The human touch


Canson is without doubt the best known brand of creation paper products in the world, having been established by the Montgolfier family in 1557. Best known for its range of fine art paper, the company counts some of the greatest names in modern art among its prestigious customer base, including Van Gogh, Degas and Picasso.
Today, Canson is part of the global Hamelin Group which includes the Elba and Oxford brand names. The business enjoys a strong market share in France for education products and worldwide for fine art products, which is served by two paper mills, five converting plants and nine distribution platforms across the country. The central distribution hub at Annonay (in the Ardèche region of France) is a 15,000m2 facility that has 12,000 pallet locations, to manage a large number of stock keeping units (SKUs). In total, the Canson site delivers 1,700 cartons per day being despatched within 24-48 hours across Europe. Every year, more than 14,000 tonnes of paper product is delivered, with a core team of just 50 people.

The challenge

In 2008, the senior team at Canson was considering a move to a more automated solution for its distribution centre at Annonay. With increasing pressure on profit margins and the need to constantly innovate within a mature market (this increasing the variance of products), Canson appreciated the efficiency that automation could bring.
Three years ago, the site’s conveyor system was able to handle a limited number of lines per hour, due to the constraints of manual handling of a vast range of products. The logistics team at Canson had a vision to double this level of efficiency, without compromising the working environment of its people. Raphael Laissu, director of operations at Canson, said: “While we were keen to embrace technology at our site in the Ardèche, we were equally aware of the potential negative impact this could have on our warehouse staff. Without careful and sensitive planning, we could alienate or demotivate our most important asset, which is our people.” To achieve this balance, the Canson management team worked closely with Savoye engineers to develop an automation solution that delivered the required efficiencies, while continuing to provide and safe and stimulating working environment.

The solution

The backbone of the automation solution for Canson consists of:

2 case erectors


2 Wrapping machines

1 INTELIS CONVEY preparation conveyor (9 stations, 6 dispatch lanes)

1 vertical storage system

1 station for post production operations

1 station for special packaging requirements (pre-retail for promos)

Most of the above is linked to Savoye’s LM7 software system, which manages stock preparation and expedition of the products. This is linked to Canson’s mainframe SAP system.
The fulfilment process at Canson classifies orders into two categories; those that fit into a standard 50 x 65 cm cartons (which are handled by the fully automated system) or larger orders, such large sheets (A2 size plus) of fine art paper, which are handled manually.
Raphael Laissu comments: “Before automation, all of our orders were picked, packed and dispatched manually. This meant that our people had to handle heavy items, which created the potential for physical injury, strains and accidents. Thanks to automation, we now manually prepare only 40 per cent of orders, which contributed to reduce drastically our accident rate."
The LM7 WMS solution is central to the success of our operation, as it controls the speed and flow of orders to warehouse staff. Without excellent data integrity as the beginning of the order process, this efficient process would simply be unsustainable. This delicate balance between the use of automation and the continued wellbeing of our people has been the greatest challenge – and success – of this project.