The global perception of the supply chain has undergone a revolution over the past decade. What was once a series of independent nodes in a scattered network of buyers and suppliers conducting transactional deals has transformed into something far more delicate, complex and effective. “Organizations are becoming more sophisticated in the supply chain space. As they become better at supply chain and inventory management, they’re becoming more aware of the opportunities associated with the supply chain becoming more interdependent and approached from an end-to-end perspective,” says Amber Jesic, General Manager, Supply Chain, Americas at Armacell. “The increasing availability of real-time reporting and visibility, as well as increasing customer expectations, has certainly caused supply chains to evolve in recent years.” As the global supply chain industry changes, this newfound maturity opens up avenues for companies to fulfil ambitions and live up to core values in new ways.
As a global leader in the flexible foam insulation market, Armacell’s products are vital to making projects in the construction and manufacturing space more energy-efficient, and therefore sustainable. For Jesic, her role at Armacell was the perfect fit. “Sustainability is not only personally important to me, but it’s also the basis of how Armacell operates,” she says. “The company has a culture of global collaboration and innovation that was appealing and they’re also open to change. I saw the role as a chance to make contributions to the organization, and an opportunity to leverage our holistic network and supply chain to drive competitive advantage and drive efficiencies. A lot of our products drive sustainability. Our ArmaFlex®closed cell foam insulation saves 140 times more energy over the course of its life than is needed to manufacture and transport it.” We spoke to Jesic about the ways in which Armacell is harnessing cutting-edge technology in order to drive supply chain innovation, not only to create value, but make the company more sustainable.
Although Armacell itself was officially incorporated in 2000, its origins can be traced back to the 1860s and Armstrong World Industries. In 1954, Armstrong was responsible for the invention of ArmaFlex, the world’s first flexible foam insulation product, carving out its own industry niche that it has dominated ever since. In addition to making flexible products, Armacell is committed to ensuring that, as a company, it stands by its principles of sustainability. “As a multi-materials and multi-product company, we apply world-class practices every day and expand into adjacent technical insulation end markets, continuously extending our temperature range and equipment verticals,” Jesic says. “We substitute the legacy materials of our competition with our innovative solutions and reinforce our premium brand position to create value for equipment owners, specifier engineers, contractors and investors.”
Jesic’s role provides a broad mandate and list of responsibilities, as she oversees purchasing, planning, distribution, transportation and compliance. She and her team are working to deploy sustainable technology and strategies across Armacell’s supply chain, from converting the company’s shipping lines to an intermodal approach and reducing miles travelled, to converting over 1bn post-consumer recycled plastic bottles into polyethylene terephthalate (PET) panel products. “Beyond the benefits we seek to realize through technology, we also are committed to best practices that impact the environment. To reduce waste, we have cases where we also donate our scrap to prevent it from going into landfills,” says Jesic. “It can be used in the carpet industry as a padded base for installations, sometimes it’s used for the foam padding in children’s playgrounds – the breadth of application is mind-boggling, given all the different areas you can use foam.”
The core of the company’s innovations and sustainability initiatives involve applying technology to create value in a sustainable way. “Technology provides an opportunity to simultaneously reduce costs and improve service. We're driving automation wherever possible and easing the process of doing business with Armacell, predominantly through EDI integration, but also through our digitalization efforts regarding load planning and shipment consolidation to reduce miles travelled and condense shipments,” Jesic explains. As a company that has never been afraid to carve its own way using the latest technological developments on offer, Jesic points out that Armacell is watching the development and testing of autonomous freight vehicles with great interest. “They can definitely drive sustainability benefits,” she says. “Autonomous trucks will let you better handle fuel usage, there’s less starting and stopping, you can have a bigger fuel tank without a driver, and of course an autonomous truck will be able to provide much more accurate track and trace capabilities.”
Gathering data from a fleet of autonomous trucks may be years away for Armacell, but Jesic stresses how vital data from other sources has become for the company today, and the importance of having the analytics to draw actionable insights. “We're in the design and development phase of using forecasting tools that will provide predictive analytics which will be used in our production planning and inventory management to better service our customers,” she explains.
As a leader in the $13.5bn equipment insulation market, Armacell is constantly striving to pursue its multi-pillar growth strategy. Its dedicated R&D teams are continually driving the company’s portfolio growth of intellectual property, having more than doubled the number of patents in the company’s name over the past five years. Looking to the future, Jesic is excited to continue bringing Armacell’s open, innovative approach to the workings of its supply chain and management of her team. “I encourage a culture of openness to change and present things in a perspective that highlights the benefits of why that change is being introduced. So, in the instance of digitalization, if it improves the ease of doing business with Armacell, our suppliers and customers then I'll emphasize those benefits to the teams so they understand why we're pursuing these changes. Also, benefits like automated reporting help keep our focus on best, not budget,” she concludes. Armacell’s future is bright, as it continues to work towards creating not only value, but a bright future for the planet too.