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Celebrating 40 Years of Cascades & the Tissue Paper Mill Operation in Kingsey Falls


June 1, 2004
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Cascades Inc. was founded 40 years ago and stands as a North American leader in the production, conversion and marketing of paper products such as tissue papers, fine papers and packaging products. Internationally the company employs 15,000 people…

Cascades Inc. was founded 40 years ago and stands as a North American leader in the production, conversion and marketing of paper products such as tissue papers, fine papers and packaging products. Internationally the company employs 15,000 people with operations not only in Canada, but also in the United States, Mexico, France, England, Germany and Sweden. Cascades recycles more than two million tons of paper and board annually, supplying the majority of its fibre requirements. The company’s strengths include deinking technology, sustained research and development and vast experience in recycling. One would be hard pressed to separate the company name, Cascades, from the family name, Lemaire. Three brothers, Alain, Bernard, Laurent and their father have been closely linked with the firm’s success from its onset.

Papiers Cascades Inc., as it was then known, was founded in 1964 in Kingsey Falls by the Lemaires. To honour the 40th year of operation (on March 26, 2004), the company, with the three brothers present, inaugurated its new information technology centre, built at a cost of three million dollars. The new IT facility’s mission is to enhance synergies amongst Cascades’ 60 or more IT developers with those of all the corporate groups formerly spread out in various locations. Cascades plans to develop its own software in a variety of fields, such as accounting, finance, human resources, warehouse logistics, transport management and production management. Building for the future has always been a Cascades trademark, and the new IT centre, appropriately named in honour of Laurent Lemaire, symbolizes the company’s resolve as it approaches its 41st year of operation.

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The tissue group is a major business sector of the Cascades group, and this month we focus on one of the mills located in the home-base of Kingsey Falls, QC. The Cascades tissue group is a major producer of tissue paper for the retail, commercial and jumbo roll markets. The Kingsey Falls operation is just one of four mills located in Quebec. With three other mills in Canada and ten in the United States, Cascades easily services a customer base that spans North America.

On March 11, 2004, the company announced the acquisition of a tissue mill in Memphis, Tennessee, which includes a paper machine, converting lines and a deinking pulp mill. Over-all tissue capacity will increase by approximately 40,000 short tons per year.

“The new acquisition represents a great opportunity for us to secure good assets at a fair price, but more importantly, it is in line with our current development strategy,” said Suzanne Blanchet, president and chief executive officer of Cascades’ Tissue Group. “(It) will enhance our presence in the southern United States, further strengthening our ability to serve North American customers coast to coast.”

There is no doubt that the Cascades Tissue Group ranks among the best in North America, but the company as a whole is equally respected for its corporate philosophy governing values.

Respect and commitment are the central values of the Cascades culture and philosophy. The company prides itself on its commitment to promoting personal development and quality of life, not just for its employees, but also for the communities that surround their 160 operations around the world. The corporate culture based on workforce respect and commitment has been the management philosophy since the early days and, in many ways, has been an important engine for continued growth and financial performance for Cascades.

It was into this type of environment that mill manager Paule Lavigne first stepped, during the summer of 1985 as a part-time employee. She has built a reputation as a leader with a unique style that balances production requirements with people skills.

“I try to create an equilibrium between the two, always making sure that I am close to the people that I am working with,” she said. “I consider myself lucky in many ways, because my career grew at Cascades step by step.”

A graduate of chemical engineering from Laval University in Quebec, Lavigne was appointed mill manager of the Cascades Tissue Group in Kingsey Falls in September of 1999, in what she refers to as a “12 year day-by-day evolution in my career.” Her talkative style, wit, and strong sense of humour make her a natural leader, complimenting the core corporate values that Cascades stands for.

“I believe in the human side of work, and (in) creating a balance between production and people”, she added. Lavigne admitted that her favourite part of the day entails getting a smile or a simple handshake from the over 180 employees on the floor. “I am close to the people I work with, and I have learned much about life in my work (place).”

Nathalie Bourget, from the accounting department has known Lavigne for 11 years and applauds her as “a person who speaks from her heart. As a woman in a man’s world, she has made a big difference in this mill, and I am proud to have her as my boss.”

“She has a job to do with so many different types of employees, but she never forgets to extend her special touch,” said Glen Baker, mechanic at the mill. Bourget added, “When things need to be said, she does it clearly, explaining from ‘a to z’, and that is why people respect her.”

Take this, for an example. To reward the mechanics and acknowledge their extra efforts during a major shutdown, Lavigne, who was the superintendent, arranged with the mill manager for the department to attend a Montreal Expos game at the Olympic Stadium. Baker said, “I will never forget how special she made us all feel, and that is not all. There was another occasion when she gave all the members of our Christmas Party organizing committee a Cascades gold pin just to thank us for our work.”

There are many sincere smiles and greetings when Lavigne walks through the mill, but as she expressed, “it’s simply a question of prioritising what is important at the moment, and to me the people are very important.” When asked whether her style is easier to implement because she is a woman, she reflected and answered honestly, “at Cascades they believe in people, men and women equally, and it is this (quality) that makes it easier for me.”

The balance that Paule Lavigne brings to the workplace extends to her home life, where her “pleasure and priority”, as she called it, are her three children. The adventure of family, her passion for the piano and her love of reading, round out a full life.

Looking into the future, Lavigne is confident that even with competition from around the world and rising energy costs, there is room for strong optimism for the industry. “When you have a dedicated work team, continuing performance improvement, optimization and organization, you cannot go wrong,” she said.


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