Development never ends

​At Metsä Fibre, the company culture of continuously improving environmental performance has helped to establish a number of competitive advantages. These long-term accomplishments must have begun somewhere, but where?

TEXT: IAN FENTON, PHOTO: METSÄ GROUP

"Continuous improvement is very deep in our culture," says Ismo Nousiainen, Metsä Fibre's SVP, production. For anyone who has seen this commitment to improvement reverberating throughout the organization, his statement would be hard to dispute. But how did such a culture develop in the first place?

According to Nousiainen, it is the result of long-term thinking. "We know that in all areas, if we don't improve our results continuously, we won't succeed in the future. And we also know that for all the ambitions we have, the time frame is very long: you have to work for years at a stretch to get these results."

If we don't improve our results continuously, we won't succeed in the future


The company's results, in terms of environmental performance, cost effectiveness, and success in their markets worldwide, are strong evidence supporting Nousiainen's position. He ascribes them to the early emphasis on innovation. "Continuous improvement is all about success in the future. This applies to the environmental side, the production side, cost efficiency, energy efficiency, and virtually every other area."

Ismo Nousiainen, SVP, Production


The birth of today's approach

In the past decade, the issues, challenges and questions which fall under the umbrella term 'sustainability' have come to dominate the world's consciousness, and the term has found voice at every level, from governments, to the media, to the general public.

With Metsä Fibre now benefitting from environmental performance aims set a number of years ago - long before the eruption of concern over this topic - it is tempting to ask how they were able to anticipate this. How did the importance of improving environmental performance first manifest itself?

Nousiainen casts his mind back to the company's reflections on sustainability metrics at the turn of the millennium. "We began to notice that our performance in terms of waste water, carbon emissions and energy efficiency was in good shape compared to the competition. With some commitment and a concentrated effort, this began to look like an area in which we could establish a competitive edge."

In the beginning of the 2000s, a strategic decision was made: Metsä Fibre established an environmental policy, stating the company's aim to be the forest industries' forerunner in terms of environmental performance.

FROM strength to strength

If we turn the clock forward once again to the present day, we see, of course a near-universal understanding of the importance of sustainable processes and business models that take dwindling natural resources into account. When asked to point to Metsä Fibre's greatest achievements in respect of environmental performance, Nousiainen is quick to answer; it is easy to imagine that such memorable achievements are never too far from the top of his mind.

"In terms of waste-water effluents, in 2007 we generated 40 cubic metres per tonne of pulp produced. Today in 2015, it is under 25. We show very strong improvement there. Then when you consider COD (chemical oxygen demand) effluent, in the beginning of 2000 that was 19 kg per tonne of pulp. Nowadays it is 11. Once again, an achievement to be proud of."

But Nousiainen also emphasizes that environmental performance is not improved as an isolated metric. There is, in fact, a strong relationship between environmental performance and production efficiency. In practice, the pulp mill with the lowest emissions figures, for example, will always be the one with the most stable production.

"As we increase production efficiency, we are increasing availability," he explains. "By reducing equipment failures and process disturbances, we keep availability high, but also reduce our emissions."

But this is easier said than done. Maximizing production efficiency and environmental performance in this manner, Nousiainen tells me, requires active process development and constant attention.

"We have developed our preventive maintenance, and we have developed the view our operators have over the process. If they see an action that could boost availability, they can record this on our system. Likewise, if they notice something that could present a threat to availability, we can make the necessary corrections before suffering a drop."

These efforts and annual investments targeted upon reducing threats to Metsä Fibre's high availability levels have certainly borne fruit. In the past three years alone, the already-impressive figure of 95 per cent availability has increased to over 97 per cent.


38.3% DECREASE IN WASTE-WATER EFFLUENTS 2007-2015

42.1% DECREASE IN COD EFFLUENTS 2000-2015

20.8% DECREASE IN FOSSIL CO2 EMISSIONS 2010-2014


 

Minimising all the way to zero

Another area in which Metsä Fibre has excelled is in the reduction of CO2 emissions. At the company's Joutseno mill, Nousiainen explains, the recent introduction of a gasification plant provides gas for the facility's limekiln, replacing natural gas as an energy source with biogas.

"We can now use our own bark as a fuel source after debarking our wood, replacing the fuel we had to buy in from outside the mill. As well as being more efficient, working this way means that we have no CO2 emissions in the normal operations of the plant."

