Paper is one of the most widely used products in our sector, and outside of our sector, something that touches most of our lives everyday.

There are many different kinds of paper and endless uses for it. Even more so, there are numerous processes that take place to create the final product. But how much do we really know about papermaking and it’s potential opportunities? We spoke to Brandon Hartley about his role as Windermans Assistant at Iggesund Paperboard, to help give us an insight into what it’s like to join the industry and work hands on in a papermill. 

How did you get into the industry?

After completing high school, I decided to change school to focus my studies around science and engineering. I’ve always enjoyed understanding how things work and the reasoning behind it; so this felt like the most strategic move. This is where I was first made aware of papermaking and the print industry. During my final year of sixth form, a local mills representative gave a short lecture on the history of the local mill and the papermaking industry. Despite living in the area, it wasn’t a job opportunity I’d ever heard of. We spoke about how widely their products are used and the different areas within the mill, which further piqued my interest. At this time, they were offering a brand new trailblazing opportunity; the papermaking apprenticeship. Everything I discovered made me think this is the industry for me, so I decided to apply. An interview later and I was lucky enough to be chosen for one of the two available positions.

What appealed to you about the industry you are in?

Paper manufacturing appealed to me due to its intricacies and complexities, as well as being one of the largest industries in the world. Getting involved in paper meant I could travel worldwide while working, which is always a bonus. The complexity of paper and board manufacturing was the real selling point. Insight on how paper and board is made and the many different mills, products, and processes used satisfied my ever inquisitive mind. There’s always something new to learn and understand, as well as new to face challenges each day.  

What does your role involve? 

My current role as a “Windermans assistant”  involves overseeing the transition of a singular large jumbo/parent reel (a reel straight from the board machine) into multiple smaller reels at a specific size requested by the customer. Clear and consistent information and communication is required between the team and I to ensure smooth operations. My role also involves understanding safety standards and regulations of the different procedures and equipment.

What has surprised you most about the industry you work in?

The main surprise to me was the amount of engineering and science that goes into the production of paper and board. Prior to working in the industry, I’d never given much thought to where my paper and packaging had come from. In reality, I thought a tree was put into a machine, a button was pressed and out popped paper on the other side – naïve, I know! Since working in the industry, I’ve been blown away by the manpower and machinery that goes into creating paper. I also never realised how many large and well known brands outsourced paperboard and paper for packaging. I’d just assumed it was made in-house, but there are hundreds of big names that rely on our mills. To this day, I’m amazed at skill that goes into creating the humble paper we use on a daily basis.

Who do you look up to in the industry?

During my apprenticeship, I had the pleasure of being educated by Dr Steve Mann. Over the course of many weeks, Dr Mann gave lectures on the science behind papermaking, the key chemicals and machinery involved, and the importance of production in quality boards. It was inspiring to see someone so invested in the industry, taking pride in his work and the industry itself. He took the time to ensure myself and the other apprentices were correctly prepared. Dr Mann is a fountain of knowledge, who successfully advises paper and board mills around the world, whilst owning and running his own chemical company supplying various mills across the globe. No problem was too much and his passion for science and the industry was inspiring. I hope one day I too can help teach others the same way.

If you want to discover more resources and information about the papermaking industry, visit CPI.