Suppliers Reach Out to Mill Leaders


Suppliers Reach Out to Mill Leaders

To find out how an organization ticks, talk to its leaders. Better yet, get its leaders to talk to you. This philosophy was put into practice at the recent Spring Meeting of the Association of Suppliers to the Paper Industry (ASPI) held in Sarasota, FL. Management-level speakers from pulp, paper, and packaging companies were on hand to foster understanding between suppliers and mills, because both share a common interest in seeing the industry thrive.

ASPI was founded in 1933; its member companies supply the industry with a wide range of products and services. With the motto, “ the forum for connecting industry leaders,” ASPI works to bridge communication gaps between the mill and supplier communities by providing opportunities for knowledge-sharing that sparks success and fosters innovation.

In addition to the Spring Meeting, each year ASPI offers a Fall Customer Alignment Meeting. The meeting is hosted by a leading pulp, paper, or packaging company, giving attendees the rare chance to network with their customers’ senior ex-ecutives. It’s a format that has proven extremely effective—at the 2016 Fall Meeting hosted by WestRock, when an attendee survey asked “ Did you gain specific ideas/concepts that could be directly applied to your company?” a full 100 percent of attendees answered “ Yes.”

ASPI’s 2017 Fall Customer Alignment Meeting will be held September 27-29 in Myrtle Beach, SC. For a more detailed report on the ASPI Spring Meeting, see page 49 of this issue—or visit for Fall Meeting details and membership information.

Paper360° followed up with some of the mill leaders who spoke at the recent Spring Meeting, asking each a single ques-tion based on the management expertise they shared. Here are their responses.



Vice President,
Manufacturing Operations
Recipient of ASPI’s 2017 Excellence in Leadership Award
Domtar Corporation

     At the meeting, ASPI President Keith Kemp commented that, when visiting your mill, “ what sets it apart is the tone” —it’s an environment of inclusion, improvement, and success. As a leader, what strategy helps you create and maintain that culture?

At Domtar Pulp and Paper, we believe everything we do is a process being improved. In manufacturing, we have a guiding action of “ innovate for improvement”—it’s one of several guiding actions that lead to operational excellence.

To think we have the market cornered on knowing every better practice and knowing how to use all the right tools to enable operational excellence is unwise. We therefore try to ensure we have a strong cultural commitment to including all parties in our management systems, especially vendors and customers, to make sure their engagement and firepower are factored into what we do to drive improvement.



Senior Vice President,

     You spoke to ASPI meeting attendees about rising prices for OCC. As North America’s leader in uncoated recycled board, what is Sonoco’s management strategy for dealing with rising costs?

Because of our vertical integration, we have fortunately developed a pretty good track record of recovering our costs through contractual recovery mechanisms and corresponding price increases to keep pace in an inflationary environment.

Our vertical integration starts with our significant recycling operations, which provide us with cost-competitive raw material for our mills and allow us to sell additional recovered paper tons to help offset some of the cost pressures. And in this kind of environment it is extremely important we continue to focus on driving manufacturing productivity improvement, which we do through our Sonoco Performance Systems (SPS) program.



Vice President,
Operations and Integrated Mills,
Expera Specialty Solutions

     You merged two existing companies to form Expera. What has been your management strategy to focus the new company’s success?

Expera Specialty Solutions was formed through the merger of the Thilmany Papers and Wausau Papers specialty paper mills located in Kaukauna, De Pere, Mosinee, and Rhinelander, WI. The combined company includes 15 pa-permaking assets and is the largest producer of specialty paper in North America.

This combination of experience and expertise in specialty papers has allowed Expera to provide innovative solutions for its customers in the food packaging and processing, industrial and technical, and pressure sensitive markets. Expera’s solid footing in these markets provides the platform for further growth through strategic investments that support our growing markets.



Senior Director of Sourcing,
Verso Papers

     At the meeting you spoke about Verso’s strategy of “ operational excellence.” What role can vendors play in helping Verso achieve that goal?

Suppliers can and have helped Verso by providing bench-marking data and bringing best practices to us. Many already help us to quickly and effectively address operational gaps. We ask suppliers to move from focusing on transactional behavior to being a true strategic partner with Verso. We need engaged suppliers to bring solutions that extend our technical capabilities and help to close our operational gaps