Atlantic Paper & Supply has quite the paper trail in supporting local manufacturers

KEEPING STOCK: J.C. LeBarron, left, operations purchasing manager at Atlantic Paper & Supply, and Luis Deleon, a driver, work in the warehouse in Pawtucket stacking boxes. 
KEEPING STOCK: J.C. LeBarron, left, operations purchasing manager at Atlantic Paper & Supply, and Luis Deleon, a driver, work in the warehouse in Pawtucket stacking boxes. 

PBN 2023 Manufacturing Awards

ATLANTIC PAPER & SUPPLY is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a manufacturing supplier in the paper, shipping and supplies business this year. The Pawtucket-based company provides industrial packing, shipping, maintenance, janitorial and safety supplies to local manufacturers.

Owner David Spencer emphasized his plan for continuous improvement in the future, as well as his pride in the family business. Atlantic Paper has now been in his family for three generations, he said.

“My wife and I own the company, and it was started in 1948 by my wife’s grandfather,” Spencer said. “We’re also excited for our future. The past is one thing, but we’re still very hands-on trying to grow this business.”

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The company serves manufacturers in Rhode Island, eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts. It carries thousands of standard items and handles custom-designed packaging, Spencer said.

“What makes us a little bit different is that we will stock customers’ custom-packaging at our warehouse, and ship it out as the customer needs it,” Spencer said.

The company grew in revenue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic despite supply chain issues. The team was “sitting on pins and needles” at first during the crisis, Spencer said. Though prices did increase, Spencer was also determined to maintain product availability for customers in the face of uncertainty.

Atlantic Paper uses vendor-managed inventory systems, meaning the company determines how much product to send to a customer at one time, as opposed to the customer setting the size of their order. The company has become well known for this, Spencer said. Therefore, customers’ facilities do not overflow with unused supplies, and the company has enough supplies for multiple customers.

“It’s very rare that we lose customers,” Spencer said. “We’re old-fashioned in the sense that we like to be hands-on and we like to maintain personal relationships with ­people.”

This system was part of how the company weathered the pandemic. It avoided customers overbuying due to panic and maintained supply levels.

“I think overall there was a trust and an appreciation for being a little more nurturing about it and a little more thoughtful about our approach to fulfilling orders,” Spencer said.

It worked, as Atlantic Paper’s revenue grew. In turn, the company grew its staff, as well as its customer base.

Adam Jolicoeur, a packaging sales specialist for the company since 2018, said the company prides itself in having everything for its specific customers, as opposed to having everything for everyone.

“We establish exactly how much they need,” he said. “We’re managing the most essential piece of their business.”

Jolicoeur considers the company not pushy but personal, and said that’s how it stands out. Spencer said overall he’s happy with how the company handled the pandemic.

“Sometimes I look back and say, ‘Wow, we really got lucky,’ which is true, but along the way, we made some really good decisions, which paid off,” Spencer said.

Another thing that makes Atlantic Paper unique is that when costs go down, it reduces prices for customers as well. The company is constantly negotiating with its manufacturers, Jolicoeur said, and the company gives those savings to its customers.

Spencer considers this an essential element of the business.

“We’ve got this level of trust, we live by this,” Spencer said. “We know the customer is being treated fairly all the time. … There’s a large amount of appreciation by our customers for treating them in this manner.”

Jolicoeur gives his all to the customer and brought many he had worked with before into working with the company. He said he expects them to be with him for decades and considers the work his legacy. His advice to those in sales is to just be a good partner.

Atlantic Paper’s current initiative is to continue improving its customer service. Spencer plans to focus on continuous improvement of the company’s website and online ordering in the coming year.

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