You read “First COVID case reported in America” on your phone, not thinking much of it. Why should you, it’s just a regular day in January 2020, right? A couple months later, the world drastically changes. While we have all learned a lot since then, a question that still boggles thousands of minds to this day: What happened to all the toilet paper?
In hindsight, it’s easy to see how the toilet paper shortage of 2020 offered a classic example of supply and demand. With lockdowns causing millions of people to stay home during the day instead of going to work, the demand for toilet paper in the home rose almost immediately.
One paper company, in particular, Georgia Pacific, recognized the increased demand and decided to adapt quickly.
In an interview with the company’s Vice President of IT Digital Transformation, Steven Bakalar talks about three ways analytics helped Georgia-Pacific meet the demands of anxious consumers throughout the pandemic.
As one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of toilet paper, Georgia-Pacific rose to the challenge when the pandemic hit. Whether it was paper towels, toilet paper or building materials, everything was in short supply. It attempted several methods to meet the ever-growing demand, including adding shifts to its manufacturing activities as well as an increased effort on advanced analytics to increase the yield in their facilities. These analytic strategies created very successful outcomes in terms of productivity. “In this case, advanced analytics dramatically changed our productivity," says Bakalar. "In many situations we’ve improved something that we call OEE, or Overall Equipment Efficiency, by 10%.”
In particular, Georgia-Pacific used analytics to reduce unplanned downtime through asset reliability. Substantial reductions in equipment outages also mean workers can be far more productive. Even a year and a half into the pandemic, a lot of products were selling out, including toilet paper.
Meeting the growing demand of consumers during supply chain shortages can put a lot of stress on employees, but analytics can help by improving schedules and boosting confidence in decisions. “Whether it’s the remote engineers, technicians, leaders or operators, they’re spending more time at home because they don’t have to go in when something breaks at night, on a weekend or a third shift," says Bakalar. "And they’re getting to make decisions that are backed up with data that’s not just purely experimental."
All of these factors translate into higher quality products and increased supply, and that translates into profits for Georgia-Pacific. “Across our overall AI and machine learning platform of activities, we’re seeing tangible benefits in productivity and profitability,” says Bakalar.
Olivia Ojeda is an Associate Communications Specialist on the Thought Leadership, Editorial and Content team at SAS. In 2023, she graduated with a degree in Business Administration/Marketing from North Carolina State University. Day-to-day she helps write and edit collateral and enjoys creating colorful and creative blog posts.