Sofidel tissue paper manufacturing machinery

 
 
 
 

Embracing half a century of innovation

​This year the Italian tissue paper manufacturer Sofidel, based in Lucca, Tuscany, is celebrating 50 years of existence. Despite a demanding market situation, the company has maintained its profitability and is set for growth. This is credit to a unique company structure, expertise in regional markets and cross-border relationships.  

12/2016 TEXT: TIMO NYKÄNEN, PHOTOS: VELHOT / MICHELE SEGHIERI

How has Sofidel come to operate in 13 countries, produce over one million tons of tissue paper per annum and employ over 5,300 people? There is definitely a story to be told here. Andrea Piazzolla, Sofidel’s Chief Purchasing Officer, explains that the company’s history can be categorised in four distinct phases:

“In the first phase, from the 60s to the 90s, when Sofidel was learning about the market and technology, we invested in Italy and started cooperating with retailers. The second phase, between the 90s and mid-2000s, was the internationalisation phase, during which Sofidel developed important green fieldinvestments in France, Poland, UK, Spain and Germany. That was followed by the development of our relationships with our retailers in Europe. The third phase, from the mid-2000s up to 2015, was the phase of acquisitions. We took over some companies and brands and that has granted us some important insight.”

Andrea Piazzolla, Chief Purchasing Officer, Sofidel 

"In the market where Sofidel is active, there will be growth." Andrea Piazzolla, Chief Purchasing Officer, Sofidel.

“At the end of the third phase,” Piazzolla continues, “an important milestone characterized our history. We decided to expand to the largest market in the world, North America. After acquiring the Cellynne Tissue Company in 2012, we are now active in seven US states.” 

The final phase of Sofidel’s historical makeup is the current one. “From 2015 onwards, we have been characterised by organic growth. We are increasing the production of our existing sites in Europe,” Piazzolla notes. By the end of 2018, Sofidel’s total capacity of tissue paper produced per annum will increase by approximately 200,000 tons.

A family-owned tissue business

Despite their internationalisation and penetration of multinational markets, Sofidel’s modus operandi remains firmly rooted in familial tradition. “We are a family-owned company, 100%” Piazzolla proudly says. Everyday operations bring together the hands-on approach of a family-owned company with the ethos and ambition of a multinational. Internal decision-making and communication with shareholders is swift and without hesitation.

“One of the founders, Mr. Emi Stefani, is in the office every single day. The other founding partner, Giuseppe Lazzareschi, passed away in 1993, and his son Luigi Lazzareschi replaced him as CEO. They are both very active in our daily business. Mr Stefani is now 86, and yet he is in my office every day, asking me about the market situation,” Piazzolla notes. Like most of the top management at Sofidel, Piazzolla has been with the company for decades, joining in 1996.

Sofidel tissue paper manufacturing machinery 

With an expected growth rate between 1-1.5% per annum, Sofidel has the potential to install new machinery each year.

Though Sofidel has since profited significantly from foreign markets, the Italian economy hasn’t seen much of a turnaround since the recession began in 2009. Fortunately for Sofidel, their ‘industrial pocket’ is not prone to cyclical fluctuations. Nonetheless, only 20% of the company’s total production is based in Italy. With an expected growth rate between 1–1.5% per annum, Sofidel has the potential to install new machinery each year.

“The way to make a profit, and to take advantage of such a growth rate, is through the quality of the products and through product penetration. In that way, we can achieve great performances in the future,” Piazzolla maintains.

Sofidel is committed to creating competitiveness through sustainability in the mid to long-term, and to performing better according to environmental, economic, social and technological standards. Furthermore, Sofidel is able to create value through their investments in tangible assets. That is to say, via physical assets that have a significant ‘useful life’. This undoubtedly grants Sofidel a competitive advantage over its competitors and attracts long-term partners such as Metsä Fibre.

