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Tue, Sep 22, 2020 13:44
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Week of 22 June 2020: Providing true expediting service to your mill

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Granted, it is a long time since I was internal to a mill as an employee and just maybe this probably has been fixed by now, but I doubt it. I am talking about expediting services. By the way, Amazon provides expediting updates for free on the tiniest of orders--it is part of their overall service. So, do not tell me, purchasing department, you cannot do this.

Back in the day, the mill purchasing department jumped right on expediting if...(1) the day had come when the delivery was promised, (2) you noticed that the delivery had not arrived and (3) you called the purchasing department and screamed at them. Well, no longer are we allowed to scream at people (it was not very effective anyway).

Enlightened companies will have a couple of places you can check on your internal order form. One of these might be "Is the delivery date critical?" The second might be "How many days after ordering would you like us to start checking fulfillment progress?" I do not think we need a question for this because it should go without saying: when the purchasing department starts their expediting activities, they will keep you informed in a timely fashion.

Story (I have told before). We were doing a rebuild starting in May of a certain year. Part of the installation was a new DCS system (is it redundant to say DCS system?). Along about January our chief instrumentation engineer came to me in a panic. This new system was supposed to be shipping soon. He had just called the factory and they had not even started on it yet.

It turns out there was certain work that the representative was supposed to do to get the order moving. However, where the mill was located and where the engineering firm was located were in different representative's territories so they were arguing over who should do the work and how the commission was to be split. As the customer, we were hanging out to dry.

I grabbed the instrument engineer and he and I headed to the airport. Now, he was a non-confrontational sort of person and did not want to be involved in this exercise. My response--you have no choice, I don't know what I am talking about when it comes to this stuff, so you have to be along to tell me what is important and what is not.

We got to the HQ for the supplier the next morning. We had a day long meeting. It was amazing how little they seemed interested in serving their customer--us. However, when the day was over they had made promises about what they would do. They promised to start our project the next day--in a new facility they had in another city about 500 miles away.

As we went to the nearby airport, the instrument engineer was relieved--we had accomplished the task as far as he was concerned, and we were going home. My reaction? No, no, no. We are going to the distant city and we will be there, waiting for them to open their lobby doors tomorrow morning. Crestfallen, he went along. Drastic times call for drastic responses.

We had to make a couple of more trips before startup just to make sure things stayed on track. But I can tell you, that DCS system never became a stumbling block as far as getting the project done on time was concerned.

But a decent purchasing department expediting system could have eliminated all the drama and all the cost to start with.

Expediting can be a way the purchasing department promotes safety. A project or daily consumable arriving on time is less likely to be the progenitor of an accident than is a late shipment.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

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