Timber is Metsä Fibre's magazine for timber customers, spanning the entire value chain of sawn goods. Topics in the latest, redesigned edition range from the strengths of Metsä Fibre’s five sawmills and the work of operators at Rauma sawmill, to the sawn timber markets of the Middle East and North Africa.
METSÄ FIBRE CUSTOMER MAGAZINE
6–7 Greetings Synergy with customers creates progress.
40–43 Our timber in the world
Wood demand has been rising year after year in the Middle East and North Africa. Finnish sawn timber is popular because of its high quality.
10–17 5 sawmills – 5 strengths
Metsä Fibre’s Finnish sawmills are renowned for their quality. The mill managers reveal the factors behind their success.
44–49 Nordic wood is part of a German success story A partnership with Metsä Fibre supports the growth of the German company Cordes.
18–19 A word from the CEO
Sustainable values are at the core of our strategy. By developing them we are contributing to the forest industry’s sustainable future.
50–53 Only the best wood for windows European door and window manufacturers rely on Nordic wood.
20–25 Living comfort in research
54–57 Wood for the growing Chinese market The customers of the China’s BNBMG Forests are increasingly interested in the safety, sustainability and origin of products. 58–63 Forests are part of Finnish family history Passed down from generation to generation, a Finnish forest is part of the shared heritage of the family. Three Metsä Fibre employees talk about their forests.
At its campus at Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station, Helsinki University is studying the benefits of wood construction in a Living Lab environment.
26–33 Professionals at work
At Rauma’s state-of-the-art pine sawmill, quality comes from skilled operators, for whom the first-class quality of sawn timber is a matter of professional pride.
34–37 New bioproducts from sawdust
64–65 Metsä Fibre Take a look at our services and organisation.
Montinutra Ltd is a Metsä Spring portfolio company that processes sawdust to biochemicals that can replace fossil raw materials in technical chemicals and cosmetics.
38–39 Closer on-site service
Technical Customer Service Manager Victoria Eklund accompanies sawn timber from the mill to the customer.
Timber Customer Magazine 2023 I Metsä Fibre, PL 30, 02020 Metsä I www.metsafibre.com I Publisher: Metsä Fibre I Editor-In-Chief: Eva Martin I Editorial Board: Ari Harmaala, Raili Koponen, Mikael Lagerblom, Kustaa Laine, Sami Peltoniemi, Tommi Saarnisto, Leena Salminen, Tiina Tassi, Ville Valio, Harri Vertanen, Katri Viitanen I Production: Hube Helsinki I Account Director: Sanna Laakkonen I Producers: Maria Latokartano, Katri Riihi- vaara I Layout: Hube Helsinki I Cover Photo: Christian Jakowleff I Printing Press: Punamusta Oy I ISSN: 2736-8297 (print), 2737-0925 (online) I The magazine is published in Finnish, English, French and Chinese I Address Source: Metsä Fibre’s customer and stakeholder register. I If you do not wish to receive the magazine, please send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PROGRESS IS CREATED TOGETHER
The development of our sawn timber business is at the core of our strategy. The main task of our sales organisation is to improve our ability to provide added value to customers across the value chain – from the forest to the customers’ customers who are the end-users of our products. We firmly believe that cooperation founded in trust and open dialogue is the best way to create added value and the only sustainable one. We appreciate your feedback and we study customer satisfaction annually. This gives us a clearer picture of the areas where we have succeeded and the areas where we could do better. Based on the feedback received, we have now prioritised communication, pricing, responsiveness and attentiveness to customers. To meet customer needs, we will increase our market visibility and introduce a new pricing mechanism that pays more attention to long-term customer relationships. Our unique Timber Marketplace has migrated to a new platform and gained new functionality and a new name, Metsä Timber Online. We have also renewed this annual publication for our customers. We hope you find the content interesting and useful. Feedback on this magazine and our other operations is always welcome.
Please contact us at any time!
Mikael Lagerblom VP, Sales, Europe
Metsä Fibre’s Finnish sawmills are renowned worldwide for their premium sawn timber. We asked their managers about what makes the mills strong and what creates quality in sawn timber. Quality turns out to be the sum of many factors, but everyone agreed on the most important.
Text: Maria Latokartano Photograhy: Christian Jakowleff
#1 Nordic wood
“Rauma sawmill is the world’s most modern sawmill, and its development will benefit the whole sawmill industry.”
A timber lorry pulls into the yard of Metsä Fibre’s Renko sawmill and halts, brakes wheezing, as it waits for its logs to be unloaded for grading. Renko sawmill in southern Finland is one of Metsä Fibre’s two spruce sawmills. It produces sawn timber for various sectors of industry, such as internal and external cladding, furniture making, construction and carpentry products. Finnish sawn timber from Nordic tree species – pine and spruce – is known worldwide for excellent quality. Its unique features are derived from a combination of wood’s natural properties and Finnish forest management competence. Examined close up, there are rings on the sawn surface of a log. Each millimetre-thin ring represents the tree’s growth in one year. Slow growth and a close grain are repeated from one log to the next. They mean good density and strength properties that are valued by converters. “The strength of Nordic spruce lies in its consistency. If you convert spruce into one hundred packages of sawn timber, all the packages will be of the same high quality,” says Jussi Lehtosalo , Mill Manager of Renko sawmill. In the case of pine, slow growth results in the formation of heartwood at the core of the tree. The substances that accumulate in heartwood act as natural wood preservatives. For example, pine heartwood used in doors and window frames is exposed to ever-changing weather conditions but still lasts for hundreds of years. It takes an average 80 years for Nordic trees to grow into logs. Correctly timed forest management work and thinning of young stands will ensure that their growth is channelled into trees of the highest quality.
