Employers place a strong emphasis on essential skills in the workplace. Essential skills are used in nearly every occupation, and are seen as ¿building blocks¿ because people build on them to learn all other skills.
Each profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skill is generally performed by the majority of workers in an occupation. The estimated complexity levels for each task, between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced), may vary based on the requirements of the workplace.
Pulp mill machine operators operate and monitor various types of processing machinery and equipment to produce pulp. They are employed by pulp and paper companies.
- May encounter a power outage that shuts the automated system down. They must operate manually until the automated system is revived. (1)
- When working on the plant floor, may see that pulp volume in a tank is too high or low. They discuss the problem with processing operators in the control room, check for possible causes and try various manual adjustments. They check whether pump rpm levels are high, if there is a broken coupling on a shaft or if there is a plug in the line. (2)
- May deal with false readings on the computer. For example, readings may indicate that stock consistency is fine, but in fact it is too thick and won't go through the pumps and pipes. They analyze likely causes, direct workers on the floor to visually check equipment, make trial adjustments and discuss the problem with the supervisor. (2)
- May deal with equipment malfunctions such as a tank not emptying at the required rate. They troubleshoot, analyze possible causes, consult with maintenance staff and slow down the rest of the operation in order to prevent an overflow or shutdown. (2)
- May find that the production process is not maximizing tonnage or quality. They analyze and adjust numerous factors, including valve openings, tank volumes, fluid flow rates, chemical ratios, temperatures and pressures. The process is fast and continuous; a problem in one stage affects other stages and can result in tons of off-grade product before it can be corrected. (3)
- May decide what part of the process to start running first when coming off a maintenance shutdown. Operators generally follow set procedures, but they also consider variables such as the status of the stock at that moment. (1)
- May decide whether they need to go down to the floor to deal with a problem, or to stay at the computer controls and direct the workers on the floor from the control room. They consider the urgency of the problem, where floor workers are that moment and what other adjustments they need to make by computer. (2)
- May constantly decide how to adjust levels and rates to maximize production and not create a problem. For example, they decide if there is enough stock to slow down or speed up the processing without losing quality or causing an overflow. (2)
- May decide how much bleach to add for a grade change. They consider what residuals are currently in the system and look at records of previous production of similar grades. Too little bleach might result in off-grade brown pulp; too much might exceed environmental limits. (2)
- May decide whether to shut down the process in order to avoid spoiling the pulp or damaging equipment. Shutdowns are costly and time-consuming. (3)
Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.
Job Task Planning and Organizing
Pulp mill machine operators work independently following procedures to operate their stage of the pulping process according to production schedules and rates set by supervisors. Their tasks are varied and complex, but largely repetitive and dictated by the processing system as a whole. They may have to plan hours ahead what treatments to use and what equipment to activate. Their day can vary from dull and predictable, to pandemonium when a problem develops. (2)
Significant Use of Memory
- May remember to note, after making a change, what effect it has had, e.g., whether a particular change has affected the pH level.
- May remember figures read on the computer after moving onto another screen.
- May remember past problems to apply the knowledge gained to future situations, for example, that if the pulp movement looks sluggish or the amperage goes up, the vat may be plugged.
- May remember pulp recipes and grade specifications.
- Call a process engineer or millwright to ask questions about equipment, such as what lubrication is suitable for use under certain temperatures or what modifications have been made to equipment. (1)
- Refer to technical manuals or equipment manuals to look up a pulp recipe. (1)
- Look up records from past years to find data about amounts of chemicals used to produce a specific type and grade of pulp. (2)
- Read technical manuals or equipment manuals to troubleshoot machine malfunctions. (2)
Other Essential Skills:
Working with Others
Pulp mill machine operators mainly work independently. They are part of a team with other process operators and the workers on the floor. They frequently work in partnership with a floor worker, directing physical changes being made by the floor worker in the plant, while monitoring the effects on the computer.
Pulp mill machine operators learn on-the-job. They may take a number of short courses given by equipment companies and industry consultants and maintain safety certifications.