Sappi is on a journey to use the benefits of advanced analytics in manufacturing


Successful digital strategies require strong governance structures, says Sappi CIO Markie Janse van Rensburg.

Sappi South Africa’s CIO, Markie Janse van Rensburg, approached the implementation of the global business’s digital strategy with a very specific requirement for governance as part of the delivery roadmap.

Markie is well acquainted with the business. He started at Sappi in 2007 with an industrial engineering degree and was responsible for the outbound supply chain for Sappi Paper and Paper Packaging. During his involvement in Sappi’s global business process harmonisation projects, the benefit of both process and system harmonisation for the business to meet its objectives was reinforced.

Following the retirement of the incumbent CIO two years ago, Markie was appointed as Sappi South Africa’s CIO and global domain lead for Digital. This portfolio expands across the three territories that Sappi operates in: South Africa, Europe and Northern America.

He says his key focus is ensuring the business is able to deliver on customer needs in a flexible and seamless process. “My role includes aligning systems to harmonise business processes as well as looking at the potential and exciting benefits that digital transformation can offer,” he explains.

“Two years ago we embarked on a journey to utilise the benefits of advanced analytics in the manufacturing process. We are well down that journey,” he says.

“As part of our Thrive 25 strategy, we developed a global digital strategy and roadmap during the course of last year. Data science is a key part of the strategy and we are taking our learnings from the work done in manufacturing and have identified opportunities in other sections of the business,” said Markie. “This includes the supply chain, finance and procurement divisions.

“As a business we have defined which focus areas the digital strategy needs to address. It’s all about a targeted benefit,” he says.

Markie is aware that a roadmap for a digital strategy is a stake in the ground, but that it is a fluid process that will need regular revision. “The governance structure is essential in ensuring that each proposed project is vetted and approved. The structure has been created to ensure that the projects remain in line with the businesses objectives, deliver against their stated objectives, and benefit and align to other global project deliverables.”

Another key focus of the strategy is “upping the digital knowledge and skills within the organisation. We need to share the benefit and opportunities that digital can bring to the organisation by training, but also delivering the stated benefit from the approved initiatives.

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