We can now use our own bark as a fuel source


At the time of the gasification plant's addition to Joutseno in 2012, the facility became the first CO2 neutral plant in Finland. With the technology now proven, lessons learned at Joutseno will, of course, be implemented in the company's new mill at Äänekoski. Carbon-neutrality has become a strategic cornerstone, but as we shall see, the journey isn't over yet.

THE CUSTOMERS' NEEDS COME FIRST

Metsä Fibre's continuous improvement to environmental performance is certainly impressive in and of itself, but Nousiainen is keen to point out that the customer is the ultimate object of all this effort.

In the future, he tells me, environmental regulations and requirements for Metsä Fibre's customers' products will become tougher and tougher. "We all know about the need to limit CO2 emissions in the value chain, but we can also expect to see the authorities imposing strict limits on water consumption."

Fortunately, the future-oriented approach espoused by the company right in the beginning continues to this day. "When we work to improve our environmental performance, we are essentially making it possible for our customers to meet their regulatory requirements in the future. By taking our pulp into use, they will be in a position to succeed in the future without dramatic investments or process changes. We are way ahead of the requirements, in that sense."




It never ends

Metsä Having discussed past decisions and on-going policies and their effect on the present situation, the question of the future remains. Nousiainen again points to the need to be ahead of the game. "Regulations impose certain permission limits, relating to effluents, for example, but these are not our targets. We establish our own limitation targets, which are much lower than those the authorities apply. This is really the motivation behind continuous improvement. By continuously improving our performance, we can be a confident supplier to our customers for many years to come."

At the moment, improvement efforts are being applied to yet another area: odorous gases. At Metsä Fibre's Rauma mill, a new odorous gas boiler is now being taken into use, ensuring that these gases can be treated in all circumstances, preventing unpleasant odorous disturbances in the vicinity of the mill entirely. Joutseno has already seen the introduction of a new system for odorous gas treatment, and the results have been very encouraging.

The topic of sustainability has certainly reached a mature point, though, and Nousiainen sees CO2 emissions as continuing to dominate the agenda for many years to come. Waste water, emissions to air, energy efficiency: these are the watchwords of environmental performance, and are unlikely to change before long. One thing is clear, though. At Metsä Fibre, continuous improvement in every area will continue to be the aim. It simply never ends.


Related articles

  • Metsä Fibre Mill Managers presented, Rauma mill

    / Solutions

    A strong quartet

    ​We asked all of Metsä Fibre’s Mill Managers to describe the areas of expertise of their units and their own personal strengths.

    Read More
  • Kaskinen mill's rebranded BCTMP pulp portfolio launched

    / Solutions

    Two new BCTMP brands with improved properties

    ​Metsä Board’s rebranded High Yield Pulp portfolio was officially launched at the start of 2018 through Metsä Fibre’s global sales network. The project was based on extensive customer discussions and the chance to simplify the pulp offering into two well-distinguished products. Botnia High Yield BULK offers high bulk and brightness to mainly printing and writing paper grades. Botnia High Yield TENSILE provides excellent tensile strength and brightness for tissue and speciality papers.

    Read More
  • Sustainable wood supply as cornerstone of circular economy

    / Sustainability

    An efficient circular economy needs a sustainable supply chain

    ​Delivering an increasingly sustainable supply chain represents a fundamental cornerstone of Metsä Group’s forestry operations. Enhancing efficiencies, as well as implementing stricter environmental and ecological measures in sustainable forest management, have a considerable impact on how the group adds to the circular economy.

    Read More
  • Kate Stone

    / Solutions

    Making paper magical

    ​Any printed item can be given a digital soul by adding touch, connectivity and data, says Dr Kate Stone.

    Read More
  • FibreOnline

    Issue 1/2018/ Solutions

    Building 24/7 customer service – together

    ​Based on customer feedback and a user research project, Metsä Fibre has completely revamped their online services. Today, these services have become a holistic tool where customers can find everything they need and even download certifications to pass on to their customers. It’s all in one place – online – easily accessed 24/7 at the push of a button.  

    Read More
  • Paptic

    Issue 1/2018/ Partners

    Replacing plastics

    ​Paptic is a biobased, recyclable and renewable next generation packaging material made of sustainable wood fibre. Developed by a Finnish start-up company of the same name, Paptic is suitable for uses where plastic films have previously been the only alternative.

    Read More
  • Kemi mill

    Issue 1/2018/

    Prefeasibility study launched on renewal of Kemi pulp mill

    ​Metsä Fibre has launched a prefeasibility study on the renewal of its pulp mill in Kemi, with the option of either replacing the current mill or extending its life cycle.

