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Process and Control Today | ABB awarded landmark modernization project for key Smurfit Kappa board mill in Mexico

  • ABB secures major contract to modernize one of Smurfit Kappa’s largest board machines in Mexico
  • Modernization at Cerro Gordo Mill to the north of Mexico City ushers in a new era of enhanced performance and efficiency
  • ABB selected to provide control system technology, drives and motors in tandem with ongoing expert service


ABB has secured a landmark contract to modernize Smurfit Kappa’s Paper Machine 5 (PM5) at its Cerro Gordo corrugated cardboard mill near Mexico City. ABB will provide Smurfit Kappa with its ABB Ability™ System 800xA® distributed control system (DCS), accompanied by a comprehensive paper machine drives system, encompassing some of the market’s most advanced drives and motors meticulously designed to optimize PM5’s performance.


Smurfit Kappa is one of the leading providers of paper-based packaging globally, with operations spanning across 35 countries. It has operated in Mexico since 1957 and has been increasing production capacity in the country recently, investing over USD350 million since 2018.


The project marks the first collaboration between the two parties in this region and signals a new era of operational efficiency for one of the packaging producer’s busiest machines in Mexico. The modernization is expected to transform PM5 into a highly efficient and productive machine, capable of meeting the demands placed on it. Upon completion of the project, Smurfit Kappa is expected to realize a significant increase in production efficiency and output.


Smurfit Kappa sought a partner with unparalleled expertise to spearhead this critical modernization project. Smurfit Kappa required speed and tension controls to operate at optimum levels, while keeping downtime to a minimum. ABB, with its proven track record in the Latin American pulp and paper industry and deep understanding of paper machine processes, emerged as the ideal choice.


The ABB technology embedded in the drives, complemented by the control system, will help secure optimum speed and torque control of the paper machine’s sectional drives for years to come. This is achieved through a combination of factors such as a Direct Torque Control algorithm, which ensures precise control and allows for consistent quality and minimized waste over a long period of time. ABB guarantees a system uptime of 98.5 percent during a three-month period following the machine’s startup in 2025. This translates to a maximum downtime of only 33 hours within that timeframe.


“We are impressed by ABB’s deep understanding of the industry and their commitment to exceeding expectations,” said Mario Olvera, Engineering and Project Director, Smurfit Kappa Mexico. “We are confident that their expertise will be instrumental in maximizing the performance and efficiency of PM5. This project represents a significant step forward for Smurfit Kappa in Mexico, and we look forward to a successful collaboration with ABB.”


“Partnering with Smurfit Kappa on this momentous project will help ensure optimal equipment design, control performance, and seamless commissioning,” said Diego Navas, Regional Sales Manager, ABB Pulp and Paper, North America. “A dedicated team of ABB specialists will work alongside our customer on the machine to deliver significant benefits, including increased production, improved efficiency, and reduced operational costs.”


The project’s scope extends beyond simply supplying equipment. ABB will leverage its extensive experience to provide comprehensive engineering and commissioning services, ensuring a smooth transition to the upgraded PM5. Backed by its ABB Ability™ System 800xA® and Remote Access Platform, ABB can provide customer support from anywhere in the world at any time. The safety functions and process panels installed alongside the machine will allow collaborative, easy and safe operation of the machine

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