Services ease integration, speed order fulfillment and cut customer service costs

Field Report: Sappi Fine Paper, Boston

Field Report: Sappi Fine Paper, Boston

When you churn out 1.3 million tons of coated paper a year, you have to have serious order management and fulfillment capabilities. Until two years ago, Sappi Fine Papers North America relied on a combination of home-grown and mainframe applications to keep pace with demand for its products, which are used by commercial printers for magazines, books and corporate reports.

Sappi's customers are paper distributors, and to stay competitive, the manufacturer stepped up its service levels in 2002 to guarantee next-day order delivery. It wasn't easy, however, as EDI inconsistencies required many orders to be manually rekeyed. Further complicating matters, Sappi was preparing to migrate its four U.S. mills from mainframes to SAP.

Taking a Web services approach to both integration and process management, Sappi North America tapped the Gentran Integration Suite (GIS) from Sterling Commerce to streamline order management and reduce SAP implementation costs. In the first proof-of-concept project initiated, in late 2002, services were created to support all replenishment, inventory and sales order management processes among four regional distribution centers and a single warehouse. That project was completed in the first-quarter 2o03, and the company's three other warehouses were tied to the distribution centers by June.

Individual services were created for everything from data transformation and error handling to order escalation. These services were then assembled to create start-to-finish processes. "We map out processes before we do anything, and everything we do in GIS is managed through business process models," says Marjorie Boles, Sappi's systems integration manager.

The new order management process cuts customer service support time by 40 percent because more complete information, including handling instructions, was integrated into the order detail. By August 2003, services were created to resolve the EDI problem, eliminating costly and time-consuming data entry labor and retiring a redundant EDI server that required $40,000 per year in maintenance.

Most important, order process cycle times were cut by 30 to 45 minutes. "That enabled us to push the order cut-off time back from 3:30 to 4pm, and that's significant because most of our orders come in during the last two hours of the day," says Boles.

GIS has helped Sappi quickly and easily tie legacy systems to SAP to support other applications and reports without having to customize the ERP system.

"It took one person two weeks to create a reconciliation report that gave our users exactly what they wanted," Boles says. "That would have taken a team of developers two months in SAP because you would need to pull the data from a number of different modules."

SAP's NetWeaver and Master Data Management products were developed for services deployment and data integration, respectively, but Sappi's initiative predated their release.