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Lessons in Feedstock Change

By Steve Pung and Rick Hammers, Columbia Forest Products; Ken Langhorn, Charles Ross & Son Co. |

These days, there seem to be more reasons than ever to change feedstocks throughout the chemical process industries (CPI). Whether environmental, or more directly based on financial and market drivers, big benefits usually require big changes. This is especially true in switching to many renewable feedstocks, which either add or compound challenges related to processing solids. When Columbia Forest Products embarked on a three-year project to change feedstock for its flagship product line, the company took on the special challenge that every market leader faces when it assumes the role of first-mover toward a new technology. The largest manufacturer of hardwood plywood and veneer in North America, Columbia Forest Products chose to switch all seven of its manufacturing plants in North America from an adhesive based on urea formaldehyde (UF) to a new adhesive technology based on soy protein. The transition represented a paradigm shift, both technologically and culturally. It was a high-stakes business decision, since the company was betting its future on the success of the changeover. Assessing risks The risk and impact of a feedstock change can vary substantially from one case to another. Key variables include the following: • The…
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