Plastipak Packaging maximizes production uptime

With SAP and IBM

Published on 14-May-2012

Validated on 04 Nov 2013

"The SAP and IBM combination enables Plastipak to deliver quality products to its customers on time, every time. Continuous production relies on system uptime, and the IBM Power servers running the i operating system give Plastipak the total availability we need." - Tony Fischer, Director of SAP Basis, Plastipak


Industrial Products

Deployment country:
United States

Business Integration, BA - Business Intelligence, Enabling Business Flexibility, Enterprise Resource Planning, High Availability , Information Integration, Small & Medium Business

IBM Business Partner:
Sirius, SAP


Plastipak Packaging is an industrial leader in the design and manufacture of plastic rigid containers, and provides a ready supply of plastic containers for its large global network of customers. The company operates 17 manufacturing plants across the United States, as well as five plants in Europe and four in South America. The company employs approximately 4,800 people worldwide and has a 9.5 percent growth rate, with total annual sales exceeding $1.9 billion.

Business need:
Plastipak produces more than 20 billion plastic containers a year at 26 manufacturing plants worldwide. Any manufacturing interruption can cause immediate backlogs, and it is essential to maintain total uptime for all production systems.

Plastipak upgraded to the latest version of SAP ERP software. The SAP applications run on an IBM Power 740 Express server utilizing the IBM i operating system and integrated IBM DB2 information management.

The new IBM Power 740 Express server and IBM i operating system keep uptime to a maximum, with Plastipak reporting only one hour of scheduled downtime in two years. Response times have been reduced by 21 percent across the company’s most used transactions. Improved overview of production has boosted efficiency and reduced waste.

Case Study

Plastipak Packaging is an industrial leader in the design and manufacture of plastic rigid containers, and provides a ready supply of plastic containers for its large global network of customers. The company operates 17 manufacturing plants across the United States, as well as five plants in Europe and four in South America. The company employs approximately 4,800 people worldwide and has a 9.5 percent growth rate, with total annual sales exceeding $1.9 billion.

Staying at the top of a tough industry

Plastipak produces more than 12 billion plastic containers every year on some 400 production lines at its US-based plants. Its customers include many of the world’s major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) corporations, selling world-famous sodas, foods and cosmetics. These FMCG companies work on a just-in-time basis, relying on timely delivery of the highest quality packaging products from Plastipak. In such a high pressure environment, there is no margin for error, and Plastipak must ensure that its production processes run flawlessly at all times.

As Tony Fischer, Director of SAP Basis at Plastipak Packaging, remarks: “When you’ve got thousands of orders being processed across a network of 17 plants, you can’t afford any downtime. Our customers expect us to stick to very precise delivery schedules. If we don’t get the material out fast enough and we fail to make that delivery then the customer’s production schedule is put at risk. There is no margin for error.”

It is critical for Plastipak to have a clear view of processes across its many warehouses and production lines. This requires extremely reliable, highly integrated systems, which ensure that production output is maximized and that all business processes run as efficiently as possible. For example, if production is shifted from one line to another, the team needs to know which lines are ready for use, and which will take time to start up.

SAP systems upgrade

Plastipak has been running SAP ERP software on IBM systems for many years, a decision that was initially motivated by the reliability and optimization provided by the high levels of integration between IBM and SAP systems. The company decided to upgrade to the latest version of SAP ERP applications in late 2010, and engaged IBM to manage the implementation.

Tony Fischer explains why Plastipak relies on SAP software to manage its critical business processes: “We handle incredibly fast-moving goods, and we’re constantly turning over inventory and moving products. When it comes to this type of high-volume, high-speed manufacturing and distribution, SAP provides the best ERP software out there. For us, there’s simply no other option that can provide the same levels of reliability, availability and performance.”

As Plastipak can afford virtually no downtime, the implementation was planned months in advance to take place on December 25th, when there would be no impact to the business or its customers. The upgrade was completed on budget and on time, allowing production to resume as normal later that same evening. The team planned for a 24-hour window. In the event, the transition was completed in 16 hours.

High availability and reliability with IBM

Plastipak also took the opportunity to refresh its IBM server architecture at the same time. The company already relied on IBM servers to host its SAP applications and databases, and chose to remain on IBM Power® servers running the IBM i operating system in order to keep pace with the latest improvements in industry-leading performance and reliability.

“In our line of business, there’s a lot of pressure: if our systems go down and we have to reboot, we’re losing money for every minute that we aren’t moving goods. Production failures leads to lines of empty trucks and customers who won’t accept even the slightest delay in delivery,” notes Tony Fischer. “For example, the displays telling fork-lift drivers what to place on each truck are powered by SAP application data, and we cannot afford to have any downtime at all.

