I was 16 when I started working at the Kemi mill. During that summer, I was charged with floating and sorting logs, a common practice at the time. The next summer, I screened and bagged chips, and washed, sorted and analysed test-cooked pulp.
My working life spans six decades, and a lot has changed during that time. However, I have no nostalgia for the past because things were not always better then.
In 1976, I graduated from vocational school as an industrial lab technician and began working full-time in the laboratory of the Kemi mill. At the turn of the following decade, I completed a degree in technical supervision while working full-time. During the 1980s, I became increasingly familiar with the production of pulp and paperboard, and in 1990 I became a supervisor.
During that decade, process development and automation really began to have an impact in the industrial sector. Back in the 1970s, nearly all the machinery and equipment in a mill were adjusted manually. Now the work is physically less taxing, and quality monitoring has improved. Thanks to online gauges and solid process control, we no longer rely solely on the analysis of end products to monitor the development of quality.
In 2000, I was invited to join the fibre technology competence centre, where I first worked as a research technician and later as a project manager. At the beginning of the last decade, I began working in sales and marketing, first as a fibre technology manager, and then as a technical customer service manager.
Even as recently as the 1990s, customer service in the pulp industry was almost non-existent and consisted mainly of responding to complaints. Nowadays, the customer is at the centre of the business, and everyone understands that without customers, none of us would have a job. We have moved from traditional technical product competence to understanding customers’ real needs and offering comprehensive services.
I am grateful that my employer has always supported me and encouraged training. Sometimes I have regretted not applying to a university when I was young, but then Metsä Group has been my university. I do not have a Master’s in engineering, but I have accumulated a massive amount of useful knowledge by watching and helping students working on their respective theses.
We will not run out of wood in Finland, because we can plant and cultivate more forests than are consumed. The need for pulp will not disappear even if the demand for some paper grades ends, because there is no other material that can replace the pulp fibres in hygiene products, for example.
Additionally, pulp is increasingly challenging plastic as a packaging material. In future, we may find entirely new uses for pulp fibres.
A few years ago, I was voted Metsä Fibre’s employee of the year. It was a surprise, but it felt good to be appreciated by my co-workers. I must have done something right in the workplace community.
That is a good note to end on.