Operations snapshot: WestRock working to cut costs, increase productivity at mills, box plants, invest in assets, innovate products; company has consolidated its supply chain, now reviewing underperforming assets or assets tied to less-attractive markets

Sample article from our Packaging Industry

LOS ANGELES , January 25, 2022 () –

WestRock is pulling key levers to improve margins and returns, including cutting costs, increasing productivity, investing in its assets and innovating on new products.

In the containerboard business – in addition to reducing its exposure to the export market – there is opportunity on the productivity side, CEO David Sewell said during the Citi Basic Materials Virtual Conference on Dec. 1. WestRock is working “very closely on multiple productivity programs, both at our mills and our box plants, and we hope to see that flow through," he said.

WestRock has also now consolidated its supply chain, which presented a “tremendous opportunity to become more efficient” and drive material savings by consolidating warehousing, tightening sales and operations planning with consolidation of mills, and reducing freight spend. The company had been running multiple supply chains, so “we're going to see a lot of productivity and efficiencies there as well,” Sewell said.

Both productivity and cost-cutting present opportunities to enhance margins. WestRock is “really focused on assets that might not be giving us the return that we want, so we'll look at that,” Sewell said. The company will look at underperforming assets or assets that are tied to markets that aren't as attractive as part of its strategy – something Sewell will discuss more during WestRock's Investor Day in February. 

WestRock is pushing to find ways to significantly improve productivity on top of inflation, “so we have multiple projects, both at our mill system, as well as our conversion sites," he added. Executives have identified several areas where the company can reduce waste, improve its digital manufacturing footprint using predictive analytics, and improve unscheduled downtime.

Additionally, WestRock plans to invest, like it did at its mill in Florence, South Carolina, where three older paper machines were consolidated into one new kraft linerboard machine.

The company also recently consolidated its Multi Packaging Solutions (MPS) business, which WestRock acquired in 2017, and its consumer business.

“We were really running those as two separate organizations, so several months ago, we brought those two organizations together,” Sewell said. “We've already identified and executed on multiple efficiencies and opportunities.”

“So we're trying to attack it all three ways, and I think that's why we talk about leveraging the power of the enterprise because it's that scale,” he said. “We'll take cost out where we absolutely can and can be more efficient, but … we're not going to cost our way out of it. … We're going to use innovation, work with our customers, use our machinery business, and we'll start to see continued margin expansion, which is a huge focus for us across all of our businesses."

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.

See our dashboard in action - schedule an demo
Dan Rivard
Dan Rivard
- VP Market Development -

We offer built-to-order packaging industry coverage for our clients. Contact us for a free consultation.

About Us

We deliver market news & information relevant to your business.

We monitor all your market drivers.

We aggregate, curate, filter and map your specific needs.

We deliver the right information to the right person at the right time.

Our Contacts

1990 S Bundy Dr. Suite #380,
Los Angeles, CA 90025

+1 (310) 553 0008

About Cookies On This Site

We collect data, including through use of cookies and similar technology ("cookies") that enchance the online experience. By clicking "I agree", you agree to our cookies, agree to bound by our Terms of Use, and acknowledge our Privacy Policy. For more information on our data practices and how to exercise your privacy rights, please see our Privacy Policy.