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Bob Coles, Mill Manager, Augusta Newsprint, Augusta,GA

ANC has been working with Roundstone since 1995 on a mill-wide initiative to improve all aspects of workplace relations and communications. During the period between 1995 and 1999, ANC’s efficiency increased from 88% to 93% and costs decreased significantly with no job losses. Employee satisfaction improved by over 40% and there were significant decreases in safety lost time and absenteeism. (See the case study) Their successes influenced one of the nation’s largest unions, PACE, to adopt an across-the-board preferred partnership approach with management.

But in the glow of their accomplishments, ANC faced the challenge of maintaining momentum. “It’s hard. How do you always make it energetic, enthusiastic and interesting?” asks Bob Collez, ANC mill manager. “We’re making the same rolls of paper day after day. To try to keep up enthusiasm is a challenge.”

But the importance of facing that challenge became vividly clear during the last two years when management noticed key indicators starting to slip again.

Of greatest concern: The quality of paper production began to drop off. Customers noticed. And then the machines themselves began to malfunction. They were stymied. No one could determine how to increase machine efficiency and paper quality. Employees became increasingly frustrated dealing with breakdowns on hot Georgia summer days inside of an even hotter papermaking environment.

“We weren’t communicating what we were trying to do to get machine efficiency up, and I think we left out the employees’ involvement in a lot of that,” admits Joe Coursey, ANC union president of PACE Local # 3-1958.

After many meetings with each other and Roundstone, ANC and Union management realized they once again needed to call on people all over the company to help them.

Trainers from the head office of ANC’s parent company, Abitibi Consolidated, in Montreal assisted them in putting together a multi-disciplinary team of over 30 people. It included everyone from operators to maintenance to management – even several union shop stewards. The team split into several teams, each looking at different areas of the machines. They identified and implemented 72 things they could do to improve the situation.

Opportunities were identified and implemented, ranging from improving the quality and stability of the raw materials or pulp stream, to realignment work on the paper machines. Other results include:

Efficiency has returned to 90+% after dipping down to the mid-80s during the worst of the machine breakdowns
A new safety milestone of 225 days without an accident
Customers report being very pleased with the current product
Perry Willard, ANC union president of PACE Local #3-1504, compares the process of maintaining an enlivened culture with a roller coaster ride with lots of up and downs, even within an overall positive context.

“You’d think after seven years, it would be something that you wouldn’t have to nourish a whole lot and it would kind of grow itself. But it doesn’t. You have to stay on top of it,” says Joe Coursey.

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