User Group Meets in Florence, Italy

Kiwiplan hosts the 22nd annual User Group conference in Florence, Italy.

More than fifty Business and IT professionals from around the world gathered at the end of May for a two day conference in Florence, Italy. The purpose of the event was for customers of the Kiwiplan systems to share their experiences with each other and to assist the software company with thoughts and ideas for future system developments. The event was hosted by Paul Austin, Kiwiplan Europe's General Manager and Chairman of the User Group Committee, Brian Sørenson of Peterson.

"This annual event, now in it's 22nd year, is a great way of bringing users together from around the world, and gives us a great platform to present our new ideas and discuss issues in the market," explains Mr Austin. The event was opened with a presentation about Kiwiplan. Attendees saw presentations by Kiwiplan personnel, outlining the structure of the business and detailed overviews of the company's extensive software solutions. Migration to ESP, development of 'Cloud' based systems and a full introduction to the latest launch, NextGen ensured delegates were 100 per cent up to date with the Kiwiplan solutions.

In his opening address, Mr Austin explained some important changes that are in the process of taking place. He confirmed that as of July, he would be moving back to USA with his family, but will be remaining within Kiwiplan, specifically heading up a new unit that is tasked with developing strategic markets with Kiwiplan solutions. "While the search continues for a new General Manager in Europe, Steve Whillis will be responsible for managing the European operations," Mr. Austin confirmed. He also explained that the German office is about to be relocated, taking on new buildings in Darmstadt near Frankfurt. "This move is driven by our need to be closer to the developing markets of Central and Eastern Europe, which is where we are experiencing the most significant growth in our own business."

One of the more important aspects of the meeting was the platform at which users spoke of their experiences using the systems, and in some cases, how they had modified the software and adapted it for their own specific use. Speakers from Peterson, Stora Enso, Green Bay Packaging, Board 24, SCA, TRM and Duropack also used the opportunity to discuss areas for improvement and in some presentations, even suggested some solutions. "The beauty of this event is the fact that we can help Kiwiplan in developing and enhancing their products, based on real life feedback," explains Mr. Sørenson. "We are able to discuss openly how we operate the systems in our own plants and this is critical for the ongoing development of the suite of software products. We all have our own views and ideas, I hope that Kiwiplan will find our input to be of value."

This year's User Group Conference coincided with the Kiwiplan General Managers meeting. This meant that the company's most senior executives from around the world were all present at the conference too, from New Zealand, USA, Australia, Europe and Asia. Jim Walton, President of Kiwiplan, noted that this particular User Group is one of a kind and thanked the delegates for their valuable input. "Ultimately, we develop solutions that the market requires, and this venue allows us to listen directly to our customers and discuss what is critical for them. I was a customer of Kiwiplan in my previous job and now I work for them. I believe we have the best systems out there and we strive to ensure that as well as the best products we also improve our after sales support."

Simon Holmes, Sales and Marketing Director of Escada Systems Ltd, was the guest speaker on the first day of the conference. He made a presentation on the range of process control systems developed by his company. From roll stock solutions which neatly ties in with Kiwiplan, to closed loop process control systems on the corrugator, Mr Holmes' presentation gave delegates an insight into the benefits that can be gained from implementing such tools. "Our systems help you to minimise waste, improve board flatness and put margin back onto your bottom line," he said.

The second day of the event was centred around dedicated workshops. These intensive sessions covered the order management functionality in ESP and NextGen products that showed users the latest developments in each system. Live demonstrations showcased the power of each tool in the suite. A users forum discussion brought forward several ideas that Kiwiplan will now look at implementing over the coming year.

When the company presented NextGen at the FEFCO Congress in Munich in March this year, they ran a competition to win an iPad. Mr. Austin revealed the winner of the prize, Frédéric Dutoit from Model Moudon. Awards were also made to recognise the long-term users of Kiwiplan software. Several key users were given an award at a ceremony that marked the closing of the 2011 User Group Conference; these included Board 24 from the UK, SCA’s plant in Sweden and IMA from Israel.

"An excellent opportunity see the Kiwiplan team face to face and to see how the systems are evolving," noted Tammie Nowak from Green Bay Packaging in USA. "The sharing of our experiences is a great way to get the best out of our system back in the plant," commented Frank Allan from Board 24 in the UK. He continued, "I have been coming to these events for the last three years, and it is good to see that the issues and projects we discuss at each event are actioned and become a reality. It is well worth attending."

Throughout the event, delegates were entertained well, and at the end of the first day were given a two hour tour of the historic city of Florence. During the day, spouses and partners of the delegates had a wine and cheese tour of the city too. The event was held at the Grand Hotel Baglioni, a short walk from the historic Duomo cathedral.
In closing the event, Mr Sørenson thanked delegates for their open attitudes and frank opinions. "The User Group has always been an excellent forum which allows us to assist in the shaping of Kiwiplan's systems. This has been one of the most productive Conferences we have had and I am certainly looking forward to the next event." Delegates voted on the venue for the next event, to be held in May 2012. A short list was finalised – Paris (France), Salzburg (Austria) and Split (Croatia) - with voting being opened on the Kiwiplan website soon.

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