To provide companies in the recovered paper (RCP) industry with insights into their RCP quality, an El Segundo, Calif.-based analytics provider has developed an assessment tool.
A joint venture of Voith and Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures, merQbiz was founded in January 2017 and recently released BaleVision, a quality performance solution that combines an assessment tool with comprehensive data services.
“The BaleVision quality assessment device is able to measure detailed data on fiber content, moisture, plastic, ash and other bale contaminants,” says John Fox, president and CEO of merQbiz. “The insights generated from the analytics platform also take into consideration market factors such as pricing data and seasonality trends.”
BaleVision has two primary components: a measurement device that utilizes near-infrared (NIR) technology to measure bale content from the inside out, and a data visualization and analytics platform that provides actionable insights via dashboards and customized data tools.
“Digital transformation and data-driven decision-making are the future of the RCP industry. With paper quality becoming a hotter topic due to current macroeconomic factors, BaleVision provides buyers and sellers with a technology solution that helps them be proactive against the changing landscape,” says Fox. “Also, the ability to positively affect bale yield can help decrease landfill output and support sustainability goals.”
RCP quality refers to the measurement and makeup of the contents of a paper bale. Every bale contains a certain percentage of "yield," representing usable fiber suitable for making paper of various grades. Yield might typically range from 75 to 85 percent, while the remaining bale content consists of plastics, metals, ash and other contaminants, according to Fox.
“Higher yield means less contamination, which can lead to lower operational costs and a positive impact on the quality of the end product,” he says. “A 1 percent increase in bale yield can result in $700,000 in savings for a paper mill—based on an average bale price of $96. Paper quality is a massive issue for the industry and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.”
Until now, the industry has had limited options for measuring RCP quality. Conventional measurement methodologies, such as ocular inspections and bale breaking, can be costly, labor intensive and highly subjective, notes Fox.
“The difference is really in the efficacy of the data and the insights delivered via the analytics platform. The value this generates is greater than just knowing the contamination level of a bale,” says Fox. “In addition, the technology can test bales faster than bale breaking and requires less manpower to test, resulting in savings across labor, time and operational spend. BaleVision is a comprehensive system that unlocks value across a number of business areas.”
merQbiz has partnered with the manufacturer PTS to be the exclusive distributor of the device in North America. To complement BaleVision, merQbiz is launching a new analytics platform that will house the dashboards and related services such as claims management and an RCP export procurement solution.
“The data and insights are delivered via custom dashboards and reports on the analytics platform. For example, a materials recovery facility can combine its bale data with market and seasonal data to adjust transactional and operational processes,” says Fox. “A paper mill can use the insights from a true cost analysis to inform purchase decisions and better manage its supplier base.”
BaleVision is now available in North America and will soon be rolled out in other international markets.