Tissue manufacturer soaks up data to deliver just-in-time strategy

By Kabir Choudry, SVP, Information Builders

Cascades Tissue Group is a manufacturer of packaging and tissue products that are composed of recycled fibres.

The company employs 11,000 people in 90 manufacturing and conversion plants in Canada and the US.

The manufacturer uses GE Policy Plant Applications to monitor machinery and gather statistics about physical conditions in the plants. Sensors on the manufacturing equipment monitor temperature, humidity and other operating conditions that could affect the quality of its finished products. The IT department uses Information Builders iWay Service Manager to obtain log files of sensor data, which are sent to a central data centre for processing.

As Martin Gauthier, IT director, Enterprise Architecture, at Cascades, explains, “Our sensors detect slight variations in the production process and we must make sure that these parameters are in an acceptable range. People on the shop floor need this information to monitor production. We use iWay to send this information from Proficy to a reporting tool that produces operational reports.”

Data integration

As part of its enterprise-wide strategy to integrate essential business functions such as production planning, plant maintenance, warehouse management, procurement, purchasing and financial information, Cascades implemented SAP R/3 enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications at dozens of its mills, plants and paper manufacturing facilities.

Data from sensors only adds value when it is used to support decision-making. To enable all employees to access the right information, Cascades used Information Builders iWay to integrate sensor data with enterprise data from its SAP ERP system and connect with its AS/400 system, along with other business applications.  By standardising on iWay to monitor variables within the production process, exchange real-time data on plant floor processes and purchase of raw materials, Cascades is able to consolidate results for offline analysis.

This real-time data exchange allows Cascades’ maintenance personnel to keep shop floor equipment running optimally, as well as monitoring the quality of finished goods coming off the production line. The integrated data source also allows managers to improve forecasting, run payroll and identify where efficiency gains can be made in the supply chain.

Martin Gauthier comments, “iWay is integrated into our core processes. It gives us real-time data about the operation. Without it, we would not be able to integrate legacy application information with SAP information and we would lack total visibility into production, distribution, finance and other business processes.”

Data quality

It is crucial that employees are able to trust that they are working from a reliable information source when making on the spot decisions that could affect an entire batch of products. Machine-generated data generally provides more accurate data, because it is not subject to data entry errors.

Data visualisation

While everyone can make use of the information from machine sensors, data scientists are few and far between. Therefore, providing employees with clear graphics that use machine sensor data to explain the status of production line equipment, warehouse humidity levels and stock levels, goes a long way towards supporting intelligent, timely decision-making which optimises production.

Data-driven insights

Using the integrated data from sensors and other business applications, Cascades Tissue Group managers have an accurate, real-time view of the operation. In keeping with its just-in-time production strategy, the SAP ERP system boosts efficiency by reducing in-process inventory and associated carrying costs.

Cascades uses real-time information from iWay to keep its production equipment running optimally; monitor the quality of its finished goods; improve forecasting and remove waste from the supply chain: supporting prompt and accurate production and delivery of its products to customers.

The continuous stream of data enables plant managers to take action immediately if anything falls outside of acceptable parameters. The manufacturer also has a more accurate view of costs because managers can track real-time sales and production data and make decisions based on full visibility of the operation.

By Kabir Choudry, SVP of Global Field Technical Services and Customer Success, Information Builders


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