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The Challenge

At first glance, the paper packaging industry might not seem to demand the latest technology. However, the team at Wisconsin Converting Inc. (WCI) knows the right solutions give it a competitive edge. Joshua Giese, Director of IT at WCI explained, “Innovation is what we strive for. Our president understands technology and understands how vital it is in driving sound business decisions with data.”

Giese is fascinated by the reaction of vendors and new employees that visit WCI. “People are amazed at the amount of technology we have invested in for a company our size,” he said.

BAQs are very powerful. Before Epicor, we essentially had hand generated Excel reports that required additional manual entry, and it wasn’t real-time. With BAQs, I have reporting on-demand; I can even spin up a BAQ during a meeting if there is relevant data we are currently discussing.

Wisconsin Converting sells paper packaging solutions for retail and industrial use through more than 1,400 distributors across North America. The company specializes in short and medium run packaging products and takes pride in offering custom print bags with low minimums for smaller businesses that find it difficult to source personalized products. In line with WCI’s commitment to sustainability, the company also manufactures economically and environmentally sensitive alternatives to traditional shipping supplies.

Giese shared that WCI has more than tripled in size since he joined the company over a decade ago. “When I joined, we were 50 strong; today we are at 150+.” A key obstacle to that growth was the lack of an ERP system. Giese divulged, “Our manufacturing operations and front office teams were not connected, which meant that we were plagued by the need for duplicate entries and maintenance. We realized the system was not scalable beyond 50 people.”

A Flexible, Robust, Informative Solution

Epicor Kinetic was selected from a shortlist of three solutions. Giese revealed, “The deciding factor was Epicor’s framework having the flexibility to make changes in-house. Other systems typically require the OEM or a VAR to make changes. This could take weeks or even months for a change, hindering the rapid roll-out of process improvements.”

A feature Giese particularly appreciates are Epicor Kinetic BAQs (Business Activity Query). He elaborated, “BAQs are very powerful. Before Epicor, we essentially had hand generated Excel reports that required additional manual entry, and it wasn’t real-time. With BAQs, I have reporting on-demand; I can even spin up a BAQ during a meeting if there is relevant data we are currently discussing.”

On the shop floor, machine operators can check material queues, currents schedule, and job requirements. Thanks to an integration with WCI’s PLCs using Epicor Functions and REST, supervisors can observe machine speeds, run times, and quality of output in real-time. They can monitor downtime and move people to another machine if needed. Using BAQ dashboards, managers can easily check hours planned for a job versus actual time associated with that job, which tells us how efficiently we are running.

Other WCI teams benefit, too. “On the shop floor, machine operators can check material queues, currents schedule, and job requirements. Thanks to an integration with WCI’s PLCs using Epicor Functions and REST, supervisors can observe machine speeds, run times, and quality of output in real-time. They can monitor downtime and move people to another machine if needed. Using BAQ dashboards, managers can easily check hours planned for a job versus actual time associated with that job, which tells us how efficiently we are running,” Giese commented.

Advanced Visibility Boosts Productivity

Wisconsin Converting recently onboarded a sister company into Epicor Kinetic, coming from a decades old terminal based ERP. Giese highlighted how much the team at the sister plant has enjoyed using Epicor Kinetic so far; “They have really enjoyed how easy it is to find the information they need for day-to-day operations”.

“The enhanced view we get with Epicor Kinetic across our processes has been a key contributor to the increase in productivity we’ve experienced.” Giese cited a specific spike directly related to COVID-19: “The number of restaurant takeout bags, lunch sacks, and mailing bags being ordered was a challenge to rise to; Epicor helped identify bottlenecks and enabled us to address them.”

Materials planning was another area of significant process improvement. Giese acknowledged, “In effect, inventory was run on gut feelings and Excel spreadsheets. We purchased based on the previous year demand, completely independent of actual demand. We were often over- or under-purchasing.”

He continued, “Deploying Epicor helps us understand our business in a far more meaningful way.”

Efficiency and Insight Drive Better Business

Wisconsin Converting also deployed Epicor Quick Ship to streamline shipping. Giese disclosed, “A majority of our orders are shipped via UPS so not having double entry between WorldShip, the carrier’s shipping software, and Epicor using Epicor Quick Ship seemed a no brainer.”

The team at WCI appreciates the elimination of double entries—first into its own system and then into WorldShip. Giese noted, “Epicor Quick Ship is terrific in that we don’t have to think about it: It just works and there’s now no need to maintain two separate systems.” He mentioned that Epicor helped WCI with grouping and sorting of orders for more efficient and environmentally friendly shipping. “We can easily identify if we have five separate orders going to the same address and send everything together.”

Epicor Quick Ship is terrific in that we don’t have to think about it: It just works and there’s now no need to maintain two separate systems.

Giese also recognized the Epicor DMT (Data Migration Tool) in simplifying the complexity of integrating the new company. He described, “The sister company manufactures similar products to WCI, so I copied all the foundational processes to enable us to be up and running immediately.” And the reception has been very positive. “The team at the new company absolutely loves Epicor. The functionality and access to information is amazing.”

Giese is exploring the possibility of RFID integration between vendors and WCI, to streamline receiving and material movements. He reflected, “We can mold Epicor Kinetic to our processes. It gives us the freedom to run our business our way, guiding us towards increased net cash flow, optimized inventory and WIP, and reduced operating expense.”

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Company Facts

  • Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • Specialist Industry: Packaging Manufacturing
  • Website: www.wcibags.com

Challenges

  • Lack of manufacturing operations / front office alignment
  • Absence of accurate, timely inventory management
  • Inability to access real-time reporting and insights

Benefits

  • Amplified productivity via integrated system
  • Advanced inventory management
  • Targeted insights drive process enhancements
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