How Emmerson Packaging delivers innovative sustainable products through a supply chain transformation

How Emmerson Packaging delivers innovative sustainable products through a supply chain transformation

Across the modern business landscape, the perception of procurement and supply chain management is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Traditionally viewed as a business support function and merely a cost center, businesses all over the world are currently investing into their supply chains as a recognition that it is now viewed as a true business enabler. For Emmerson Packaging, one of the leading flexible packaging solutions providers in North America, the supply chain has been built into the company’s core operations since it was founded back in 1956. For Serge Corriveau, Vice President of Supply Chain, the supply chain management function of Emmerson Packaging is the ‘WD40’ of the business. “We’re like a machine and as long as we’re well oiled, everything works and the business can continue to be successful,” he says. “My motto is be brilliant, be brief and be gone. If we’re not moving, innovating and changing in a particular part of the business then we look at that as a missed opportunity.”

Corriveau joined the business in 2013, initially working as a business analyst before being given the role of change management lead for a new SAP system implementation. The implementation of SAP provided the opportunity for Emmerson Packaging to transform its supply chain vertical.  “Once the model was presented, our CEO asked me if I would like to lead the charge in implementing the changes,” he says. “I accepted the challenge and the rest is history.”

The new supply chain vertical consists of five departments within Emmerson Packaging including warehousing, logistics, purchasing, production planning and customer service. The customer service department was added to the supply chain vertical in early 2018. “Customer satisfaction is dependent on the supply chain, so this recent addition made perfect sense,” Corriveau says. “Customer service is a fundamental part of any successful business and its very important in the supply chain because it’s the source of customer information, it provides the customer with real-time information on product availability and distribution operations,” he says. “These departments are particularly important in ensuring a seamless supply chain and by overseeing all five departments it ensures we can support the overall strategy of the business.” Corriveau had previously worked with automotive giants Hyundai and Kia and was familiar with working in a large-scale company with “tons of resources and a very strict structure”. But as Emmerson Packaging set about building a supply chain vertical, Corriveau realized that enhanced inventory planning and control was required. “The first step before anything could be achieved was to look at data, create and track KPIs and make changes along the way in order to reach a state of control,” he says. “Once we reache that level of control, you can step back and trust the team to deliver. If something was to go sideways then we’d react properly because we are in control and being proactive. Clear communication internally and externally is so important”.

With data monitoring and KPIs established, Emmerson Packaging created an element of control over inventory management and established the same level of control over logistics and purchasing. “Control means making everything resource based,” Corriveau says. “Data is key there as it cannot be disputed. We break each department down into pieces and work through it one piece at a time and it’s been a successful strategy for the company”.

The advantages of data analytics are plain to see, allowing the business to make smarter decisions and predictions, but building a supply chain vertical in this organization highlighted to Corriveau that the data “just wasn’t there yet”. This forced the organization to re-examine the perception of what the supply chain actually is, as Corriveau felt there was often a misplaced belief that it was “just warehousing and logistics”. “Supply chain for Emmerson Packaging is so much more than that: there’s production planning, manufacturing, procurement, warehousing and the list goes on,” he says. “Production planning scheduling is the very heart of our organization. We have worked hard to nail down our data and forecasting and are incredibly proud of where we are. With new insight we were able to make changes across the business, for example moving the releases of warehouses from customer service to warehousing and logistics – this streamlined the flow with our customers as the information to deliver on this promise resides in the supply chain”.

Emmerson Packaging’s customer base continues to evolve. The modern-day customer demands transparency in products and across supply chains. Emmerson Packaging prides itself on its commitment to sustainability as a business and delivers on this not only through its internal commitment but its products – specifically recyclable and biodegradable options. Corriveau was proud to go into detail around Emmerson Packaging’s SmartPack. Manufactured through a process that significantly reduces environmental impact without compromising on quality or lead times, SmartPack proved how crucial it is to have control over the entire supply chain. In order to achieve this innovative and truly ground-breaking process, Emmerson Packaging sought out a strategic partner, which it found in Nova Chemicals. “I cannot stress enough the importance of having trusted partners in everything you want to achieve through the supply chain,” says Corriveau. “We’ve been doing business with Nova Chemicals for many years and they have been instrumental in our success because of their commitment to innovation and our partnership.”

“We've had discussions with suppliers in the past that wanted to cut corners. We're not willing to short change the process and we ensure all of our strategic partners are of the same belief. Nova Chemicals agree with this sentiment, having worked with us on this SmartPack™ project and they were keen to move fast.” Moving fast proves key for Emmerson Packaging as Corriveau notes that consumer demands are changing and in order to be ahead of the curve they need to be proactive. “The new era of customers place a greater emphasis on the environmental impact of the products they buy, and are going to greater lengths than ever before to ensure “they are not part of the problem, but part of the solution”.  

The demands of the customer extend into certifications, with Emmerson having proudly achieved Safe Quality Foods (SQF) certification, among others. While for many businesses the customer drives these decisions, Emmerson Packaging is proactive and has higher expectations of its supplier network and warehousing. “It’s about trying to stay ahead of the customer demand,” says Corriveau. “We approach everything with the notion that sooner or later, the customer is going to ask us to elevate our game and go beyond SQF certification – so we can’t be chasing.” Emmerson achieves this through a three-pillar approach: safety, quality and productivity. “You can't be productive if you don't produce quality product.” he says. “And you can't produce quality products if you don't do it in a safe environment.”

To this end, Emmerson Packaging invests heavily in safety programs and internal reward systems designed to encourage employees to go above and beyond to be safe, produce quality products and be productive. Corriveau believes being safe is the most important out of the three. “Once you have employees who are working safe, quality products and productivity follow,” he says. “We want our employees to come to work in a safe environment and at the end of the day go home safely to their families. We work hard to instill this quality into our employees so they are safe inside and outside of work.” Corriveau believes the results speak for themselves as the company has been recognized as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies for nine consecutive years by Deloitte. For him, this recognition echoes Emmerson Packaging’s CEO’s sentiment that “our customers push us to be better” because the company looks to always be ahead of the curve, and therefore needs a workforce that is ready to go above and beyond.

Emmerson Packaging has three major markets: frozen food, pet food and towel and tissue otherwise referred to as “overwrap”. Having two plants, one in the town of Amherst, Nova Scotia and one in the small city of Belleville, Ontario means that Emmerson Packaging’s supply chain needs to be best in class. “In some cases, there is a large geographical distance from these customers, so how do we compete? By being better, fluid, and by providing a seamless journey,” says Corriveau. “We work hard with trusted partners such as ONE For Freight, a solutions first transportation company that helps us achieve our goals. We can compete with anyone on lead time and service.”

As Emmerson Packaging continues its journey of supply chain transformation it does so with a key competitive advantage that no other current packaging producer has. Together with trusted partners like Nova Chemicals, the company not only produces its own packaging but proactively works on innovative and new concepts in its own Research & Development department and in-house laboratory. Emmerson Packaging is also proud to be vertically integrated and converts its own products. Ultimately, the success of Emmerson boils down to its commitment to sustainability and its customers. “If our customers are successful, then and only then do we get to be successful,” says Corriveau. “From the very first days of the company we’ve been extremely proud of how we operate and how we continue to strive to reduce our impact on the environment. Moving forward, it's about looking at what more can we do for our customers, our employees and our communities.  By focusing on sustainability, Emmerson Packaging believes they can deliver a quality product to their customers that not only meets the demands of the market but is also environmentally responsible”.

Serge Corriveau