To measure or not to measure that’s the question.

If you don’t measure, you can’t control
If you don’t control, you can’t improve

This quote is still not common use at a lot of corrugator plants I, am visiting all over the globe.

At 70% of the plants I visit I see a lot of experienced people and they really know how to produce good board without measuring anything, no temperatures and no moisture levels. Often there is even no temperature gun at the plant. I see Process temperatures over 100 °C at the MF and up to 10 bars steam pressure at the DF when producing single wall. Do we really need all that heat?? Not in my opinion.

The crew has often over 40 years experience in the industry and they are, so to say, pro`s. and as we know, when we talk about to change a process “it is hard to learn an old dog to sit”. Other plants have a young crew and it is easier to change some old habits. There are also plants where they already use less wrap and steam settings without using temperature guns and produce good board and a good production speed, but I my opinion these plants are rare and they still can gain progress when starting to measure process temperatures and moisture to improve their process.

Sometimes the corrugator is in such a bad condition that I really have respect for the crew how they still manage to produce relative good board. They work around all the problems and I am impressed about the (visual) board quality they produce. The production speed is also comparatively low.

The strange thing however is that this experienced crew don’t have any idea about the ongoing process. They know exactly how to produce relatively good board and what to do when problems occur, but if I ask them: “why are you doing this?” the same reply I hear over and over again: “well, that´s what I always do”.

Sometimes they see me “shortly” as a kind of a threat and they ask me how many years I, am in he business. I tell them that I have over 50 year experience with card board and show them this picture. Apparently this is an important issue.

corrugating junior

After some laughs I explain them some of the philosophies and theories, I am working with.

99% of the crews are willing to test the proposed theories, although they are quite sceptic at the beginning and see the suggested ideas only as more work.

Together we measure the temperatures and lower the temperature step by step at f.e. the DF or MF. After every single change we make, we go to the stacker and look at the produced board quality and they tell me if the board is better, worse or the same. If the board is better or the same we go on to the next step. Of course the board is better otherwise I did not make any of these suggestions to change some parameters at the first place. Only when they see that what they do, measuring temperatures and act accordingly, have visual results on the board quality they are willing to take the next step. Often they are quite enthusiastic and I have to fight to get my temperature gun back. Within some days the plant organises some temperature guns and they see the benefit of measuring temperatures. Together we also ask converting if they noticed any differences lately and in most cases they noticed positive changes. These positive changes, by using just enough temperature, changes also the use of glue in a positive way.

This is the next (hard) step they have to make: reduce glue. I like to change the up going spiral “more heat – more glue”, towards a down going spiral “less heat – less glue”. This is only possible when you start measuring process temperatures. It is not the purpose to use as less as possible heat, but just enough to produce good board.

At the beginning it is logical that, when something goes wrong, for what reason ever, they directly jump back to their old habits “more heat and more glue”. But when they have more experience and feeling comfortable using temperature guns or work with temperature sensors, they don’t want to change back. When they reach this point I, am feeling content.

The trainer job is a hard but challenging job, and because this challenge, to visit new plants, meet every week new people, all over the word and learn them to improve their corrugating process, makes the job worthwhile.


Something about myself:

Harre MedemblikMy name is Harre Medemblik (1958) and I am from Holland. I Started my own consulting company in March 2015 after working for BHS since 2006. I worked at BHS as a process trainer and since 2007 as a specialised trainer for the WCS system (warp control system). Together with the BHS “TE” depart we installed and improved more than 35 WCS systems in Europe and overseas.

Now I started my own Company my key customers are Savon Salu (Powerflute), BHS and BRICQ.

Before I started as a process trainer, I worked for the Dutch government as a Process analyser at the environment safety department. My job was to analyse all kind of processes at all kind of factories to determine the possible way to produce with less energy, pollution, noise and smell according the Dutch and European environment law and to write a permittance according this law. Often I see that there is still a lot to gain in the word at corrugator plants, when I see through the eyes of my former occupation.

Harre Medemblik















My corrugating philosophy

I have been doing customer trials in a 1000 places around the world.

After many years I can already tell after 5 seconds of contact with people if they want it to make it happen or not. Are they open for new ways of doing things or not…

Sometimes bosses enforce trials upon their people and they should know this will never work. New stuff brings operators – people – out of their comfort zone, so they are not always enthusiastically waiting for me.

As an example, I was in Russia and I needed to do a trial on the corrugator. They had massive hotplates that take about 20 minutes to cool down. I received a window on the corrugator of 5 minutes, so obviously the test failed.

But when the senior VP of Walmart wakes up one morning with a vision and says ‘I want to reduce packaging consumption with 20%’, then corrugating plants have to follow

In order to meet the new Walmart standards, corrugators will not only need to run their equipment in optimal states, they will need to adopt the state of mind of their operators as well.

One cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs. Change means disruption.

We may understand this, but the challenge is in transmitting this message to the operators who often consider us as the ‘bad guys’. We ask them to run faster, we ask them to run more difficult stuff, we ask them to have less cigarette breaks…

I strongly believe that we need to involve them a 100% in the change process, even the lady cleaning the floors should be involved as she is as important as the guy adapting the software of the million euro equipment. Training is the key; people have to feel confident in what they are doing.

In a well-organized project, there is special attention for change management. I can only plead to carefully plan the change management for your teams running the corrugators.

And when it comes to teams… Is your night shift running the same final quality as your day shift? Do you sometimes hear statements like ‘I hope that this combination is for the other shift’. Do your shifts communicate with each other? Do you create the opportunity to allow them to communicate? Do your shifts compete on waste and starch consumption?

Competition isn’t a bad thing, but should be positive. Your teams shouldn’t benchmark against each other but against achievable new standards. Sometimes it is just about changing your communication style and which graphs you post on the whiteboard. Don’t make them run against each other but provide them with a common enemy. Make sure people focus on achieving new quality levels instead of beating the other team.

Think positively.