    Read More
  • mill

    Issue 1/2018/ Solutions

    RFID pulp delivery tracking

    ​RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is an identification technology that enables efficient and reliable real time tracking of pulp deliveries. Every pulp unit leaving a Metsä Fibre mill automatically includes RFID tags that help to ensure deliveries and minimise consignment errors.

    Read More
  • employee

    Issue 1/2018/

    Appointments at Metsä Fibre's mills

    ​New appointments at Metsä Fibre's mills announced.

    Read More
  • Äänekoski

    Issue 1/2018/

    Metsä Spring plans textile fibre production

    ​Metsä Group has established a new innovation company, Metsä Spring Ltd.

    Read More
  • Ismo Nousiainen

    Issue 1/2018/ Voice

    Pursuing excellence

    ​The business environment continually changes, and company operations must accordingly evolve to keep pace. There is always room to improve, and always an imperative to do so. Regeneration and continual improvement are no longer a choice, but a necessity and a condition for surviving in the modern era. 

    Read More
  • Kate Stone

    Issue 1/2018/ Voice

    Print is dead, long live print

    ​Print is the most pervasive human interface: we write on it, read it, wear it, sit on it and even eat from it!

    Read More
  • campfire

    Issue 1/2018/ Sustainability

    On a journey of sustainability

    Common sustainability goals bring industry operators together for a memorable event.

    Read More
  • Song

    Issue 1/2018/ Markets

    Eastern horizons

    ​Introducing Wangqiu Song – Metsä Group’s recently recruited SVP, Asia and China – and his unique perspectives on both the Finnish and Asian pulp businesses. 

    Read More
  • Li Na

    Issue 1/2018/ Partners

    Shared values strengthen cooperation

    ​Li Na, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Sun Paper company, says that Metsä Fibre’s strong brand reputation, core values and product quality form the basis of a solid partnership.

    Read More
  • Äänekoski

    / Sustainability

    Key Customer Event showcases sustainable forest management

    ​Running through May 23-25, Metsä Fibre organised a Key Customer Event in and around Äänekoski, the site of its new bioproduct mill, inviting international clients to Central Finland.

    Read More
  • technology

    Issue 1/2018/ Voice

    A digital revolution

    ​Technological trends arising from digitalisation, such as IoT, artificial intelligence and data analytics, are having a major impact on society, the world of work and the business operations of Metsä Fibre.

    Read More
  • Issue 1/2018/ Sustainability

    New combination certificate covers all Metsä Fibre operations

    ​Metsä Fibre’s aim of continuously improving its operations is supported by certified control and management systems, related to quality, the environment, energy efficiency and safety. The systems enable, for example, tracking the origin of the wood raw material and following the logistics chain.

    Read More
  • old Äänekoski mill

    Issue 2/2017/ Sustainability

    Recycling the old Äänekoski mill

    ​The start of operations at the new Metsä Fibre bioproduct mill in Äänekoski has meant shutting down the old pulp mill, and its demolition is currently under way. This work began in June by dismantling the old wastewater treatment plant.

    Read More
  • Woman using a tablet

    Issue 2/2017/

    Customer satisfaction high at Metsä Fibre

    The annual Metsä Fibre customer satisfaction survey was completed again this summer with interviews of pulp customers in various market areas. The overall customer satisfaction rating remained almost unchanged at 8.61 on a scale from 4 to 10.

    Read More
  • Bioproduct mill

    Issue 2/2017/ Sustainability

    World-class bioproduct mill

    ​Metsä Fibre’s next-generation bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland, is the largest wood processing plant in the Northern Hemisphere, which brings prosperity to the whole of Finland. The new mill is called a bioproduct mill since it increases the product portfolio with new bioproducts, generates excess bioenergy, and operates without any fossil fuels. The pulp production capacity of the mill is 1.3 million tonnes of pulp a year.

    Read More
  • Inauguration

    Issue 2/2017/

    Bioproduct mill inaugurated

    ​Metsä Fibre’s next-generation bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland, was inaugurated by the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö on 18 October 2017. Hosted by President and CEO of Metsä Group Kari Jordan, guests at the event included national policy-makers, representatives from the City of Äänekoski and various partners in cooperation related to the bioproduct mill project.

    Read More
  • SkinCare 2.0

    Issue 2/2017/ Partners

    Innovative products from cellulose fibre: GreenDoer

    ​Based in China, Metsä Fibre’s partner company GreenDoer is a leading supplier of next-generation sustainable packaging solutions to the consumer industry. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, the company has developed innovative 3D shaping technology for producing molded fibre products.

