PORTLAND, OR, June 4, 2012 (RISI) -One of Brad Vandehey's first assignments at Cascade Corporation was to design a paper roll clamp product. Cascade has been producing hydraulic attachments since the mid-1950s and when Vandehey joined the company they had just finished revamping early product lines. The company learned the hard way that the best approach was to be deliberate in the way a new product is developed, focusing on the right design from the beginning. The goal is to have an ideal finished version before it hits the marketplace.
"I was extremely impressed by the sophisticated design and testing that was core to the product development process that we still follow to this day," says Vandehey, now a product manager with Cascade. "It involves a very thorough job of testing, validating the design and knowing what is desired in the marketplace; all to make sure that when you get a Cascade product it will last for a long time."
Paper rolls can weigh from several hundred to several thousand pounds. Bulky and heavy, these products require handling by a lift truck and any number of a variety of modern clamps and attachments. But calculating a paper roll's weight can be difficult to say the least, even to the most well-trained and experienced operator. Improvements in clamp technology have decreased the amount of damage done to paper rolls over the past few decades. However, clamps by themselves leave too many opportunities for damage up in the air.
As clamp technology matured, the issue of damage to paper rolls and shrinkage during transport became a top focus for Vandehey. His latest efforts have been on clamp attachments that give more precise control to the operator when handling paper rolls of different weights. This means continuing to work closely with customers to understand the various problems they encounter in their business. The key, explains Vandehey, is the ability to communicate with the customer.
"We did a lot of research and built a lot of stuff behind the scenes," says Vandehey, "but it was Madalyn [Piar-Katter] who did a fine job of organizing and bringing to the forefront some of the things we have for the market."
At the time, Cascade was developing a product called Adaptive Force Control (AFC). A highly technical, computerized solution, AFC is a successful damage reduction product in its own right. However, the product is tailored to a specific set of customers and Cascade was selling it to customers who could fully appreciate its value. While AFC was gaining a foothold in the market, Cascade was improving its ability to communicate with the customer and pay attention to the entire supply chain.
"We were starting to put all the pieces together," says Piar-Katter, corporate communications manager at Cascade. "As the market matured, we matured in our ability to communicate with the customer. Our message was to deliver a perfect roll throughout the entire supply chain."
Hydraulic Force Control (HFC) is a groundbreaking part of that message. One of Cascade's newest products, HFC is a damage reduction option for paper roll clamps. The attachment automatically controls the clamp force as proportional to the load weight, using the hydraulics of the lift truck, relieving the driver of determining the correct pressure settings for different rolls sizes. Specifically designed to be easy to install and simple to adjust, HFC is one of the best and most economical answers to reducing damage. Since its introduction, customers are seeing a decrease in damage rolls and roll shrinkage with the addition of a single HFC attachment to their fleet.
Customers say that complaints from key customers often stop once HFC is implemented
Vandehey and Piar-Katter make an excellent team. They are both friendly and affable when talking about a subject that is hardly a favorite topic for anyone in forest products logistics. In Piar-Katter's contagious laugh and Vandehey's sly smile, it's easy to forget how much they understand the intricacies of handling paper rolls through a global supply chain. When explaining HFC, Vandehey may take the lead on the details but Piar-Katter is quick on her own to point out the benefits of communication and collaboration.
"It was our challenge to train the sales force to address everything in the supply chain," says Piar-Katter. "We have to admit that we learned a lot from the European manufacturers and their supply chains. In terms of requirements for damage reduction handling, the European market is more sophisticated than the US market."
Forest products logistics companies transport approximately 350 million tons of paper around the world each year. Excessive clamp force is one of the major causes of damage. As an industry issue, its effect is so widespread that damage estimates are hard to pinpoint. With supply chain estimates of paper waste from 75,000 tons to nearly 3.5 million tons annually, damage to paper rolls could top $100 million. When Cascade's HFC won the 2010 European Fork Lift Truck Association's Environmental Award for Excellence, Dave Petronek, the developer of HFC, said that its primary purpose was simply to reduce product damage. In fact, early adopters of HFC say that complaints from key customers stopped once HFC was implemented.
"HFC is one of those products that takes the driver out of the equation," says Vandehey. "It was preceded by the highly complex, highly successful AFC product, especially in the European community. To this day, large customers still demand that product, all the way from simple clamps to double tower clamps."
To be continued ...Read Part II here.
This article appeared in the Q2 issue of the IFPTA Journal, the professional journal of the International Forest Products Transport Association. The IFPTA Journal is published by RISI.