toilet paper

Tissue Issues

One of the most surprising responses to the COVID-19 pandemic was the sudden hoarding of toilet paper by millions of households. Since Georgia-Pacific’s Consumer Products group is a leading producer of bath tissue in the U.S., responding to that extraordinary demand became an all-hands-on-deck priority.

Jeff Fleck, GP’s chief supply chain officer for Consumer Products, led a three-pronged strategy for dealing with such an unprecedented challenge.

“First,” Fleck said, “we had to transform how we did things on the manufacturing side. You can’t just up your output by double-digits overnight, especially when you’re committed to doing things safely and in keeping with all kinds of added COVID protocols.”

toilet paper roll

GP started by reducing its SKU complexity 50%. “We focused on producing just the core products that were in highest demand. Since so many of our GP PRO customers (hotels, schools, restaurants, theaters) were shut down, we also decided to shift a portion of our away-from-home production capacity over to the retail side. It sounds simple, but both of those changes were unprecedented in our company.”

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The next transformation, which involved distribution, was even more complex. “We increased the shipping capacity at our warehouse locations by 25%, which is huge, and upped the amount of product we shipped directly from our production locations by even more, probably 30%,” Fleck said. “That meant we had to secure a lot of additional freight carriers early on to make sure we could haul so much product.” 

Although it may sound counterintuitive, GP lowered the amount of product in each truckload slightly while increasing the number of shipments. “We call that increasing inventory turns,” Fleck explained. “It meant we could restock empty shelves more often, which was better for customers than leaving them with nothing for days at a time.” 

The third portion of GP’s strategy focused on customer service. “We had to set up extra lines of communication immediately so we could find out what was needed, where and how to get there.” Fleck is especially proud of the Consumer Products group for meeting every commitment for product allocation made during those stressful times. “We lived up to our promises every single month. We weren’t short even once.” The company also arranged to send direct shipments from GP’s plants to customers’ stores, saving time the product would have spent going to and from distribution centers.

“I am extremely proud of our response,” said David Duncan, head of GP’s Consumer Products group. “Our planning, inventory and SKU management, warehouse system, transportation and logistics efforts enabled record levels of product deliveries to our customers. As an integrated team we stepped up to the challenges and opportunities of 2020 and outperformed our competition.”

man in suit
Quotation Mark

“We’ve taken considerable extra precautions in our workplaces to make sure we have a safe and secure environment. We’re following COVID guidelines, practicing social distancing and doing all the things we need to do with sanitation and then really relying on our people to make good decisions. They’ve done a tremendous job.”

Jim Hannan, CEO - Enterprises