Fraser Takes Paper Machine Downtime in Maine

Jan. 23, 2009 - Fraser Papers temporarily idled its No. 7 machine this week at its mill in Madawaska, Maine as a result of a lack of orders.

The measure is part of a company-wide effort to build and manage cash flow by running its machines only when orders are in hand, company officials told local the local media on Wednesday (Jan. 21).

“We find ourselves in some pretty tough economic times, and we don’t have a lot of visibility into some pieces of our businesses,” Jeff Dutton, Fraser’s chief operating officer, said Wednesday. “We are not going to be building speculative inventory.”

The No. 4, 6 and 7 machines are low on back orders, but all six papermaking machines will be monitored weekly to see if workloads merit their remaining operational, he said.

“We’ve never been in an economic climate like this,” said the South Portland, Maine-based Dutton. “We talk to our customers and they are having trouble really seeing how it’s going to go. It’s a murky future and we are trying to be responsible with shareholders’ equity and certainly, in this case, their cash.”

No. 7's downtime will end on Monday, Jan. 26. The downtime affects 25 workers, said Bill Peterson, the company’s director of human resources.

However, the day No. 7 comes back on-stream, Fraser plans to take 7-10 days of downtime on No. 6 paper machine—a move that will temporarily affect as many as 30 workers.

Unions are working well with management to keep as many workers employed as possible, Dutton told the Bangor Daily News. Their efforts include allowing workers to temporarily switch jobs, take vacation time and fill in during overtime situations.

“We have had some of them [union presidents] come back and say, ‘We need to do everything we can to keep people working 40 hours.’ They have been excellent,” Peterson said. “I don’t see anybody overreacting, which is a good thing.”

The Madawaska mill employs about 712 workers and has a production capacity of 460,000 tons per year.

The company produces a wide variety of technical specialty, fine printing and writing papers and groundwood papers on the six paper machines.

SOURCE: Bangor Daily News

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