“For these reasons we chose IBM Power Systems™ servers running IBM i to power our SAP applications, providing an incredibly reliable platform for our business-critical systems that maximizes our uptime.”

Plastipak worked with IBM to install two Power 740 Express servers, one for production and an identical Power 740 server for data replication and disaster recovery. The IBM i operating system offers a highly scalable architecture with a proven reputation for exceptional business resiliency. The integrated IBM DB2® for i provides a scalable and easy-to-secure environment for the business data behind the company’s SAP® ERP applications and other processing systems.

Tony Fischer comments: “Not only do you need the right hardware, but you need the right people in place who are dedicated to the objective, and IBM delivers on both of these fronts.”

Data migration to the new servers was managed by Vision Solutions, an IBM Premier Business Partner. MIMIX Move software was used to perform the IBM i migration, as it requires virtually no downtime, allowing Plastipak to complete its hardware switchover in just 15 minutes. Plastipak used the MIMIX software to copy its production applications and data to its original backup server, and invoke that server as the production system. The team then decommissioned the original production server, and used MIMIX to transfer data to the new Power 740 Express running the new SAP applications. Subsequently, the second Power 740 Express was deployed in the failover role. IBM Premier Business Partner, Sirius Computer Solutions, was responsible for deploying the Power servers.

Faster, more accurate order management

The upgraded SAP systems provide Plastipak with even greater control of its range of business processes and enhanced insight into its operations. With SAP, Plastipak can be sure that its warehouse production systems are running as efficiently as possible.

“One of the components that we find very useful is the pick and place system, which automates and optimizes a lot of the tasks associated with order picking in our warehouses,” notes Tony Fischer. “This process can be highly labor- and cost-intensive, so the automation and optimization provided by the SAP systems helps to reduce our transaction costs.

“SAP ERP warehouse management applications have helped us to develop fast and accurate order fulfillment strategies for our products. We really like the fact that it can manage orders to be shipped by time as well as date, as delivering orders just in time is a key concern in logistics for plastics.”

Optimal overview of production

Plastipak has gained an improved overview of its production lines, which critically allows it to quickly pinpoint and resolve any problems on lines, improving production efficiency. For example, if quality control checks identify a problem with a particular batch of products, Plastipak can use SAP reporting functions to go back and identify precisely where the problem originated and what caused it. This helps to cut down on the amount of rejected items that then have to be recycled, and reduces the likelihood that a customer will receive faulty products. Plastipak estimates that there has been a 10 percent increase in quality from using SAP ERP, and also reports less waste and higher customer satisfaction.

Outstanding performance from IBM

The IBM Power 740 Express server offers rock-solid reliability, allowing Plastipak to maintain constant availability of its systems and thereby ensuring that there are no costly disruptions to company operations. Built on the foundation of POWER7® processor technology, IBM Power 740 Express delivers outstanding performance and supports innovative workload-optimizing technologies, helping Plastipak to get the most out of its systems. These features have helped to improve performance rates in the company’s production systems, decreasing overall response time by 21 percent across its most used transactions.

“Where we really see the difference in response times is in our long-running jobs,” says Tony Fischer. “For example, the time taken to perform cost recalculations at the end of each month has gone from four hours down to one hour.”

The new servers also run new SAP applications, including asset management and credit management, along with enhancements to production costing, plant maintenance and employee self-service solutions. Even with the increased application workload, of the 18 most frequent transactions, Plastipak has seen response time decrease on average from 327 to 258 milliseconds, a 21 percent improvement.

IBM DB2 for i takes advantage of the high performance, virtualization capabilities, and energy efficiency features of IBM’s Power Systems servers, and supports a broad range of applications. The tight integration of DB2 with i provides single level storage, minimizing the effort required to manage the database. Moreover, such integration allows for faster, direct connections between the company’s SAP applications and its other production systems.

Plastipak was able to upgrade its SAP software and IBM server infrastructure with minimal downtime. Its new IBM Power 740 server offers a robust platform that maximizes the performance of the company’s SAP applications, while IBM DB2 for i provides tight integration for all of its production systems. By switching from SCSI disks to Fibre Channel SAS internal disks for both batch and interactive workloads. The combined IBM and SAP solution enables Plastipak to maintain its edge in a highly-competitive market, maximizing production efficiency and output while minimizing downtime.

“The SAP and IBM combination enables Plastipak to deliver quality products to its customers on time, every time,” says Tony Fischer. “Continuous production relies on system uptime, and the IBM Power servers running the i operating system gives Plastipak the total availability we need.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Power 740 Express

IBM i, DB2 for i5/OS

Operating system:

IBM-SAP Alliance

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 IBM Deutschland GmbH D-71137 Ehningen Produced in Germany May 2012 IBM, the IBM logo,, DB2, Power, POWER7 and Power Systems are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: IBM and Sirius are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor Sirius makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.