Ismo Nousiainen presenting new strategic objectives
 
 
 

Pursuing excellence

In line with its strategic objectives, Metsä Fibre is increasingly focusing on strengthening customer relationships, improving performance, developing its personnel and building the capacity to regenerate, says CEO Ismo Nousiainen.

11/18 TEXT: TIMO NYKÄNEN, IMAGES: METSÄ GROUP AND GUIDO PIJPER/ TWELVE PHOTOGRAPHIC

​Metsä Fibre has become the leading supplier of market bleached softwood pulp in the global market. To retain and reinforce this position, the company has set a broad strategic goal extending to the year 2025, seeking to become the world’s best and most profitable business converting Nordic wood raw material into valuable bioproducts.

On taking charge of the company at the beginning of the year, Metsä Fibre CEO Ismo Nousiainen set the goal of ensuring that customers would see the company realising its values more clearly in all operations. He also asked the management team to study the basis of its competitiveness in the long term. The discussion of strategic aims has taken a deeper and more concrete form over the year.

“We have reviewed our operating environment and the needs of customers, as well as our current strengths, scope for development and weaknesses. Our goal was to determine the key success factors for anyone seeking to build a business of this kind from scratch,” Nousiainen says.

Through this process, Metsä Fibre identified four areas that the company feels it could strengthen in order to boost the standard of operations from good to excellent: exceeding customer expectations, excellent performance in all operations, the best personnel, and being a forerunner with the courage to renew itself.Ismo Nousiainen presenting new strategic objectives

EFFICIENT, RELIABLE PRODUCTION

Nousiainen notes that although Metsä Fibre currently operates on a solid foundation of good collaboration with customers and a comprehensive service portfolio, it should nevertheless strive for continual improvement in this field, and endeavour to anticipate future customer requirements.

“We shall always work to bring added value for customers through our products and services, thereby streamlining their business operations. We can exceed expectations not only by forecasting customer requirements, but also through excellent product quality, security of supply, and prompt deviation management. Our clear strategic ambition is to maintain the most consistent product quality and security of supply in the industry,” Nousiainen explains.

The goal of excellent performance in turn requires Metsä Fibre to optimise its operations in terms of production efficiency, ensuring that production facilities are kept in good condition and systematically modernised. Nousiainen says that the company is already a world leader in this respect.

“Excellent performance also means applying clear and coherent business processes at all of our mills. Aspects of sustainable development, such as raw material traceability, environmental performance and fossil-free production, will be even more important factors in future. Our goal is for customers to benefit from our high sustainable development performance in their own business operations.”

LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT WORK

A top class business also needs top class people, who are willing to set their own increasingly challenging standards of performance, with care taken to develop their skills continually.

“We are striving to become the most desired employer in the entire industry, with a high standard of job satisfaction and occupational health and safety. Excellent management and leadership will play a key role in this. That leadership must be focused, demanding, inspirational and fair-minded. The importance of management and leadership can only grow in future years,” Nousiainen observes.

The fourth focus area of the company’s strategic work is the aim of being a forerunner with the courage for renewal. This will be based on optimally efficient production plants that are modernised when the time is right, and it will involve even better utilisation of side streams from pulp manufacturing. An expanding portfolio of bioproducts will also support the pulp business and improve its cost-effectiveness.

A renewal project at the company’s oldest pulp mill in Kemi is the latest example of systematic development work. Depending on the outcome of current preliminary studies, this facility will either be replaced with an entirely new bioproduct mill, or its life span will be prolonged by modernising several departments.

“The ability to regenerate is not only a matter of willingness to deploy new technology, but also of gauging quality both internally and with the assistance of an outside operator. We shall accordingly once again take part in the European Quality Awards next year, providing valuable feedback for improving our operations.”Ismo Nousiainen presenting new strategic objectives
 
RESPONDING TO GLOBAL CHALLENGES

Nousiainen’s first year as CEO has included meeting customers and strengthening partnerships on many fronts. One of the most significant milestones was achieved in August, when the new bioproduct mill in Äänekoski reached its full nominal production capacity as planned. 

“The bioproduct mill has been very warmly welcomed, and customers are already asking what projects we intend to tackle next. My personal highlights this year have included the bioproduct mill customer events, where we were able to provide a practical demonstration of the entire responsible production process all the way from forest to mill.”

Nousiainen feels that current trends bode well for the future of Metsä Fibre, with forecasts suggesting that China will continue driving growth in demand for pulp as products made responsibly from renewable materials provide an answer to many global problems.

“We are ideally positioned as an operator representing a sustainable bioeconomy based on the forest. We can supply alternatives to products made from fossil raw materials and thereby help to mitigate the impacts of climate change. This is rewarding work indeed, insofar as we also enable rising living standards in developing areas by providing products that promote the goals of sustainable development and advance human wellbeing,” Nousiainen explains.

​Megatrends in the forest industryIsmo Nousiainen presenting new strategic objectives

“The Äänekoski bioproduct mill is a prime example of benefiting from technological and environmental trends and investing at the right time. The investment at Äänekoski has thrown down a gauntlet for competitors who still rely on less eco-friendly technology and fail to optimise their use of production side streams,” says Marko Summanen, assessing the status of Metsä Fibre in his role as Vice President responsible for European operations at the business intelligence services consultancy Fisher International.

Summanen notes that market trends such as the growth of an environmentally aware middle class, urbanisation, smaller family sizes, eating outside of the home, and the burgeoning individual snack culture are boosting demand for all pulp-based products. Ever-advancing globalisation is also forcing industry operators to seek efficiency by intercontinental standards.

“Out of all of the trends shaping the industry, environmental factors such as access to fresh water are probably affecting the future manufacturing locations of pulp and paper. Climate change may also influence the availability of particular wood raw materials. We may even see quite rapid changes in legislation resulting from shifts in public opinion, as is now occurring with the ban on plastics,” Summanen explains.

He feels that it is crucial for Metsä Fibre to stay continually abreast of the latest progress in the sector in order to preserve its status as an industry frontrunner. Metsä Fibre is in

pole position to continue developing new bio-based applications for expanding the use of wood fibers in new applications such as textiles. The company should also be willing to lobby publicly for broader application of the latest bioeconomy solutions. 

“I think that Metsä Fibre has shown wisdom in taking a strategic decision to focus on closer customer relations, service and security of supply. Implementing such a strategy will ensure a competitive edge in the market when competitors finally adopt the same technology at a future date.”

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