    Read More
  • Forest

    Issue 2/2017/ Markets

    Europe's forest nation

    ​Charting the past, present and future of Finland’s uniquely productive relationship with the forest. From Metsä Fibre's perspective, the sustainable and well-organised forest management in Finland and the growing demand from Asia make the future look bright.

    Read More

Most popular

  • Markku Nikkilä

    Issue 2/2017/ Voice

    Sustainable growth from biocomposites

    The abundant annually regenerating forests of Finland place the country in pole position for promoting a bioeconomy based on the sustainable use of renewable natural resources. One example of a solution that reduces the need for fossil oil and polymers is an innovative biocomposite material developed by the Finnish companies Aqvacomp Oy and Elastopoli Ltd.

    Read More
  • confectionary packaging

    Issue 2/2017/ Partners

    Perspectives on product safety

    ​Experts on product safety from throughout Metsä Group – as well as customer organisation CP Kelco – share their views on this crucial area.

    Read More
  • Ahlstrom Munksjo

    Issue 2/2017/ Partners

    The joy of segmentation

    What’s at the heart of a hundred-year success story? Two successful companies, Metsä Group and Ahlstrom-Munksjö, with deep roots and an intense passion for customer satisfaction.

    Read More
  • Winter forest

    Issue 2/2017/ Sustainability

    Boosting the bioeconomy

    CEPI Director General Sylvain Lhôte says that the forest industry has an unbeatable sustainability story to tell, but should be better in communicating its strengths.

    Read More
  • SkinCare 2.0

    Issue 2/2017/ Partners

    Innovative products from cellulose fibre: GreenDoer

    ​Based in China, Metsä Fibre’s partner company GreenDoer is a leading supplier of next-generation sustainable packaging solutions to the consumer industry. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, the company has developed innovative 3D shaping technology for producing molded fibre products.

    Read More
  • Christmas star

    /

    Something old, something new

    ​From 1996, it has been a tradition to have a Christmas star shining over our Äänekoski mill. Set up on top of the digester, the star used to be a landmark of the old mill, wishing Merry Christmas while bringing light to the mill area.

    Read More
  • Forest

    Issue 2/2017/ Markets

    Europe's forest nation

    ​Charting the past, present and future of Finland’s uniquely productive relationship with the forest. From Metsä Fibre's perspective, the sustainable and well-organised forest management in Finland and the growing demand from Asia make the future look bright.

    Read More
  • Inauguration

    Issue 2/2017/

    Bioproduct mill inaugurated

    ​Metsä Fibre’s next-generation bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland, was inaugurated by the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö on 18 October 2017. Hosted by President and CEO of Metsä Group Kari Jordan, guests at the event included national policy-makers, representatives from the City of Äänekoski and various partners in cooperation related to the bioproduct mill project.

    Read More
  • Bioproduct mill

    Issue 2/2017/ Sustainability

    World-class bioproduct mill

    ​Metsä Fibre’s next-generation bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland, is the largest wood processing plant in the Northern Hemisphere, which brings prosperity to the whole of Finland. The new mill is called a bioproduct mill since it increases the product portfolio with new bioproducts, generates excess bioenergy, and operates without any fossil fuels. The pulp production capacity of the mill is 1.3 million tonnes of pulp a year.

    Read More
  • old Äänekoski mill

    Issue 2/2017/ Sustainability

    Recycling the old Äänekoski mill

    ​The start of operations at the new Metsä Fibre bioproduct mill in Äänekoski has meant shutting down the old pulp mill, and its demolition is currently under way. This work began in June by dismantling the old wastewater treatment plant.

    Read More
  • Woman using a tablet

    Issue 2/2017/

    Customer satisfaction high at Metsä Fibre

    The annual Metsä Fibre customer satisfaction survey was completed again this summer with interviews of pulp customers in various market areas. The overall customer satisfaction rating remained almost unchanged at 8.61 on a scale from 4 to 10.

    Read More
  • Issue 1/2018/ Sustainability

    New combination certificate covers all Metsä Fibre operations

    ​Metsä Fibre’s aim of continuously improving its operations is supported by certified control and management systems, related to quality, the environment, energy efficiency and safety. The systems enable, for example, tracking the origin of the wood raw material and following the logistics chain.

    Read More
  • Paptic

    Issue 1/2018/ Partners

    Replacing plastics

    ​Paptic is a biobased, recyclable and renewable next generation packaging material made of sustainable wood fibre. Developed by a Finnish start-up company of the same name, Paptic is suitable for uses where plastic films have previously been the only alternative.

