The manufacturer and distributor paper products is collaborating with other companies to explore how artificial intelligence, blockchain and the internet of things can improve its supply chain and procurement operations.

Georgia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Koch Industries Inc. and one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of paper products, dispensers, building products and related chemicals, is reinventing its supply chain to facilitate more B2B e-commerce.

Now more than ever before we're seeing a greater emphasis on digitalization, automation and advanced analytics in plants and warehouses.
Kevin Heath, senior vice president and chief procurement officer
Georgia-Pacific

The maker of such brands as Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Brawny and Vanity Fair, is spending up to $7 million to open a new center—the Point A Center for Supply Chain Innovation—in Atlanta.

Kevin Heath, chief procurement officer, Georgia-Pacific

Georgia-Pacific is opening the center to explore such new technologies as advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain and the internet of things as it seeks to further automate its supply chain and procurement programs, Kevin Heath, senior vice president and chief procurement officer, says. “Now more than ever before we’re seeing a greater emphasis on digitalization, automation and advanced analytics in plants and warehouses,” he says.

Digital supply chain and procurement technology and programs are becoming a bigger priority for manufacturers of all sizes. In a recent survey of 900 supply chain managers by technology and management consulting firm Accenture, 50% said adding more digital technology and services to their respective supply chain operations would unleash new cost savings and improve logistics and warehouse operations. Specifically, the study found that 71% of chief supply officers expect improved customer service, 68% point to better support operations, 60% eye cost efficiency and 53% expect business growth.

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But Georgia-Pacific doesn’t want to shoulder the burden of rebuilding its digital supply chain by itself. The Point A Center for Supply Chain Innovation will involve a collaboration with other companies to develop new and more digital programs. Those companies include restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, Delta Air Lines, industrial distributors Genuine Parts Company and W.W. Grainger, and conglomerates Siemens AG and Koch Industries. “Supply chain leaders are trying to unlock the potential of current and future technologies, and we believe collaborating with the best minds will help drive innovation at a faster pace,” Heath says.

Georgia-Pacific and other companies consider Atlanta a burgeoning supply chain hub for several reasons. More than two dozen companies with large supply chain programs, including The Home Depot Inc. and The Coca Cola Co., are headquartered in the region. Some of the biggest supply chain technology vendors such as Manhattan Associates also are based there.

“We are connected to the world by the fastest-growing port and second busiest container exporter in the United States (Savannah), three major interstates and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport,” says Ben Harris, director of supply chain, advanced manufacturing, and economic development at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. He notes that shipments from Atlanta can reach 80% of the U.S. within two hours by air and within two days by truck.

The Point A Center for Supply Chain Innovation will occupy 23,000 square feet of space in the Georgia-Pacific headquarters in Atlanta. Later the center will include 30,000 square feet of warehouse space to test new digital technologies. Georgia-Pacific has yet to say what specific individual supply chain and B2B e-commerce challenges it’s looking to resolve, and it has not announced a timetable and budget for updating its systems and programs.

But Georgia-Pacific is looking for a new e-commerce executive and investing in better technology for its more than 40 manufacturing plants and 11 mills in the U.S. and elsewhere. In February the company announced it will build a new softwood lumber production facility in Warren County, Ga., on property adjacent to its existing lumber mill. Construction of the $135 million, 340,000‐square foot, technologically advanced mill is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2018 with an anticipated startup in spring 2019.

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“We are figuring out how to go from a 20th century manufacturer and into a 21st century knowledge-based company,” Georgia-Pacific CEO Christian Fischer says.

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