From the tiny acorn, the mighty oak grows. This familiar adage accurately captures the history of Acorn Paper Products Company over the last three decades. The company’s CEO David Weissberg had a vision of making Acorn Paper Products one of the best-positioned paper and packaging companies on the West Coast, and he has succeeded in this goal. Over the last three decades, Acorn has expanded manufacturing and shipping operations, grown its product line, opened new facilities, and created new divisions to meet market needs.
Founded by Jack Bernstein in 1946, the company started by selling job-lot (over-run) boxes with five employees in an 11,000-square-foot warehouse. Today, Acorn Paper Products, which is the end-user, distribution arm of parent holding company Oak Paper Products Company, is a fourth-generation family-owned business with more than 500,000 square feet of warehouse space. Acorn operates four specialty product divisions: creative services, janitorial and sanitary products, wine packaging, and agricultural packaging. In addition to stocking thousands of ready-to-sell boxes, packaging supplies, and janitorial/sanitary products, the company operates a sizeable custom-manufacturing operation to meet the needs of customers with special requests.
The company uses Oracle E-Business Suite (recently upgrading to Release 12.1.2), Oracle Sales Cloud applications, Oracle Database, and Oracle technology to support its business, which is built on a commitment to quality, value, customer service, and environmental sustainability. Oracle solutions are instrumental in helping the company fill 98% of its 500 daily orders within 24 hours or less and at a lower price than competing firms—presenting a compelling value proposition.
Acorn first deployed Oracle E-Business Suite in 2000. At the time, skeptical peers cautioned Weissberg that the system was more complex and powerful than the small company needed. Undeterred, Acorn embraced Oracle. “We were probably one of the smallest Oracle customers at the time,” said David Weissberg, CEO, Acorn, “but it has been very successful for us.”
The company, facing the end of sustaining support for Oracle E-Business Suite 11.0.3, began to plan for its next generation with Oracle E-Business Suite 12.1.2. It upgraded its architecture and enterprise applications in a single initiative.
Acorn Paper Products upgraded to multi-node servers running Oracle Linux, Oracle Database, and Oracle E-Business Suite 12.1.2. In addition, the company rolled out a new web storefront using Oracle iStore, and deployed Oracle Business Intelligence Suite, Enterprise Edition to help management understand and respond to changes in the business environment. In addition, it also used Oracle Application Express for web-based application development.
“Upgrading to Oracle E-Business Suite 12.1.2 brought our enterprise application functionality into the 21st century. We also gained the ability to use new technologies to deliver powerful benefits to the business,” Weissberg said.
In addition, the company was one of the first organizations to test and implement Oracle Sales Cloud applications, which are helping sales representatives to become more efficient in covering their territories.
“The company’s sales team had to carry around multiple binders containing paper contracts, customer order histories, as well as product information,” Weissberg said. “We are eliminating those paper-based systems—improving our environmental footprint as well as putting accurate and up-to-date information at the fingertips of our salespeople whenever and wherever they need it. As a result, we can focus more on building relationships instead of filing papers.”
To effectively manage its inventory of more than 1,600 sizes of stock boxes, as well as janitorial/sanitary supplies, cushioning, and stretch/shrink products available for immediate delivery, the company relies on powerful Oracle applications to automatically track the location and status of each order. This capability enables Acorn to fill 98% of its orders in 24 hours and at a lower price than competitors, which gives it a valuable competitive advantage.
In addition, the company efficiently creates custom products for customers with special requests. Once again, Oracle applications enable the manufacturer to manage these orders cost effectively and ensure rapid delivery. Using Oracle Order Management, Acorn sales representatives can configure boxes to the exact dimensions a customer requires, which cuts down on raw materials and waste, while improving profitability and sustainability. Greater automation and standardization across business processes also improved order accuracy, reducing additional waste as well as unnecessary shipments and returns.
As important, warehouse workers and truck drivers can now access the Oracle system to maintain inventory, fulfill orders, and make efficient deliveries.
Many business processes at Acorn that required customization under Oracle E-Business Suite 11.0.3 are handled without customization in version 12.1.2—simplifying the infrastructure and reducing the IT management burden moving forward. While Acorn still has some customizations, it prefers to work within the applications’ inherent structure, which offers great flexibility.
In addition to gaining more standardization and efficiency with the upgraded applications, Acorn Paper Products is expanding its business intelligence capabilities with Oracle Business Intelligence Suite, Enterprise Edition, which allows managers to monitor key performance indicators in real time. “Our management team can now see what’s going on all day long from anywhere in the world on their iPads,” Weissberg said. “We have better and more timely insight into the business, and can make more informed decisions.”
The company is now beginning to use Oracle Sales Cloud to manage prospects, customers, and the sales pipeline, which will further enhance business insight moving forward. Ultimately, the solution will be a vital tool for the sales force, providing insight into available inventory, product pricing, customer purchasing history, and sales trends.
The combination of Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.2, Oracle Sales Cloud, and Oracle Business Intelligence Suite, Enterprise Edition will help Acorn preserve margins in a complex and highly competitive business segment.
With Oracle iStore, Acorn has launched a new web storefront that allows customers to check inventory and place orders quickly online. Online interactions provide additional insight into customer requirements and demands, while increasing customer satisfaction and shortening the business cycle to increase profitability. “Oracle iStore has enabled us to pull ahead of the competition. It allows customers to quickly browse offerings in a way that they could not before. The company continues to ramp up interest in the web store with social media,” Weissberg said.
Acorn had a long-standing relationship with Oracle. When the time came to upgrade its enterprise applications, the company knew that Oracle E-Business Suite 12.1.2 had the power and functionality to drive change across the enterprise, according to Weissberg.
The company completed its upgrade over the four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The entire stack had to be upgraded in one process.
To prepare for this narrow time window, Acorn installed the new hardware in its data center before the upgrade began. C3 Business Solutions’ technicians tested the upgrade, timing each step and tuning scripts. “C3 took its time and made sure that we had a solid upgrade plan,” Weissberg said. During the three-month testing process, C3 also trained Acorn’s 15 super users on the new system and then the super users trained their teams.
The C3 team first exported 12 years of historical data and upgraded the database. It then took an incremental approach to migrating and upgrading Oracle E-Business Suite—first patching the applications to Version 188.8.131.52 and then upgrading to 12.1.1, and patching again to 12.1.2. Finally C3’s team migrated Acorn’s customizations to the new system.
By Sunday evening, the system was fully functional.
On Fridays, during the upgrade initiative, the company’s 250 employees wore “spirit wear” t-shirts that had Acorn Paper and Oracle logos and the question “Can you believe 11.0.3 to 12.1.2?” “The shirts were all about creating excitement, since everyone at the company uses Oracle E-Business Suite every day, and we wanted to them to understand that this would make their lives easier,” Weissberg said.
“We all have these upgrade fears, but Oracle has made them much less real. The processes have become so streamlined and scientific that there’s no reason not to upgrade,” Weissberg said.
Oracle Platinum Partner C3 Business Solutions managed the infrastructure and application upgrade process from start to finish, including conducting training for super users. “Working with C3 Business Solutions, we had a seamless upgrade involving millions and millions of records. People came to work on Monday and started shipping immediately, without missing a step, allowing us to take advantage of the power of Oracle’s solutions from day one,” Weissberg said.