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Home: Issue 6 2011 › The paper family

The paper family

The paper family

02/01/2012 | Channel: Logistics / Packaging, Business, Manufacturing

Mark Cropper is one of the youngest chairmen in one of the UK's oldest companies - James Cropper Paper plc. He answers some questions for Libbie Hammond

How did you get to where you are today?
I joined the James Cropper PLC Board in 2006, became deputy chairman in 2008 and chairman in 2010. My career began at Johnson Matthey, the precious metals and chemical group, followed by a few years working in environmental investment in the city of London. I then set up the energy renewal company Ellegreen Hydro, a developer of electric hydro projects in the United Kingdom.

Could you explain what you do as a company and elaborate a little on the company’s history?
James Cropper PLC is a specialist materials group and maker of fine paper based in Burneside in the heart of English Lake District in the UK. The group strategy is based on a policy of related diversification and has three subsidiaries – James Cropper Speciality Papers, makers of fine and luxury papers, James Cropper Converting, suppliers of speciality paper surface enhancements, including special finishes and film laminations and Technical Fibre Products, experts in developing and manufacturing high performance, non-woven mats for new materials and technologies.

The James Cropper brand strategy is based on five principles:
  • We will offer bespoke solutions, developed together with our customers, in a creative, effective and useful way
  • We will build and maintain our position as leader in each of our chosen segments, based on the consistent service, quality, innovation and value we provide to our customers
  • We will continue to invest in and train our people, so that their knowledge, experience and skills enable us to build mutually beneficial partnerships with our customers
  • We will ensure that we effectively manage all our activities related to sustainability, so that we always remain a strong partner and resource to our customers, in line with our core values, which are part of everything that we do, every day
  • We will be effective, efficient and take care of our available resources and assets, through working closely with our customers in continuous improvement
James Cropper has been making paper at the Burneside Mills since 1845, however the history of the site and its various uses can be traced back much further.

Whilst we are a PLC, the majority of the shareholding is still family owned and as sixth generation chairman of the company and after 166 years in business, we feel we are at a very exciting stage in our development and well placed for the future as we continue to service more than 60 export regions and enter new and emerging markets.

Can you tell me about any current hot topics in your supply chain?

Long term and mutually rewarding partnerships with our clients, suppliers and other stakeholders has been the cornerstone of James Cropper over the many decades and will continue to be at the core of what we do and how we approach our daily working life and our future strategies and plans.

Coming to your question, it is probably no surprise to you that increasing globalisation and consolidation of both our suppliers and clients, continues to bring with it certain business and supply chain challenges. Naturally, to deliver meaningful solutions to our clients, it is also important that we 10continue to develop innovative technological processes and systems in support of our people’s activities.

We all know about the issue of rising costs and within our own business we need to efficiently and effectively manage raw material, energy, fuel and a host of other elements. These challenges require me and my team to build our knowledge through having a deep understanding of the issues at each stage through the supply chain, so that solutions can be constantly worked on together with our partners.

Environmental policies will continue to be challenging but to be honest, we have always invested in advance and sought to understand options available to James Cropper to minimise our impact on the environment. Good management practices are in place but constantly assessed so that this proactive approach remains successful.

How important is supply chain efficiency to your company?

Global supply and local support solutions are inherent in what we offer to our partners, within mutually agreed frameworks to ensure that each element of the supply and value chain is as effective, efficient, relevant, agile and innovative as it can be.

Supply chain efficiency is critical to our business success and will continue to be so going forward. At the very least, time and cost are two factors we have to manage and deliver effectively, but alongside these we have to deliver innovative and bespoke products and services across the 60 countries in which we already operate, to the satisfaction of our clients.

At James Cropper the supply chain involves our people across the key business functions having strong relationships with the key people at our clients or suppliers company. These points of contact and relationships build the necessary knowledge for us to bring supply solutions that are not only effective and efficient but also provide the service valued by our customers. We are involved right from product concept through to design and then global delivery. With rising costs impacting us all, being able to offer total solutions and thus ‘total cost of doing business ‘ with James Cropper, we ensure that our partnership approach continues to develop and we remain competitive and successful for the long term.

What are the big challenges that you are currently dealing with?
We all know about the rising costs of energy, fuel and other raw materials and like most manufacturing companies, managing these effectively are vital. Effective supply chain management and a focused product and customer strategy are enabling James Cropper to minimise waste and maximise margin through delivering tangible value to our clients. In support of supply chain management, James Cropper has implemented lean management principles with support of continued process and technological investment.

Tell me about your commitment to sustainability, and your plan for hydro power?
Protecting the long-term security of our business for future generations, through helping our customers to be successful, has always been important to James Cropper and by actively managing risk through sustainable practices, we aim to ensure this is achieved. Our sense of responsibility transcends every aspect of the organisation and its activities, affecting policies, employees, assets, customers, suppliers and the wider community.

As we are located in the beautiful countryside of the English Lake District and based on the river Kent (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) which is an important salmon stream and home to the endangered white-clawed crayfish, nature conservation is something that we have been committed to for generations and so our sustainability stewardship encompasses all aspects of the business, from sustainable fibre source, production efficiencies, investment in alternative energy to waste management.

James Cropper has dual accreditation to FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) standards which require an auditable chain of custody for pulp sourced by the mill and are also sustainable in both energy consumption and energy creation. All our suppliers have attained the International Standards ISO 9000 and ISO 14001. We have invested heavily in reducing our carbon footprint, and this work continues as we challenge ourselves to improve energy efficiencies year on year. When choosing suppliers, final decisions take into account those measures that the supplier has taken to reduce their carbon footprint. Levels of waste and recycling are also key areas that we monitor closely and on which we are continually making improvements.

In terms of hydro power, plans are being developed to meet a proportion of our output. Environmental management is central to the group’s strategy and so there is a wide program of research, investigation and development continuously ongoing.

Can you tell me a little about your strategy for leading James Cropper PLC out of the recession?
I think that organisational agility will be an important element to our ongoing success and so our strategy and plans are aligned to deliver this in a global world. As a business we will continue to ensure that we refrain from knee-jerk reactions and retaining high-value customers will be a high priority over the next three years, supported by the necessary resources to satisfying customer expectations

In my answer to your second question I outlined the five principles that underpin our brand strategy. These five principles are supported by my entrepreneurial and hardworking team and are supported by the appropriate action plans and the necessary technology to ensure we link the various stakeholders together to build the knowledge needed to deliver bespoke solutions.

The economic climate is of course challenging for us all. We have recognised that this and other factors such as fluctuations in energy, commodity and currency rates as well as the emergence of new and non-traditional competitors will continue to roil traditional business and operating models for some time to come. In addition to these challenges our clients expectations and needs continue to increase and we have to be ready to support them.

Our people here at James Cropper are a significant part of what makes us stronger and more agile to meet these challenges and so we have continued to invest in training and management development. In support of our people, we are investing in technology to enable knowledge sharing so we can improve the use of critical data.

If you could pass one word of advice/a piece of your wisdom to my readers, what would it be?
I am not sure we should refer to this as advice or wisdom as there are many people out there that are more experienced and wiser than I am! All I can say is that from my perspective, the fact that we are in business after 166 years and getting stronger and stronger and keeping up with some of the many challenges covered above, that we are hopeful about the future. We keep things quite simple here at James Cropper and work on the premise that we can open new avenues for growth by strengthening what is truly core to our business.