March 8, 2017  
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Mill Management and Teamwork

TAPPI recently caught up with Scott LeBeau, resident mill manager with Graphic Packaging International in Kalamazoo, MI, to ask him what he felt was important to managing a successful mill. Here’s what he had to say.

T: What do you feel are some key elements required to successfully manage and develop a strong team?

SL: The team needs clear goals and expectations and must maintain open and constant communication. Regular measurement of progress and the ability to adjust when things are not on track are vital. Also, it’s necessary to understand the core competencies of your team and to be aware of your blind spots.

T: What has been the greatest challenge you have faced managing your mill?

SL: Filling the pipeline of talent. As we have turnover and openings, it is challenging to find strong candidates in a timely manner, where you get a fit for both them and the organization.

T: Your team has attended PaperCon in the past. How has PaperCon helped you and/or your mill achieve your goals?

SL: A couple things stick out. First, the PIMA management sessions have been insightful. Most of the people who have gone have commented on the value of those sessions, including the roundtables. A lot of recent focus has been on retaining young professionals and making sure they’re engaged. Everyone is focused on retaining and attracting good young talent.

Also, the exhibit is a good opportunity to informally get updated on what’s new and going on from a technology standpoint. We don’t get time to talk to vendors at our own facilities in that kind of way, so it’s a great format. The social aspect is important as well.

T: What would you say to mill managers who are unsure whether PaperCon offers enough benefits to justify the cost of sending their team?

SL: If they’re uneasy or unsure, something to think about is to send a small group, go along with them for part of the time, and when you get back to your location, discuss what you gained and how you can use what you learned at your facility. If you’re part of an organization that has multiple mills, select a multisite group to attend together and take advantage of the mill program (see sidebar).

T: How has the market changed since you started with Graphic Packaging? What changes has your mill made to stay competitive in the future?

SL: In our segment of the paper industry, there’s been consolidation of the market. Packaging is strong, but a lot of challenges still hold true. You have to execute every day and every year to stay competitive. I don’t think a tremendous amount has changed, to be honest with you.

T: PaperCon’s theme is “Renew – Rethink – Redefine the Future.” If you apply this theme to your mill, where have you renewed your mill operations to be more efficient? Have you found that in the past few years you have also needed to rethink your processes or the marketplace in order to stay competitive? How will your mill help redefine the future?

SL: We focus on refining how we do things constantly. The concept of continuous improvement is part of who we are. We’re always looking at tweaking and improving our processes and our methods.

T: Any other final thoughts?

SL: One reason a lot of us are attracted to this industry is there is a lot going on. We need to balance the daily work with longer term strategic planning. You and your team have to be dynamic to make it all happen. Balancing those challenges is very rewarding, and it makes it gratifying when it all comes together.

T: Thank you, Scott, for sharing your views!

About PaperCon’s Mill Program

PaperCon’s multi-track technical program is developed and presented by working professionals from every level of the pulp, paper, and packaging industries. The conference offers mill attendees a wealth of information, covering everything from the latest technologies and processes to hands-on training and workshops, all designed to help mills stay competitive in today’s marketplace. PaperCon 2017 will be April 23-26, 2017 in Minneapolis, MN.

To make sure that as many mill-based industry professionals as possible can access this valuable content, PaperCon offers special registration rates for teams. Pulp, paper, and tissue mills can bring a set number of employees from a single mill, multiple mills, or a corporate location to PaperCon 2017 for a special discounted registration rate. This means your entire mill team may attend for an hour, a day, or the entire conference—and each individual can take advantage of the topics related to his or her job.

You can give your entire team access to all of these PaperCon features:

• PaperCon Trade Fair (more than 100 vendor exhibits)
• Papermaking Track
• Coating Track
• PIMA Management Track
• Networking Receptions
• RPTA Production-Technical Seminar
• OpEx Reliability Workshop
• NETInc Nonwovens Track
• TAPPI and PIMA Committee Meetings
• …and much more!

To qualify, the mill/location must register through one TAPPI member who works at the location, using the PaperCon Mill Registration Form, by March 30, 2017. For complete program details and registration form, visit


For a modest investment of $174, receive more than US$ 1000 in benefits in return.
Visit for more details.