Abitibi’s supply chain is on a roll

One newsprint manufacturer says the implementation of a supply chain management solution has helped it improve customer service and cut support costs by half.

Abitibi-Consolidated Inc., headquartered in Montreal, employs 15,000 people. It manufactures building lumber and is one of the world’s largest paper recyclers. According to Stephane Binette, project manager at Abitibi, the company began tracking its inventory several years ago with a homegrown system based on the mainframe. “The system evolved over the years, but some parts were 30 years old,” he said. By 2001, it had become too costly to use the system because staff was needed to support the mainframe infrastructure and applications.

In addition, the software was not flexible enough to meet customer needs. One of the problems was that the system couldn’t track Abitibi’s products. Abitibi assigns each paper roll an ID number. Customers need to track their inventory by that number for several reasons, said Binette. “If they have a few damaged ones, they want to track which ones and why. ” By that time, some customers had invested in tracking systems of their own that allowed them to manage their inventory by roll number once it was in their hands, and they wanted the information in the same format from Abitibi so they could track which rolls were being delivered.

“We produce millions of rolls a year and it was too much information. We were managing the inventory at a summary level by product with the system we had.” The products it selected, EnterpriseOne Customer Order Management and EnterpriseOne Advanced Planning, now fall under the PeopleSoft Inc. umbrella, following PeopleSoft’s acqusition of J.D. Edwards last year. “There were a lot of major enhancements we had to do to manage inventory at a roll level,” Binette explained. “We did have a lot of bugs — but we have good processes to first test the software, report bugs, and track the fixes.”

Besides supplying order details in the format customers want, the software also enables a much quicker transfer of information. “[The data] is now easy to access — we just select it and download it into Excel, and send it to the customer.” From an IT perspective, since getting rid of the mainframe, support costs have gone down by 50 per cent, Binette added. “I think the solution is much more flexible — changes can be done through setups instead of code.”

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