Kingsport Marks 100 Years on Journey to Excellence

A vision of manufacturing excellence and a consistent drive toward it marks the recent past and guides the future of the Kingsport Mill, which is commemorating its 100th year in 2016.

Domtar and the mill team were honored at a special event on April 22, with proclamations from state and local leaders recognizing the mill’s contributions to the community and region. Anniversary events are being held throughout the year in Kingsport.

Bill MacPherson, who had worked at Kingsport Mill from 2001-2009, returned as manager of the mill in 2013. He saw an opportunity to define excellence in a new way and pursue it with new strategies, building on Kingsport’s strengths.

“I was excited about the possibilities,” he said. “Our leadership team wanted to begin with who we hire. We had the newest, best facility in North America, and in a great location. We believed we could, and should, hire the best people.”

Changes in human resources spurred formation of a Selection Oversight Group, which included colleagues from different areas of the mill. Employees care about who works with them, and being able to refer people and be part of the recruiting process has been important. Additionally, the team has worked to improve its training and performance management programs to help employees see expanded opportunities and make the most of them.

While people are at the heart of continuous improvement, projects focused on process have played a part as well. The team at Kingsport focused on numbers it believed would mark excellence in manufacturing, related to safety and environmental incidents; quality control costs; and daily paper and pulp production and costs.

Near the same time, Domtar began continuous improvement process demonstrations in the mills, focused on evaluating and improving performance in the lime kiln, break frequency and recovery time. All these initiatives have contributed to the mill’s success.

One of the biggest challenges is sustaining the effort after the projects are officially complete, MacPherson said.

“People really buy in when they feel they see how their contribution matters,” said Lindsay Berning, an associate engineer who worked on the break time project, which has reduced size press breaks to below 0.33 per day for several weeks.

Old habits can be hard to change, MacPherson said, but with an eye toward the future, “we’re continuing to work on transformation.”