A great example of a Smart Factory in the tissue paper sector

Innovations that ensure the efficiency and sustainability of the entire tissue supply chain. The successful collaboration between our companies and Sofidel Group.

One of the world leaders in the tissue paper production market: Sofidel

Sofidel is one of the world's leading manufacturing groups in the production of toilet and household paper; from the main headquarters in Porcari, in the province of Lucca (Italy), the company manages and coordinates the activity of businesses in the production and conversion of paper, located throughout Europe and the United States. These are paper mills that produce jumbo rolls of tissue paper, paper factories that manufacture finished products, and offices that manage sales, logistics and services. Sofidel has internationalized its business by focusing on a technological and strategic approach aimed at optimizing the entire supply chain, ensuring maximum safety and total sustainability of production and logistics processes. 

The Sofidel Group’s largest, most modern and sustainable plant has been recently inaugurated (2018, October) in Circleville, Ohio (USA). The launch marked a milestone in the company's development and growth strategy for the United States, where Sofidel has been operating since 2012 and is currently present in seven states (Nevada, Florida, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Ohio and Pennsylvania). The new plant, the company's first greenfield investment in the United States, is an integrated plant that includes both the paper mill phase (from pulp to paper) and the converting phase (which leads to the finished product). 

After the success of Sofidel’s greenfield conversion plant in Sweden, inaugurated in 2015, thanks to the collaboration with our companies, the Group again entrusted Elettric80 and BEMA with the optimization of all the logistic processes in its new production site in Ohio. The plant is an outstanding 4.0 factory which is highly automated and integrated, from raw material reception to truck loading. Our companies have developed a system for the automatic transfer of paper reels from the paper mill to the converting lines, using laser-guided vehicles (LGVs).  Moreover, we provide complete automation of finished product handling through the Smart Store automatic warehouse, which is capable of handling more than 50,000 pallets of manufactured goods. This choice enabled space savings of up to 40%. The complete optimization of logistics processes has further enabled Sofidel to achieve important objectives throughout the supply chain: total sustainability of the solutions implemented, reduction of waste and damage to the finished product, full compliance with deadlines and greater customer satisfaction.

The logistics of the future is customer-oriented

“Overcoming the challenges posed by e-commerce demands great vision and the ability to understand the needs of tomorrow's market.” The following is an interview with Luigi Lazzareschi, CEO of the Sofidel Group, one of the leading manufacturers of paper for hygienic and domestic use worldwide (tissue paper). The Sofidel Group has been working with Elettric80 and BEMA around the world for over twenty years on the design and construction of fully automated and integrated Industry 4.0 factories.  

In your opinion, what will be the most important future developments in logistics in the European and American markets? Will the two markets change simultaneously?
“As a result of the dramatic changes triggered by digitalization and e-commerce, logistics are becoming more and more customer-oriented. This applies both to the European and American markets. The industry must bear in mind these changes in perspective when implementing strategies for designing new distribution models. Today, business is increasingly global and committed to continuous improvement in the services it offers to end consumers. Having said that, the European model of logistics is more varied and mixed than its American counterpart and could be in a better position to respond to processes of future optimization. We might, therefore, see the two distribution systems moving closer together.” 

With this in mind, what factors will be most decisive in determining the solutions and technologies needed to develop fully integrated and automated factories?
“Corporate strategies will be influenced by how logistics is managed in the future. As I have already said, given the focus on customer service, we shall have to look at lead time reduction, information analysis, product availability and personalization, and product storage methods. These are the areas that will see the greatest change. Companies can create added value by investing in systems and technologies that give them greater control over their products and processes. Interconnectivity, flexibility and response times will be decisive inside and outside the factory.” 

On the subject of distribution, do you think we shall see direct delivery to end customers without passing through distribution centers and points of sale?
“Distribution will certainly be different. Deliveries must become more personal and arrive either at the consumer's home or at a nearby distribution point that can act as a connected, digital space. We can carry on using the present road and rail model with improvements in the areas of driverless vehicles and electric trains, for example. Or, we can revolutionize distribution using innovations that are currently under development, such as predictive shipping and delivery by drones. A lot will depend on what the big-league e-commerce players, like Amazon and Alibaba, do and on what new technologies we shall have at our disposal.  Logistics within the factory will depend on logistics outside. A number of different factors are in play, so there is no standard solution. We shall have to seize opportunities as they arise.” 

How does your new greenfield investment in the United States fit in with your plans for growth?
“Before the construction of our Circleville plant in Ohio, we had five medium-size production sites covering the needs of the South and West Coasts reasonably well. When we decided on the greenfield investment, our aim was to serve the East Coast too. The new plant is an Industry 4.0 factory, fully automated and integrated from raw material reception to truck loading, with advanced technology developed in collaboration with Elettric80 and BEMA permitting extremely flexible logistics. It forms part of a plan, aimed at providing full U.S. market coverage.” 

How has partnership with Elettric80 and BEMA influenced the evolution of your group?
“Over the last twenty years, the Sofidel Group has implemented a major development process. Elettric80 and BEMA began designing and producing solutions to revolutionize factory logistics and make old technology obsolete at, more or less, the same time. Let us say that our two Groups have developed and grown together in response to the latest changes in the market.”