At Le Bourray paper mill we make premium quality white and coloured tissue paper.
We produce tissue paper to customer specifications. It’s what makes us different. We do not convert. We produce reels ranging from 12 to 280 cm wide.
We apply our extensive experience to producing paper of the exact colour, printability, stretch, strength, thickness and grammage required.
Provide us with a decorative element such as a candle and we will produce the exact same hue in our in-house laboratory.
Our production cycle can adapt to demand, producing tissue paper for tableware in an array of colours or for hygiene and cleaning, in record time and in an environmentally friendly manner.
Two machines mean double the flexibility. We can produce coloured tissue covering the whole spectrum within two weeks and produce two batches of white at the same time. Our lead times are short, even for special orders.
Our on-site sales team are a precious link between our production team and our customers, guaranteeing a premium personal service.
There has been a ford across the river Huisne at the hamlet known as Le Bourray since the Middle Ages, on the north-south thoroughfare between the villages of Saint-Corneille and Saint-Mars-la-Brière. A mill was built near a group of islets, where oak bark was treated for use in tanneries and hemp grain made for animal fodder.
We know that in 1830 the miller was from Saint-Mars-la-Brière. In 1844, a fabric merchant set up a hemp spinning concern next to the mill, which used the raw material produced nearby. But in 1890, the spinning company was in difficulty and was sold to a paper exporter who turned it into a cigarette paper factory.
The new paper firm ran a dozen small mills that stood on the tributaries of the Huisne. Le Bourray paper mill used the energy of the river as a driving force, the waste from the locally-produced hemp as raw material and wood and peat as fuel. Some forty people split into two teams worked in 12-hour shifts and produced up to 1,000 kg per day.
However, foreign competition came into play. By the end of WW1 France could no longer boast a worldwide monopoly on the production of cigarette paper and the factory was reduced to a fraction of its former glory.
In 1927 Pierre Lescop purchased the plant, which became the Société des papeteries du Bourray.
The old cigarette machine was converted and a steam turbine and two modern coal boilers were installed in 1928. The paper mill replaced expensive hemp by old rags, especially linen. There were no synthetic fibres at the time and buttons were all made of metal.
From 1934 onwards, the factory gradually converted to making copy paper and rope manila paper. Typewriters were becoming popular, as were duplicators, which required lightweight high-quality paper – exactly what Le Bourray knew how to produce.
By 1940 and during WW2, the factory employed 70 people divided into three eight-hour shifts with Sunday as a rest day. A rag workshop and a cigarette paper booklet and later paper ream workshop employed some 50 women.
With the men called up to the war effort, the women took over the factory shift work.
The first 400 kW electrical supply was installed in 1942 to replace the steam turbine, for which there was no longer any coal. Wood shavings from local sawmills were used to fuel the boilers and old paper sacks (that had replaced canvas bags for grain, manure and coal) as raw material.
The factory took a while to pick up in the post-war period as electricity, coal and pulp were scarce.
Gradually, new machines were purchased and business returned to normal.
Other opportunities arose alongside the typewriter “onion paper” market, such as hygiene paper products. In 1962 a subsidiary of Hygié France opened at Pont-de-Gennes.
The hygiene paper market required softer textures made from white or pale coloured tissue, which necessitated a new machine, installed in 1966. The machine was used to produce tissue for nappies, napkins and disposable handkerchiefs.
Pierre Lescop retired in 1970, aged 85. He handed over to the director of Arjomari Prioux who injected the capital necessary to modernise the operation.
From 1974 onwards the rope manila paper line was gradually replaced by tissue production. With a 230-strong workforce, the factory could produce 100 tonnes per day.
Technology evolved rapidly and the role of automation and information technology increased. By 1985, production was over 165 tonnes per day – fifty times that of 1948. At the turn of the century Le Bourray was one of the most productive, modern papermakers in France.
In 1990, Le Bourray became Arjowiggins Le Bourray. The Arjowiggins group had other sites in Sarthe, namely in Bessé-sur-Braye. The year 1992 saw a major development: a machine that could produce recycled coated paper, known as Eural. “We’ve taken recycled paper to another level by applying a coating of very fine pigments with excellent print characteristics,” explained factory manager Norbert Michaud. This coating machine was the first of its kind in the world. It was the perfect partner for the digital revolution and the subsequent new requirements.
Céline and Francois Bourdin took over Le Bourray from Arjowiggins on 1 April 2019.
This film tells the story of an exceptional industrial transformation.
Since its takeover in 2019 by Céline and François Bourdin, Le Bourray has pursued a number of initiatives:
- a major investment strategy to bring the site up to standard
- an ambitious HR policy with an appropriate training plan.
We would especially like to thank @AFIFOR, @PAPIER INDUSTRIE CARTON and @Topovideo for financing and producing a film that tells the story of this exciting transformation.