How Optimizing Your Supply Chain Creates Value For Customers

Richard Howells

It has been calculated that UPS and FedEx alone move 11.6 billion packages every year. And with omnichannel sales and direct-to-consumer orders on the rise, this number continues to rise year over year. But have you ever wondered where all these packages come from – not what’s inside the packages, but the actual packaging itself?

There is a good chance it comes from Cascades Containerboard Packaging, a division of Cascades. Cascades produces, converts, and markets packaging and tissue products composed mainly of recycled fibers. With 25 units operating across Canada and the United States, Cascades is the largest manufacturer of containerboard in Canada and the sixth-largest in North America.

A sustainable company that puts people first

I recently had the chance to speak with Xavier Duprat, supply chain director at Cascades Containerboard Packaging. As Xavier explains it, his company’s mission is to “improve the well-being of people, communities, and the planet by providing sustainable and innovative solutions that create value.”

Cascades’ concern for people is not only focused on its customers, but also its employees. “People are motivated to work for a company that is ethical, sustainable, and leverages the latest technologies,” says Xavier. He stresses the importance of staying close to employees to attract and keep employees from multiple generations, from baby boomers to Gen Z. And with technology playing a key role, Xavier says, Cascades seeks to follow through on its mission “by driving customer-centric process and putting our people first.”

On the road to customer centricity

Customer centricity means centering everything you do around the customer. This requires a fundamental shift in not only how you interact with your customers, but also how you align your supply chain and other business processes to better serve and delight your customers.

For Cascades, Xavier says, this meant evolving “from a ‘push’ manufacturing environment to a customer-centric organization which elevates us to the role of solution provider.”

To enable this, Cascades sought to optimize its supply chain. What the company needed was more consistent planning processes, faster planning cycles, and better user engagement across a multi-echelon supply chain with external distribution centers mostly managed by third-party logistics providers (3PLs).

But the company’s preexisting system presented obstacles. These included day-long data latencies, a reliance on Excel documents to share forecasts with customers, and no relationship between sales and operations planning (S&OP) strategy and tactical operations.

To move forward, Cascades needed to:

  • Drive fact-based decision-making with end-to-end supply chain visibility and access to a single source of trusted data
  • Facilitate faster planning cycles and consistent processes for sales and operations planning
  • Improve collaboration and user engagement across functions

Improving strategic, tactical, and operational planning processes

Cascades introduced an integrated business planning solution to power monthly and weekly planning processes and enable easy collaboration and quick resolution of issues across functions.

Today, the planning process starts with enhanced data that drives an accurate picture of actual demand, inventory, and production status – with powerful collaboration tools to drive forecast consensus. Integrated business planning processes are flexible and responsive to changes in supply, demand, and other signals across the supply chain. Now Cascades can better manage collaboration across partner networks and more efficiently handle everything from a shipment of one item to multiple truckloads headed across borders. The result is the ability to deliver the outcomes customers want — even as preferences and requirements evolve.

With a comprehensive and transparent overview of its supply chain, sales teams can focus on adding value. Cascades is more agile and responsive to customers’ needs, enabling it to deliver the innovative products that customers have come to rely on.

As Xavier says:

“To enable customer centricity you need to keep innovating and keep up with the latest technologies. Integrated business planning is a strategic process and driver to enable this evolution.”

Tangible business and sustainability benefits

With integrated business planning technology, Cascades has realized numerous tangible benefits. These include:

  • Driving the S&OP process to align all stakeholders and pilot the business through the mid/long-term horizons
  • Reducing costs thanks to increased visibility and improved collaboration
  • Improving planning security supporting sales to new markets
  • Increasing efficiency with maximized production capacity and faster access to relevant information for both internal and external users
  • Improving decision-making with the aid of more-accurate and granular data and forecasts at the SKU and ship-to level

In addition, Cascades reduced the time spent on data collection by 90%. With less working capital required to support the planning process, employees and salespeople are now free to focus on more value-added tasks such as customer service. And when it comes to the goal of increasing sustainability, the solution has helped Cascades optimize freight, reduce inventory, and make better decisions that help minimize waste.

“Implementing the integrated business planning solution has helped us establish long-term partnerships with our most strategic customers,” says Xavier. “These partnerships enable us to support the growth of our customers while boosting employee engagement and driving our mutual sustainability goals with a strong focus on the supply chain.”

To learn more about how to enable an intelligent supply chain through digital business planning, join me, Sandy Markin from SAP, and Simon Ellis from IDC for a webinar discussion on How to Ensure the Success of Your Digital Supply Chain with Integrated Business Planning.


About Richard Howells

Richard Howells is a Vice President at SAP responsible for the positioning, messaging, AR , PR and go-to market activities for the SAP Supply Chain solutions.