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Back to basics: Cost restructuring for the future

Ideas for making paper manufacturers leaner and more efficient


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In an industry already challenged with consistently covering its cost of capital, the current credit crisis has added pressure to the balance sheets of many paper and packaging companies. The era of available and inexpensive credit for all is over, this much we know. Tapping the capital markets without addressing underlying business issues is no longer an option.

Collectively, the paper and packaging industry lost sight of the fundamentals of lowest cost production as a key driver to a sustainable and profitable enterprise. Growth by acquisition has given some groups strong market positions but left them with parallel structures that needlessly duplicate many functions. Where divestiture was the strategy, paper and packaging companies have been left with cost bases originally built for larger enterprises but are no longer necessary for the leaner organization.

The convergence of these two challenges makes a new look at cost reduction imperative for survival. Paper manufacturers that have borrowed to merge, acquire, or invest in capital equipment need to deliver the synergies from those deals, and they need to deliver them sooner rather than later. The lending world has changed; it should not be assumed that lenders will tolerate underperformance without corresponding compensation (or marking to market).

The approach must be holistic. Operational performance and balance sheet management cannot be viewed separately. In fact, no part of the company can be spared careful scrutiny. Each can play an important role in reducing costs, preserving cash, adding shareholder value, and contributing to the long-term health of the company.

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