Cascades Tissue Group
By Pulp & Paper Canada
This month we travel to the South Shore of the St-Lawrence River to the city of Candiac, QC, home to the head office of the Cascades Tissue Group, as well as a mill whose manager, Jean Fortin, who...
By Pulp & Paper Canada
This month we travel to the South Shore of the St-Lawrence River to the city of Candiac, QC, home to the head office of the Cascades Tissue Group, as well as a mill whose manager, Jean Fortin, who shies away from the spotlight. “The success of our mill is based on the Cascades’ philosophy and the group of dedicated people, every single one of them, who make this operation run smoothly,” said Fortin. We explore Candiac, and the mill through the eyes of Fortin. We also focus on Cascades and how its core value of human resources management has sustained it through what president and CEO Alain Lemaire refers to as “challenging times.” Cascades has managed to successfully channel the energy and talent of its employees to build a company with a strong foundation capable of adapting during changing times. In the past 12 months, as part of a 2004 strategic initiative, there have been many changes at Cascades.
The Cascades’ culture
Cascades Inc. was formed in 1964 and primarily focuses on the producing, transforming and marketing of packaging products, tissue papers and fine papers. Its expertise in recycling and deinking fibres is widely recognized. With over 14,000 employees spread over North America, Europe and Asia, the head office in Kingsey Falls, QC continues to adhere to a management philosophy that has been the foundation of the company for 42 years. Open door policies, profit sharing incentives, continuing education programs and the promotion of a balanced life are cornerstones of what is referred to as the Cascades culture. “The philosophy is based not only on treating people correctly, but on giving them responsibility for their area of expertise. I fit in perfectly with this style,” said Fortin, “since it is the essence of what the Lemaires created in ’64 and it is still intact.”
The culture is based on workforce respect and commitment, as well as a strategy that places importance on social responsibility and preservation of resources. While it might sound ideal, the truth is that it is widely believed that Cascades’ philosophy with regard to its human resources management has been instrumental in building a successful, world-class presence on the pulp and paper stage.
Alain Lemaire, president and chief executive officer stated in February 2006, “We are not satisfied with this year’s (2005) financial performance, however we feel that the company, with the solid support of the employees, showed good progression on the strategic initiatives identified in early 2004.” Despite the challenging times for the industry as a whole, with volatile energy costs, rising interest rates, increasing foreign competition and the ever-climbing value of the Canadian dollar, Cascades is a company on the move. In late April 2006, adding to its North American boxboard operations, it acquired certain assets of the paperboard division of Simkins Industries in Ridgefield, NT and New Haven, CT. Earlier in the same month, Cascades announced an agreement with Caraustar Industries Inc. to acquire its coated recycled board mill in Sprague, also in the state of Connecticut. The mill is a state-of-the-art facility with an annual production capacity of nearly 180,000 short tons. A month earlier, in March, as part of the company’s ongoing rationalization process, the Cascades Tissue Group closed its conversion plant in Pickering, ON, affecting 66 employees.
On May 4, 2006, Cascades reported net earnings of $6 million for the quarter ending on March 31, 2006. Compared this to a loss of $1 million for the same period in 2005, this is significant, and Lemaire added, “We expect that the seasonal pick-up in activity in most of our business segments will positively impact demand in the second quarter.” Restructuring and change are applauded at Cascades as tools for optimizing effectiveness and profitability.
The Cascades Tissue Group
Our focus this month is the Cascades Tissue Group, which operates five mills in Canada, one in Alberta, and four in the province of Quebec. Rounding out the operation are locations in the US, as far west as Oregon, and as far south as Tennessee. Collectively, they represent a major producer of tissue paper targeting the retail, commercial and institutional and jumbo roll markets across North America. In addition to its own trademark, Cascades, the mills create products that are offered under various brand names such as Doucelle and Capri for the retail market, and New Horizon, North River, Dcor and Perkins for the commercial and industrial markets. The company’s aim has always been to develop greener products that continue to challenge the competition, and to remain at the leading edge of technology. In October 2005, its North River tissue paper received Green Seal certification, meeting rigorous standards required for environmental protection. Through its optimal use of recycled fibres and its use of process chlorine-free products, Cascades’ North River product line was developed to illustrate that products can be very high quality, as well as being well designed ecologically.
The city of Candiac
Candiac is home to the tissue mill which has been operated by Cascades since 1995, but which first opened its doors in 1963, a mere six years after the town was officially founded. Located on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, opposite Montreal, with its present population of over 15,000, it proudly calls itself “Une ville vivre en toutes saisons” (a city for all seasons). Locals still boast about the 1998 Domus Prize, which Candiac received when it was named the Best Municipality of the Year by the l’Association Provinciale des Constructeurs d’Habitations du Qubec (APCHQ). Mill manager Fortin refers to the city as a home with natural beauty that he enjoys tremendously. “I am lucky to live two minutes away from where I work, allowing me to spend quality time with my family.”
The town of Candiac was established on January 31, 1957 when a group of Canadian and European investors acquired approximately 2,500 acres of land, the majority of which was not cultivated farmland. The location was considered prime, and by 1958, firms began to set up in the town’s specially built industrial zone. From its initial 320 residences, Candiac has grown and prospered rapidly.
Mill manager Jean Fortin, is no stranger to Candiac or to Cascades, having spent the last 13 years of his career in the city. What is unusual is that his background is in human resources, and within the Cascades group of companies he has worked at various levels, including on the dossier that lead to the acquisition of the mill in Candiac. Two years ago, he was appointed mill manager by the president of the Cascades Tissue Group, Suzanne Blanchet. “Before I accepted the position, I took two to three weeks to reflect,” Fortin recalled. “Not being an engineer, what I knew best were the people, not the technology of making paper. The people were young, talented, and knew their jobs better than anybody else. Since over 50% of the issues at a mill are people-related, I knew the challenge of leading them as the mill manager was right for me.” Normand Ren, division controller, has been with Cascades for ten years, working in both France and Quebec and has been a longtime colleague of Fortin. “When I asked Fortin, (in his capacity as human resources manager) who the new mill manager would be, I never expected him to say the words, ‘It’s me!’ Ren added, “In the past two years, his honest and straightforward style has had a great effect on our mill. He embraces the spirit of team-work with sincerity and never wants to be at the forefront.” Fortin admits that he walks into his job with a smile every morning. He also departs with a broader smile, I suspect, for having represented the values of respect and commitment that the company has stood for, for the past 42 years.
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Facts, Figures and Faces
Candiac Mill at a Glance
First year of operation: 1963
Year of Cascades acquisition: 1995
Production capacity: 65,800 metric tons annually
Commercial and industrial house brands: Doucelle, Dcor, North River, New Horizon, Cascades
Employees: Approximately 200
Markets: Canada, United States
Cascades Tissue Group Locations
Quebec – Candiac, Kingsey Falls, Lachute, Laval
Alberta – Calgary
Arizona – Kingman (Arizona Inc.)
New York – Mechanicville (New York Inc), Waterford (New York Inc.)
North Carolina – Rockingham (North Carolina Inc.)
Oregon – St. Helens (Oregon Inc.)
Pennsylvania – Pittston (Pennsylvania Inc.), Ransom (Pennsylvania Inc.)
Tennessee – Brownsville (IFC Disposibles Inc.), Memphis (Tennessee Inc.)
Wisconsin – Eau Claire (Wisconsin Inc.)