    Read More
  • FibreOnline

    Issue 1/2018/ Solutions

    Building 24/7 customer service – together

    ​Based on customer feedback and a user research project, Metsä Fibre has completely revamped their online services. Today, these services have become a holistic tool where customers can find everything they need and even download certifications to pass on to their customers. It’s all in one place – online – easily accessed 24/7 at the push of a button.  

    Read More
  • Song

    Issue 1/2018/ Markets

    Eastern horizons

    ​Introducing Wangqiu Song – Metsä Group’s recently recruited SVP, Asia and China – and his unique perspectives on both the Finnish and Asian pulp businesses. 

    Read More
  • Ismo Nousiainen

    Issue 1/2018/ Voice

    Pursuing excellence

    ​The business environment continually changes, and company operations must accordingly evolve to keep pace. There is always room to improve, and always an imperative to do so. Regeneration and continual improvement are no longer a choice, but a necessity and a condition for surviving in the modern era. 

    Read More
  • mill

    Issue 1/2018/ Solutions

    RFID pulp delivery tracking

    ​RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is an identification technology that enables efficient and reliable real time tracking of pulp deliveries. Every pulp unit leaving a Metsä Fibre mill automatically includes RFID tags that help to ensure deliveries and minimise consignment errors.

    Read More
  • technology

    Issue 1/2018/ Voice

    A digital revolution

    ​Technological trends arising from digitalisation, such as IoT, artificial intelligence and data analytics, are having a major impact on society, the world of work and the business operations of Metsä Fibre.

    Read More
  • campfire

    Issue 1/2018/ Sustainability

    On a journey of sustainability

    Common sustainability goals bring industry operators together for a memorable event.

    Read More
  • Äänekoski

    / Sustainability

    Key Customer Event showcases sustainable forest management

    ​Running through May 23-25, Metsä Fibre organised a Key Customer Event in and around Äänekoski, the site of its new bioproduct mill, inviting international clients to Central Finland.

    Read More
  • Kate Stone

    Issue 1/2018/ Voice

    Print is dead, long live print

    ​Print is the most pervasive human interface: we write on it, read it, wear it, sit on it and even eat from it!

    Read More
  • Li Na

    Issue 1/2018/ Partners

    Shared values strengthen cooperation

    ​Li Na, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Sun Paper company, says that Metsä Fibre’s strong brand reputation, core values and product quality form the basis of a solid partnership.

    Read More
  • Äänekoski

    Issue 1/2018/

    Metsä Spring plans textile fibre production

    ​Metsä Group has established a new innovation company, Metsä Spring Ltd.

    Read More
  • employee

    Issue 1/2018/

    Appointments at Metsä Fibre's mills

    ​New appointments at Metsä Fibre's mills announced.

    Read More
  • Kemi mill

    Issue 1/2018/

    Prefeasibility study launched on renewal of Kemi pulp mill

    ​Metsä Fibre has launched a prefeasibility study on the renewal of its pulp mill in Kemi, with the option of either replacing the current mill or extending its life cycle.

    Read More
  • Kate Stone

    / Solutions

    Making paper magical

    ​Any printed item can be given a digital soul by adding touch, connectivity and data, says Dr Kate Stone.

    Read More
  • Sustainable wood supply as cornerstone of circular economy

    / Sustainability

    An efficient circular economy needs a sustainable supply chain

    ​Delivering an increasingly sustainable supply chain represents a fundamental cornerstone of Metsä Group’s forestry operations. Enhancing efficiencies, as well as implementing stricter environmental and ecological measures in sustainable forest management, have a considerable impact on how the group adds to the circular economy.

    Read More
  • Kaskinen mill's rebranded BCTMP pulp portfolio launched

    / Solutions

    Two new BCTMP brands with improved properties

    ​Metsä Board’s rebranded High Yield Pulp portfolio was officially launched at the start of 2018 through Metsä Fibre’s global sales network. The project was based on extensive customer discussions and the chance to simplify the pulp offering into two well-distinguished products. Botnia High Yield BULK offers high bulk and brightness to mainly printing and writing paper grades. Botnia High Yield TENSILE provides excellent tensile strength and brightness for tissue and speciality papers.

    Read More
  • Metsä Fibre Mill Managers presented, Rauma mill

    / Solutions

    A strong quartet

    ​We asked all of Metsä Fibre’s Mill Managers to describe the areas of expertise of their units and their own personal strengths.

    Read More