Where There’s Overlap, There’s Opportunity
Your customers are demanding, insisting that every roll shipped to them strictly adheres to their requirements. Their level of tolerance for variation in key quality values, both within each roll and from roll to roll, continues to get smaller and smaller. Failure to meet increasingly exacting requirements can result in an increase in returned product and a reduction in overall customer satisfaction. The costs involved in exceeding quality specifications can be harmful as well. The paper machine may need more chemicals, energy and may run slower, and providing a product that exceeds requirements is essentially a waste.
You have invested heavily in your quality gauging systems, collecting high-resolution data for the vital paper quality attributes your customers care about. Minute variations in quality attributes are captured and documented, allowing papermakers to fine-tune further and optimize the production process. The production processes are tightly managed, with a goal of reducing the production of unsaleable paper to zero.
You have a fantastic team operating your paper machine winders: dedicated, knowledgeable, and invested in the overall success of the company. They know your customers well and are ready to go the extra mile to ensure every roll meets each customers’ exacting demands. Nothing motivates them more than knowing that they’ve done everything in their power to deliver on customer expectations, and your high level of confidence and faith in them makes it an easy to push key decision making down to their level.
These three things may seem somewhat disparate: but at the intersection of these three things, you’ll consistently find roll level quality.
Roll Level Quality – Why Bother?
Roll level quality is ultimately what your customers experience with the rolls you ship them. Is the paper caliper consistent? Does it meet our requirements for compression strength or run-ability? Will we have production issues when we consume it on our machines, or will the resulting product we create from it not perform to our customers standards? These are all questions your customers ask themselves about the paper they receive from you, and they are things your customers actively monitor and report back to you on. In short, this is what they care about.
And if you want to reduce complaints and costly customer claims, paying attention to what your customer cares about is a sure-fire place to start.
Measure As You Go; Know Before You Ship
It’s well known in the manufacturing world that the later a problem is caught in the supply chain, the harder (and more expensive) it is to correct. It follows that the inverse is also true: the earlier a problem is identified, the less expensive it is to fix. For example, with the proper tools, your winder team can detect and react to each individual roll’s quality before cutting the roll with a specific customer in mind. Elixir allows you to do exactly this: the system predicts each roll’s quality before cutting, allowing operators to make informed decisions on the fly and optimize your production in response to real-time variations in the manufacturing process. This reduces cost and customer frustration; according to one Quality Manager who’s team is using Elixir, “In assessing customer claims, we came to realize we had all the pieces to avoid sending them bad paper – we just hadn’t put them all together in a way where we caught the problems instead of our customers. By paying closer attention to roll quality up at the winder, we’ve been able to drastically reduce customer complaints and returns.”
But its not always possible to know the full quality picture at the time the roll is cut. Often times quality attributes are measured infrequently, or take several hours to complete before the true measured value is known. In these cases, the quality of a roll may change after it’s cut, so visibility at subsequent points in the supply chain become even more critical. For example, when rolls are staged for loading, or during the process of loading them onto the vehicle, there’s an opportunity to confirm the roll still meets the customer’s requirements – and to take action if it doesn’t. One North American Warehouse Manager who uses Elixir told us “It’s absolutely critical we re-confirm the roll’s quality while handling it in the warehouse. Most rolls make it to our warehouse floor before their full quality picture is known, and without re-verification we’d have some real un-happy customers. Our objective is to never ship a bad quality roll to a customer, and the folks in the warehouse are measured on that.”
So, do yourself a favor: leverage the data you’re collecting, the employees you’ve empowered, and the fore-knowledge of known customer requirements. To achieve top quality, combine them into processes that allow you to identify and quickly react to potential roll level quality issues at the earliest possible opportunity: prior to cutting - when costs are their lowest, and the options for alternatives to obtain high production rates are highest.
Your accountants will thank you for it.
By Patrick Nazzaro
Vice President, Product Development | MAJIQ Inc.