Business Continuity News: Paper Mill Resumes Production Following Major Fire


Another example of how recovering to business as usual can be a protracted affair.  In this post we look at Palm Paper a major supplier of recycled paper to the newspaper industry. The initial incident occurred on 7th October and the plant is now ready to resume at 50% capacity. There is no official estimate of when full capacity is likely to be achieved.

This report is provided by Steve Dance from business continuity planning consultants and solutions provider, RiskCentric

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The company is optimistic that it will be able to run one of its two winder machines which will allow for at least 50% production in the short term, while some of the complex machinery and equipment is repaired or replaced.

The PM7 newsprint machine within the Palm Paper mill at King’s Lynn

The King’s Lynn mill manufactures 450,000 tonnes of newsprint per year from recovered newspapers and magazines and supplies many of the UK’s regional and national newspaper publishers. It also produces a variety of other paper types for coldset, heatset and litho printing processes.

The UK’s Palm Paper is part of Germany’s privately-owned paper firm Papierfabrik Palm which is also a major producer of corrugated board. It owns a total of five mills with 28 paper machines and has recycling business in Germany and the UK. All of its products are made from recovered paper.


Dr Wolfgang Palm, chief executive of Papierfabrik Palm, today (24 October) assured that on the newsprint supply side, customers were being kept fully informed and that supplies of newsprint were fully available. However, he noted that at present no further official update was available.

The King’s Lynn site is an important user of used newspapers and magazines which it sources from across the UK. At present Palm is thought to be reducing its orders for incoming material with some merchants hoping that their deliveries will start again in November. The other UK mill user of used newspapers is UPM’s mill at Shotton in north Wales.


Prices for used newspapers in the UK marketplace are said to have edged downwards slightly in the wake of the fire but steady export demand is helping to maintain some strength. However, further reductions are seen as likely in November.

The fire is believed to have centred around one of the plant’s two VariTop winders. Manufacturer Voith explains that “Winders are used to transform the parent reels coming from a paper or board machine by longitudinal slitting of the web into narrower rolls adapted in diameter for downstream processing”.

Speaking after the fire which occurred late on Friday October 7, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service Norfolk’s chief fire officer Roy Harold said: “We were called to reports of a fire in a paper bale, which is a big roll of paper on a winding drum in the processing plant.

“Huge sheets of paper are wound onto this giant roll of paper, which is like a hay bale. The sprinkler system went off and stopped the fire spreading to the rest of the building, but the fire was inside the machinery which was hard to get to.

“We had 10 pumps on scene plus another 10 specialist vehicles, with about 80 firefighters, including crews from Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, as well as from Norfolk. Thermal image cameras were used to check for hot spots.”

Post-fire audit

Last week a “post-fire audit” was carried out between the fire service and Palm Paper. Fire protection staff carried the audit out with David Procter, managing director production at Palm Paper. It was noted that “fire damage is mainly confined to one area of the plant and Palm Paper are working to reinstate the damage to plant.”

In a statement, the parties added: “A combination of Palm Paper’s staff, fixed internal Fire Protection systems and Fire Service intervention helped to mitigate the extent of the damage and extinguish the fire. The cause of the fire was confirmed as accidental ignition of paper. The Fire Service Fire Investigator for the incident was Duncan Ashworth, who worked closely with David Procter from Palm Paper to pull together all the evidence during a joint investigation.”