Metsä Fibre - a value-adding partner

Paolo Di Spigna, Managing Director of Metsä Fibre S.r.l. in Italy, is at the crux of the longterm relationship between Sofidel and Metsä Fibre, which began in 1995. The fact that Di Spigna is located in Italy matters greatly to Piazzolla and his colleagues.

“Metsä Fibre is one of the few companies in the pulp market that has subsidiaries based in Italy. The Italian market is very fragmented. Usually things come about in the pulp market first in Italy and then in the rest of Europe,” says Piazzolla. “Many observers understand the theory of the market very well, but we need those who have a feeling for the market. Paolo has such a feeling – he can predict the behaviour of the local market. That has made our relationship with Metsä Fibre even stronger,” affirms Piazzolla.

Sofidel tissue paper manufacturing machinery 

As part of the ongoing 50th anniversary celebrations, Sofidel is awarding its partners and suppliers with regards to their sustainability efforts. Metsä Fibre are being considered for the Best Supplier and Best Sustainable Product awards. It is evident that while both Metsä Fibre and Sofidel have grown as entities, their respective commitment to sustainability has, to some degree, come to define their relationship.

“With this award, we want to promote the best practices in terms of environmental and social responsibility. We are investing a lot of money in sustainability at Sofidel, and we want to challenge our stakeholders to do so as well. We want to engage our suppliers with sustainability, since we cannot grow sustainably without their help,” Piazzolla says.

INVESTMENTS IN sustainability

As opposed to many of its competitors’ strategy of acquiring existing plants, Sofidel is looking to invest in green field technologies. This means that when acquiring, for example, an industrial space, the company’s ambitions aren’t constrained by any limitations that might be imposed by such a space. These investments and acquisitions ensure that the latest in sustainable technology, along with state-of-the-art standards in all production-related aspects, can be installed and maintained. Piazzolla notes that Sofidel understands sustainability is a “strategic development factor, through which we can contribute to the quality of life of all our stakeholders and consumers.”

You get the sense that sustainability is not just a linear project for Sofidel, but rather a procedural action plan, one that will succumb to change and variation as it is implemented in tandem with today’s economy. In addition to the social and environmental benefits, there are financial perks involved in sustainable actions.

Sofidel tissue paper manufacturing machinery

“As a WWF Climate Saver, our target is to reduce our direct C02 emissions by 23%, and our indirect C02 emissions by 13%, by 2020. We are driven by a ‘less is more’ approach. We believe saving natural resources and lowering the consumption of natural capital will improve our performance and allow us to grow in a responsible way. Also, if we are able to reach these emission reductions, we will be eligible for tax concessions. As such, we will have higher market (entrance) standards, with regards to sustainability, which will make it more difficult for companies to use other competitive methods to enter the market,” Piazzolla states.

Looking ahead

As in any business, there are no certainties in the tissue market, and it’s not always smooth sailing. Of course there are market projections, as well as the kinds of local market predictions which Di Spigna is highly versed in. But that is as far as it goes. A certain uncertainty will always remain, as in any market.

Andrea Piazzolla, Chief Purchasing Officer, Sofidel. 

"We want to engage our suppliers with sustaibanility, since we cannot grow sustainably without their help."

“In the mature market, where Sofidel is active, there will be growth. Also, many new projects and capacities will be introduced to the market. In the Eastern European market, where the product is a commodity categorised by price rather than quality, new capacities will offset growth completely, creating a general over-capacityin the region,” Piazzolla acknowledges. “That will be a challenge. In the meantime, Sofidel has to continue to invest,” he concludes. But for now, Sofidel is entitled to some grand anniversary celebrations.

Related articles

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

Most popular articles

  • Ismo Nousiainen

    Issue 2/2017/ Voice

    Sharpening the customer focus

    Incoming Metsä Fibre CEO Ismo Nousiainen aims to make sure that customers can see the company’s values clearly realised in all of its operations.

    Read More
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • campfire

    Issue 1/2018/ Sustainability

    On a journey of sustainability

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

    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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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