How is Mid America Paper Recycling meeting mill customers’ needs? One paper mill in the Midwest describes why Mid America is one of its top picks in dialing in the mill’s recycling needs.
When it comes to Mid America Paper Recycling’s (MAPR) sourcing strategies, its long history, experience, insight and relationships give it the tools it needs to grow “value streams” with its suppliers and provide its paper mill customers with reliable service.
A preferred mill supplier, MAPR understands paper mill operations, the equipment mills use. Key to its success, MAPR learns each customer’s particular “recipe” — the specific type of material customers prefer to convert into new products — and scours its top supplier sources for that blend to provide mills with the best quality material.
Customizing solutions for growth
MAPR designs recycling solutions for client partners that align with their individual growth opportunities. “For example, we meet regularly with the team at Kevin’s mill each quarter, setting goals and objectives with them,” explains MAPR’s President Paul Pirkle. “We then follow through to completion. We also review what we accomplished and what will move the ball downfield. This proactive communication is key to continually improving our customer relationships and is a differentiator.” MAPR works to make its customers successful, Pirkle emphasizes.
“We look out for their well-being when we seek out a new supply and provide our suppliers with better reporting and education on material quality we need to provide. We use that information to present new opportunities to our mill customers.” What’s sweet and what’s not As part of the Midwestern mill’s supply base, MAPR knows the mills’ “sweet spots,” confirms Kevin, one procurement manager/buyer, at the Midwestern mill. “They know the kinds of recycled paper material we want and the facilities that source it; they don’t guess,” he says. “At the onset with a vendor, we explain what our supply expectations are: clean, contaminant-free and high-quality used OCC #11 brown corrugated containers. Mid America knows what we want and especially what we don’t want, which is the lower quality end of our requirements list.”
Finding just the right mix for each mill means score-carding, tracking, evaluating, organizing, following up, keeping a keen eye and much more. The MAPR team has its own internal material grading system and specifications on what each mill won’t accept. “We have a good idea of the quality this mill looks for from us,” Pirkle says. “When we go to a supply point, we assess all of the material available and factor in what’s best suited to each mill we supply, document those requirements, and that’s what we deliver.”
Regular communication with the mill team is important. For example, if MAPR finds a load of corrugated medium that’s “on the edge” of its customer’s quality standards, it sends photos of the loads for the mill to review first-hand. “Mid America’s good at idea sharing and streamlining its freight process and getting things dialed in,” Kevin adds. “We won’t accept incoming corrugated with a lot of contamination and comingled materials in it — much more than just corrugated — plastic bottles, paper cups, aluminum trays and other things from the larger recycling facilities. Mid America knows not to source certain recovery sites for us.”
Market impact on sourcing With the current market fluctuations in pricing and supplies, Kevin acknowledges that his company can be highly selective. “We’re on a quality kick, but these days, we’re especially aware of what comes in the door. China and other countries are very involved in the market right now, so our staff pays close attention.” Market changes are impacting supply because currently, there is less quality available, Pirkle notes. “We keep at it, presenting our mill customers with what will fit their quality expectations. If that falls off, then we hurt the trust we have built with them. We make a point to look out for their best interests when we are reviewing material from our suppliers.”
Contaminated loads primarily come from MRFs that process mixed waste, Pirkle explains. “Some MRFs have systems in place that will remove most contaminants [also known as clean MRFs]. If they don’t have those systems, we know our mill customers won’t approve of those loads. If the recovery facility is nearby, then we are allowed to ship the mill a trial load. That way, Kevin’s group can test run the material and see if it would be acceptable.” Many paper mills like Kevin’s appreciates such Mid America services. “Mid America has been a good partner,” Kevin affirms.
The mill has a couple of main supplier groups Kevin categorizes into “buckets” in terms of quality. “We really don’t have to worry too much about Mid America’s supply quality. It’s kind of on auto pilot with them,” he notes. “They’re certainly one of our consistent providers. Quality raw materials plays the most important role in how we base a fair price. Mid America doesn’t dabble in lower quality, and that fits right into what we want in raw materials. I wish others would take the approach Mid America does. Certainly, other suppliers have quality management parameters in place. But Mid America is forward thinking by communicating with their supply base and mill customers. They’re out in front, leading the pack in terms of initiatives, transparency, being innovative and creating the next big thing.”