With 7 mills, 14 sales offices and 5,100 employees, Sappi Europe is the leading producer of coated fine paper and also a successful example of a Slim4 customer. We ask Peter Conings, Inventory Manager at Sappi, to describe a typical working day, his main responsibilities, and his experience with Slim4 and his aspirations for the future.

What is your role within the company?

Sappi’s HQ is located in South Africa, we are also represented in Europe and North America. I work within the supply chain as part of the supply & demand team, this team consists of 7 people, each responsible for a specific part of the process. On a monthly basis, we organise an S&OP process meeting in which we check supply vs demand for each machine for the next 4-6 months ahead and discuss results with all the departments involved. This enables us to anticipate if any of our factories are underutilised.

I am responsible for managing the entire range of A1 products which are produced in 1 of our 7 European factories. This category is comprised of ‘finished goods’ (pallets/rolls) and ‘semi-finished goods’ (cutter reels) and are stored in our plants and external warehouses.

At any one time, over 250000 tons of paper is divided across multiple locations in Europe and North America. My main focus is the availability of the 2000 SKU’s, which has become crucial in today’s paper market.

What does a typical day look like?

My working day starts by refreshing the stock reports and checking the order files within Slim4. Because of the many daily meetings and calls with my colleagues from the supply chain, logistics and sales teams as well as the product managers, I don’t really have a regular routine.

In total, I spend about 2 hours a day using Slim4. I also responsible for monitoring the forecast exceptions on a monthly basis as well as managing the master data of the 2,000 SKU’s within my portfolio.

In addition to this, we have a SKU review meeting with the sales and the product managers every quarter where we analyse and discuss the market situation. In preparation for this meeting, I extract several Slim4 reports and merge them with the reports from SAP.

As a Slim4 customer, what impact has the inventory optimisation software had on your day-to-day job?

Before becoming a Slim4 customer, we ordered according to a fixed re-order point and a maximum stock level that was revised every 6 months. The calculations were based on an Excel file combined with a report from SAP as well as considerable gut feeling.

Since then, our market approach has changed significantly; we have by-passed wholesalers and now deliver directly to the printers. To accomplish this, we had to allocate stock in several strategic locations to guarantee delivery within 24 to 48 hours to our customers. This can range from an order for a single pallet to a full truck load.

Because of this different approach, we needed a dynamic system that was able to adapt and adjust to last minute changes. By using Slim4, at a glance, we can check the current availability, sales, lead times and trends at SKU level. Through recognising trends and seasonality, the stock level is automatically adjusted to the market demand.

Ultimately, Slim4 provides us with greater insight and we can now anticipate and respond to problems much faster.

By merging the Slim4 reports with the business intelligence reports from SAP, we can forecast with far greater accuracy. As a result, we can reserve the capacity of the machines 2 to 6 months in advance. This in turn has enabled us to achieve an enormous increase in availability.

What is your biggest challenge?

My main responsibility is to guarantee availability. Therefore, it is my goal to ensure that a product is in stock at the right time, at the right place with the highest possible stock rotation. However, the biggest challenge within our supply & demand team is to achieve this within the proposed budgeted targets.

In addition, a Sappi year, opposed to a calendar year, does not run from January to December but from October to September and our target calculation is based on seasons. For example, by the end of December and during the summer months, the stock level increases because of the reduced logistic capabilities. Through reviewing historical data reports and the Slim4 seasonality report, we can easily forecast for this.

Now that you are an experienced Slim4 customer, what are your ambitions for the future?

It is my goal to further improve stock rotation and to ensure continuous stock availability. I would like to invest more time in utilising Slim4 as a reporting tool and optimise the possibilities it offers.

I would like to grow and develop in this role and I hope to enable even smoother collaboration between the different departments. I am convinced that by taking full advantage of Slim4, we can develop a perfect streamlined management process.

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