With more than 33 years in the paper business, I can tell you that difficult personnel decisions never get easier.
Recently, International Paper announced that it will permanently shut down the No. 2 paper machine at the Augusta Mill. This decision is incredibly hard to make and even harder to communicate because of the impact on our employees and their families.
It was a tough decision in a tough economy, spurred by the need to balance product supply with customer demand. Some positions will be eliminated. We are working diligently to minimize community impact and find opportunities for employees who want to continue working. I believe firmly in Augusta’s ability to recover from this temporary setback and our ability to position the mill for long-term success.
Over the past 12 months, we have been managing an incredibly difficult juggling act as we had to alternate running all three paper machines to balance our production with customer orders. This was difficult, and it tied up resources that should have been focused on optimizing our operations, training and developing our people, and on product improvement efforts.
Looking ahead, I know the Augusta Mill team will work through this transition. We will turn this setback into an opportunity to become even better by continuing to invest in our two world-class paper machines and in our people. Most importantly, we will focus on what we do best – making high-quality coated paperboard that brings the world closer and puts goods in the hands of consumers.
The economy remains sluggish. But together, we will make Augusta stronger and better for the long term.
(The writer is manager of International Paper’s Augusta Mill.)