As Domtar, Resolute Forest Products and Paper Excellence continue integrating into one company within the Paper Excellence Group, their legacy businesses have restructured into three business units — Paper and Packaging, Pulp and Tissue and Wood Products.

The Paper and Packaging business unit is led by Steve Henry whose career has spanned diverse roles in strategy, project management and general management in corporate and mill environments. He joined Domtar as general manager of the Hawesville, Kentucky, paper mill in 2011. Most recently, he led Domtar’s entry into the packaging business and was responsible for building and leading the business structure needed to produce and sell containerboard with a winning customer value proposition.

Steve recently shared his thoughts about the paper and packaging business’ 2023 performance and 2024 outlook.
What are the paper and packaging business’ main objectives for 2024?
First and foremost, it is to continue our safety journey. Nothing we do across our enterprise is worth getting hurt. In 2024, we want to reinforce our position as the essential paper supplier to the best customers. To do that, we intend to maintain our leading market share in communications papers and continue to evaluate ways to grow our thermal and specialty offerings. Earlier this year, we announced our decision to indefinitely curtail paper operations at the Ashdown Mill to align our production capacity with our customer demand. On the pulp side, our focus is to grow our softwood pulp productivity and have a safe, successful restart of the Ashdown pulp dryer. All of this requires a commitment to our customers as well as manufacturing excellence.

How is the entry into the packaging market?

In January, we celebrated the first anniversary of the Kingsport Mill producing its first roll of 100-percent recycled containerboard. The mill is now home to the second-largest recycled containerboard machine in North America and is the largest manufacturer of recycled products in the state of Tennessee. We’re very excited about our entry into the containerboard market. We are proud of the progress we made over the course of the year — and recognize there is more work to be done. Our customers are pleased with our product; we appreciate their ongoing support. Our focus for 2024 is to ramp the mill up to full productivity and to continue to build our domestic book of business with independent converting customers. We are also evaluating other potential future containerboard conversion projects within our network.

What are your thoughts on the integration with Paper Excellence and Resolute?

I’m grateful for the time and energy our teams have put into the integration efforts. I’m excited and encouraged by the level of collaboration and sharing that I see every day across the business.
The integration effort is a tremendous learning opportunity for all of us. I’ve been through several large mergers and acquisitions in my career, and I’ve personally learned and grown in each of those situations. We’ve done an excellent job in sharing what we do well and in learning from others to really accelerate our continuous improvement as a team. I’m proud of what we accomplished in 2023, and it will continue to be one of our key focus areas for 2024.

What kind of results has the integration yielded for the business?

I’m particularly proud on the customer front. We’ve really come together as a team and made sure that we’re going to the customer with one face and with one commercial strategy. The commercial and manufacturing operations teams have also made significant progress optimizing our mill network’s capabilities by transferring production of different product grades to better meet customer needs. While there is still work to be done, the teams continue to focus on putting the right products at the right locations to optimize our capabilities and cost structure. It is all made possible by the flexibility within the system created by our combined breadth and scope.

It’s also important to highlight the fabulous job our global procurement team has done to leverage our collective spend by consolidating our spending with fewer suppliers to negotiate better pricing, better terms and better service.

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