrial and Matthews Marking, Sustana was able to implement a custom-engineered marking solution that is up to the task set by Sustana’s move toward an even higher level of sustainability. In addition to expanding production capacity at the De Pere plant with the addition of the new dry pulp line, the V-Series solution also helps ensure the highest levels of efficiency while delivering cost savings. Not only does the V-Series deliver low cost per mark, but the solution’s overall reliability and speed also reduce downtime and the need for maintenance for worry-free operation. 

 As Sustana’s vision states — they don’t just promote sustainability, they practice it. Their Matthews Marking solution for their new dry pulp production line is one more example of their willingness to invest in specialized equipment, develop innovative systems, and put serious thought into the impact at every stage of a product’s life cycle. 

About Sustana

Sustana is dedicated to finding new ways of putting clean materials within more everyday paper products—sustainably, responsibly, and meaningfully. They are an industry-leading producer of quality fiber-based products and services built on a solid commitment to sustainability and continuous improvement. From recovery to fiber to paper production, Sustana produces the clean materials used in coffee cups, food packaging, your favorite book, and so much more. At Sustana, creating real change starts from within. Learn more about how Sustana’s products and manufacturing practices support the circular economy at www.sustanasolutions.com. 

About Rocket Industrial

Founded in 1957 as a family-owned Packaging Tape company, Rocket Industrial has grown to be a nationwide distributor that helps its customers solve complex packaging challenges. The company offers alternatives to waste in an industry that is notorious for its excess. Their mission to Package With Less™ is dedicated to responsibly reduce excess packaging by using less: less material, less energy, and less waste. Learn more about Rocket Industrial’s innovative packaging solutions and sustainability efforts at www.rocketindustrial.com