Case Study

Addressing microbial growth concerns through AI

In this case study, we present and discuss HABER's approach and AI's role in addressing one of India's leading paper manufacturer’s concerns around microbial growth in their paper machine.


The pulp and paper industry uses immense amounts of water throughout the process and this makes microbial growth inevitable. The presence of fibers, synthetic polymer, starch and soluble chemicals serve as accelerators to microbial growth, thereby increasing the organic load of the entire papermaking system.  In the past, recycled fiber was used primarily in boxboard mills. Now, it is in almost all grades of paper. The use of recycled fiber can make microbial control more difficult, especially if the material contains coating of starch. The presence of these nutrients increases the potential of spoilage-related issues. Post-consumer recycled fibers are generally subjected to moist and dirty conditions and are often stored outdoors, uncovered. It increases the bacterial load of the system, particularly with fungi. Recycled furnish can be contaminated with a higher loading of microorganisms than is typical of virgin pulp. On the whole, it can be said that the industry faces the problem of microbial growth from various sources and it is of high importance to keep that under check. Total Bacterial Count(TBC) is tested in the lab to understand the number of microbes present in the system, and then chemicals are dosed in order to keep them under control.


HABER’s eLIXA® platform provides a Microbial Control Program which is based on real-time data of plant operating conditions. The best chemistry and the optimal dosages are decided based on the insights generated by eLIXA® using AI/ML algorithms. This makes the process of identifying the microbial count faster and enables us to take action at the right time.

The process begins with measuring various crucial parameters of water like ORP, DO, pH and temperature. These are then used to build an index called the Microbial Control Index (MCI). MCI is built in such a manner that it is related to the TBC. Thus, the microbial count can be predicted, enabling us to decide on the dosing of chemicals in real time.

Our Microbial Control Program was best suited for this problem faced by the customer. We were able to reduce the microorganism related issues significantly. With real-time data, devising strategies for the program control were quick and precise. It also helps to avoid any kind of delay in the system performance without human intervention.


The solution has helped in controlling the total bacterial count. The headbox total bacterial count which was earlier  around 13 - 18 CFU/ml (colony forming unit per ml) has been reduced  to approximately 4 - 5 CFU/ml.

In addition to this, it has also minimised unscheduled boil-outs, resulting in the better running of the system with an increased production rate. Product quality has improved as slime spots, holes and odour have reduced. Corrosion has also reduced due to lesser bacterial count. In short, eLIXA® helps to achieve consistently better quality products with a minimum amount of investment and an easier maintenance cycle.


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