Fiber industry: So much for old boxes

Just at its location in Beihai, China, Stora Enso produces 450,000 metric tons of packaging material a year. With its own forestry supplies and end-to-end digitalization, the company covers the entire value chain of the fiber industry there.

Saturday morning. The doorbell rings. It’s the courier with our latest online order. Our favorite perfume, the exciting novel, or the urgently required component for our latest hobby project. The weekend has been saved! But what happens now with the packaging our product came in? We usually don’t give it a second thought and it goes directly in the trash.


This scenario, or others like it, happens thousands of times every day around the world. In reality, there’s a lot more behind the packaging than just the trip from the distribution center to our front door. But what, exactly?


It all starts with a tree. Trees can truly do it all: Their leaves filter the air we breathe. They’ve provided the raw materials for construction, ships, and furniture since time immemorial. And their pulp forms the basis for the sustainable production of paper and packaging. But a tree can do a lot more – like supporting the digitalization process.

Renewable raw materials

In Beihai, China, Swedish-Finnish paper manufacturer Stora Enso and Siemens show how it works. Here one can experience the whole value chain of cardboard manufacture up close. And for Stora Enso, it starts with their own forestry supplies. They have access to 90,000 hectares, 72,000 of which are planted with eucalyptus trees. This is an especially fast-growing species that provides first-class pulp.


Pulp is used to create two types of special cardboard: liquid packaging board (like Tetra Pak), which is manufactured mainly at Beihai to pack liquids; and consumer board, which provides high-quality packaging for products like perfume and champagne bottles. In total, Stora Enso produces some 450,000 metric tons of packaging material per year in its ultra-modern digital factory, which took about two years to build and cost roughly €800 million.

A fresh look at the industry

A glance at the latest developments in the fiber industry shows that the investment should pay off. Global demand for paper is declining along with its overall importance, thanks to the growth in digital communication. “The demand for particular products is fundamentally changing, and at an amazing speed,” comments Jan Kabus, head of Fiber Industry at Siemens. “In many cases, that has led manufacturers of graphic paper products to convert their production in response to the growing demand for packaging and sanitary paper.”


“For the past ten years, our industry has had to face a considerable decline in paper demand,” concedes Dr. Heinz Felder, head of Group Investments & Capex at Stora Enso. “To begin with, it was difficult for us to accept the situation. But now it’s all the more fun to be rediscovering our industry.  We’ve looked with a fresh eye at just what a tree can do, and in some cases we’ve identified entirely new products for a totally new group of customers.”

Our suppliers must be capable of assuring plant availability for at least 50 years.
Dr. Heinz Felder, head of Group Investments and Capex, Stora Enso

New achievements together

By opting for Beihai for its new factory, Stora Enso settled on a location with a high-quality paper tradition. After all, it was from China that paper set out more than 2,000 years ago to conquer the entire world. And in Siemens – which has had a presence in China for more than 110 years – it has a project partner with a wealth of experience and tradition behind it. Since 1995, Siemens has implemented more than 360 projects in this industry in China, making it a market leader in China’s fiber industry. So it’s only logical that their proven collaboration offers the best preconditions for new, collaborative approaches – or more precisely, for digital innovations. [Click here to discover more details on the Beihai project and the cooperation of Siemens and Stora Enso.]

“Not only are we getting our customers prepared for the digital transformation,” observes Engelbert Schrapp, Corporate Account Manager at Siemens Fiber Industry. “Our customers are also doing the same for us. It’s a two-way relationship. Together we’re finding new digital solutions for their market requirements.”

Intelligence from the cloud

Siemens and its customer are not the only ones to benefit from this approach. Siemens experts from a number of units joined forces to make the digital factory in Beihai available as a one-stop shop for electrical equipment and automation, to digitalize the plant, for analytical tools, and for service. It also uses cloud-based solutions and artificial intelligence. Concrete fields of application include control performance analytics for control loops as well as process event prediction for smart alarm handling, for example. Their shared goal: the first entirely digital factory for Stora Enso.

Self-powered production

No aspect of paper manufacturing would work without power. That’s why the input from Siemens included an industrial steam turbine offering 59 megawatts of power, which Stora Enso uses to generate about half of the electricity it needs on-site. The power distribution is provided by high-, medium-, and low-voltage switchgear as well as power transformers and distribution transformers. And if a power outage should occur, the machines will be kept running by an emergency power supply consisting of an integrated system of more than a thousand low- and medium-voltage motors and frequency converters and the necessary instrumentation and control functions. In addition, there’s a Sipaper high-tech multi-motor drive for the board machine itself, and a factory-wide automation system for the turbine, processes, and power distribution.

Besides supplying the components, Siemens also took on the tasks of installation and commissioning. Ultimately, Stora Enso has a precise definition of “partner.” “Our investors have to be set up for the long term, because this is still a very capital-intensive industry,” Felder explains. “We’re building a plant that has to run for at least 50 years, 24/7. Our suppliers must be capable of assuring this availability at a global level. That’s why we have only a small number of partners that we appreciate as important suppliers, and with which we work closely together.” That includes Siemens.

Together we’re finding new digital solutions for our customers’ market requirements.
Engelbert Schrapp, Corporate Account Manager, Siemens Fiber Industry

Proven partnership

This paid off with the collaboration on Stora Enso’s digitalized factory in China. [Click here to discover more details on the Beihai project and the cooperation of Siemens and Stora Enso.] “This project is an important milestone for the Fiber Industry area at Siemens, as well as a high point in its collaboration and partnership with Stora Enso,” says Schrapp. The critical elements, in his view, were the overall responsibility assumed by Siemens for energy and automation, and the company’s strong presence in China. “It was the smoothest turnkey project ever, thanks to the close cooperation and long-term commitment from Siemens,” Schrapp concludes.


Our next online order will be on its way, that’s for sure – in good, high-quality packaging. Possibly even made by Stora Enso in Beihai.


Picture credits: Siemens AG

The renewable materials company, Stora Enso develops and produces solutions based on wood and biomass for a range of industries and applications worldwide. The Stora Enso group has some 25 000 employees in more than 35 countries. Stora Enso’s Beihai Mill in Guangxi region, southern China, is a consumer board mill that produces high-grade carton board products.

  • Products: chemi-thermo-mechanical pulp and carton board products
  • Annual capacity: 150 000 tonnes (pulp) and 390 000 tonnes (carton board)
  • Number of employees: 3 000 in Guangxi (including forestry operations)
  • Founded: 2016
  • Power distribution: High-, medium-, and low-voltage switchgear, power transformers and distribution transformers, emergency power supply, SCADA system, all engineering services
  • Process electrification: multi-motor drives including Sipaper Drives APL, Sipaper Winder APL, motors, engineering, and services
  • Process automation (DCS): including an end-to-end, uniform, factory-wide automation system – the company’s first single control-room concept
  • SST 800 steam turbine generator series for the power supply system
  • Continuous implementation: Control Performance Analytics (CPA), remote maintenance (turbine)

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay up to date at all times: everything you need to know about electrification, automation, and digitalization.