Over the last 45 years, Louisiana-Pacific Corporation (LP) products have become a staple of professional and personal building projects. And LP is determined to stay at its industry’s cutting edge. From the company’s headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, to its mills across the Americas, LP is using Microsoft Power Automate and Microsoft Power Apps to empower its employees and streamline and automate traditional paper-based processes. The results? Lower costs, increased productivity, and more than USD1 million in net new pipeline opportunities.
People in our mills—most with little IT experience—are using Microsoft Power Automate and Power Apps to digitize their paper processes, create alerts, and improve productivity.
Daniel LeMay: DevOps Engineer
In the fast-changing building products industry, Louisiana-Pacific Corporation (LP) is excited to be leading the way in new, innovative construction solutions—and in creative ways to do business. Traditionally, companies that manufacture building materials have depended on slower, manual, paper-based processes—both in their manufacturing operations and in their sales and marketing activities. But with a business-wide transformation initiative underway to modernize the company’s processes, Quentin Hilman, IT Manager at LP, was on the lookout for a way to streamline processes and improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
Having helped mastermind the company’s adoption of Microsoft Office 365, Hilman began to explore the full extent of the suite, and he quickly saw how LP could use Microsoft Power Automate and Microsoft Power Apps to meet its goals. “When I discovered Microsoft Power Automate and Power Apps, I knew they were going to be very powerful,” he says. “We took those tools, and we ran with them.”
Power Automate now acts as the middleware for a huge range of processes at LP, from approvals to data collection, integrating with Office 365, SharePoint Online, and even several third-party tools and add-ins.
The first process LP automated with Power Automate was approvals for common tasks, such as signing off customer debit and credit invoices. Factoring in different divisions, contractor types, deal sizes, and discounts had previously been a complicated, error-prone, and time-consuming task.
“Approvals used to be completely paper-based,” says Daniel LeMay, DevOps Engineer at LP. “We’d have people printing and carrying stacks of paper to get four or five different signatures. Then we’d pay to store that paper—800 reams a year—for six years.”
With the help of Power Automate and Power Apps, LP has now digitized this fundamental process. Even better, the records are automatically stored in SharePoint in accordance with its retention policies.
By implementing Power Automate, LP has expedited workflow record-keeping for machine maintenance. The company has changed it from a manual process that included paper forms to a digital process that is much more efficient.
Now that LP has used Power Automate and Power Apps to digitize this paper chain too, managers are spared hours of administration—and served the insights they need, in real time. “We use Microsoft Power Automate to generate alerts and let people know right away that there’s a hazard,” says LeMay.
The sales team at LP regularly organizes “lunch and learn” events, where team members meet prospects and showcase products. But until recently, manual processes were diminishing the events’ impact. Salespeople had to collect names and contact details on a paper form—then support staff deciphered the handwriting, updated a spreadsheet, and manually created certificates for every attendee.
“Now we capture prospect information with Power Apps, and it’s written to a SharePoint list with Microsoft Power Automate,” says LeMay. “We use Microsoft Power Automate to send emails asking for approval, then generate and send certificates automatically.”
Digitizing this one process has saved 15 hours of administrative time every month. What’s more, LP can now instantly analyze the captured data with Microsoft Power BI—leading to more than $1 million in net new pipeline opportunities.
LP transformed the prospect data capture process, like all the others mentioned, using resources it already had access to through Office 365, for no additional cost. “One vendor wanted to charge us $25,000 just to do a proof of concept,” says Hilman, “for a solution with less functionality.” LeMay agrees, “We were able to develop a better solution, faster, with Microsoft Power Automate and Power Apps.”
The company’s streamlined processes are already delivering significant cost savings. “Digitizing one form in one mill has saved us $6,000 a year in paper costs,” says LeMay. “And we’ve got 25 mills.” The real gain, however, is set to be in productivity, as managers use Power BI dashboards and make informed decisions to optimize OEE—based on data from the previous shift, not the previous week.
To help drive innovation across the business, LP has created a Power Apps Champions Group. “I’m going to our rural mills and showing what the tools can do,” says LeMay. “And without fail, the ease of using them blows people away. They pick everything up quickly and completely automate their own processes.”
LP sees Power Automate and Power Apps as a bridge to an even more automated future, enabled by Internet of Things technology. “It would be great to ultimately automate every process,” says LeMay. “But for now, this is the ideal solution. It gets us 90 percent of the way—with only 10 percent of the effort.”