In 2021, side streams from sawing and other forest industry operations generated 112 terawatt-hours of power in Finland. This is more than all the energy produced from fossil oil and coal.* However, power production is just one way to use side streams. Bark can be used for landscaping and to make compost soil, for example. Ash resulting from energy production is suitable as forest fertiliser. It contains the right proportion of tree nutrients which it releases over a long period of time. Following the path of resource efficiency even further, side streams of Nordic wood are found in surprising places. For example, crude turpentine, generated in wood pulping, is used as one of the ingredients of perfumes.
At the sawline in Metsä Fibre’s Rauma sawmill, you need to keep a close eye on the process. Blink at the wrong moment, and the log has already whizzed by. “A pine log becomes sawn timber in just over a second,” says Johanna Harjula , who has worked in Metsä Group since 2010 and will start as Mill Manager of Rauma sawmill in June 2023. Rauma sawmill was constructed to meet customer demand and began continuous production in September 2022. Its output is mainly targeted at demanding end uses, including window and door production, component manufacture and woodworking. Machine vision, robots and automation are used throughout, and the overall process is run from a central control room using special cameras. “Central control room work allows the operators to spend time on quality control and user maintenance, which are important components of the sawmill’s operating model,” says Harjula. Rauma sawmill is a frontrunner and trailblazer where development work benefits the entire sawmill industry.
#2 Resource efficiency
The sawline at Metsä Fibre’s Vilppula sawmill is about 100 metres long. Each log on it is first optimised before being debarked. A chipper canter removes the outer surface and it is then sawn into rectangular logs, slabs, and finally into heartwood boards. The modern single-line spruce sawmill is one of Europe’s largest and produces about 530,000 cubic metres of sawn timber annually. On average, around half the volume of a single log can be used for sawn timber. The rest is woodchips, sawdust, and bark. Log wood is valuable raw material so it is used to the last splinter. “The woodchips produced by sawing are converted into pulp, mainly at Metsä Fibre’s Äänekoski bioproduct mill, while the sawdust is sold to Neova, a partly state-owned company, which converts it into wood pellets for power plants and to heat buildings and homes. We convert the bark into bioenergy and use it in our own kiln drying department,” says Tomi Saine , Mill Manager of Vilppula sawmill.
* Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland
However, high-quality sawn timber is also produced with more traditional equipment. Back at Renko, spruce sawn timber is produced on a bandsaw-bare chipper-rip saw line. Compared to Rauma, the sawline is slower, but offers premium quality, especially for the wide boards produced on it. Its excellent utilisation rate can be as high as 90 per cent, which is second to none. “Metsä Fibre’s vision of industrial efficiency becomes reality at Renko sawmill,” says Mill Manager Lehtosalo. Metsä Fibre is developing the efficiency of its sawmill operations as a whole, guided by the life-cycle plan prepared separately for each production unit.
The Finnish sawmill industry has typically developed far from growth centres, close to forests and waterways. In many municipalities, residential areas have grown up around the sawmill. Its operations create other local businesses. “In towns with a sawmill, everyone knows at least one person working at the sawmill, and many people enjoy long careers at the mill. Last year, we gave an award to someone who had worked for us for 45 years,” says Mikko Lintula , Mill Manager of Merikarvia sawmill. Among the personnel, Metsä Fibre has a reputation for taking care of its employees. This may explain why the first stage of recruiting for Rauma sawmill attracted over 600 applications. What role do employees play in the quality of sawn timber? This is something all the mill managers of Metsä Fibre’s sawmills agree on. Even the most modern sawline cannot operate without people who anticipate the need for blade changes to ensure high quality and who know the customers’ processes and requirements. Their professional approach helped ensure that Lappeenranta sawmill had gone without a single accident for 700 days at the time of this interview. No wonder, then, that all the mill managers, independently gave the same answer to the last question – “What is your greatest source of pride at the sawmill?” “Our employees.” “I am very proud of our good and professional employees.” “My answer is: our employees. They stand for everything we do.” •
At Metsä Fibre’s Lappeenranta sawmill another bundle of sawn timber moves from the kiln drying department to dry sorting. Next it will be graded and aligned at the ends before being packaged. Carrying the Metsä logo, the package is now ready for the world market. Pine sawmill produces close-grained heartwood for windows, doors, and log buildings, for carpentry work and for high-quality glulam solutions. “70 per cent of our products are exported. Our main market areas are Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the Far East,” says Anssi Meuronen , Mill Manager of Lappeenranta sawmill. It is important to customers that sawn timber orders are delivered as promised. With the help of its partner network, Metsä Fibre can efficiently optimise routes and, thanks to its volumes, it can invite competitive tenders for the routes to benefit customers. Operations related to sea transports are centrally handled by Metsä Group’s service centre, which creates made-to-measure consignments and notifies the customer about their progress. Logistics development is also important for the environment. The optimisation of transport chains, loading and routes supports Metsä Fibre’s goal of reducing the carbon footprint of transports. Export deliveries from Lappeenranta sawmill leave via the Port of Hamina, the Port of Mussalo in Kotka, or the Port of Kaskinen. The most distant deliveries are to Japan, a voyage that takes six weeks.
“Safety at work at Lappeenranta sawmill is world-class.”
Merikarvia is a small municipality in the Satakunta region on the shore of the Bothnian Sea. The municipality of 3,000 in- habitants boasts a diverse economic structure. Local livelihoods come from metal and plastic products, agriculture, and fishing. The municipality’s largest private employer is Metsä Fibre, which employs 74 wood processing professionals at its pine sawmill.
SUSTAINABLE VALUES ARE CENTRAL TO OUR STRATEGY
Metsä Fibre pursues its strategy through three programmes: industrial efficiency, customer portfolio development and sustainable solutions. We follow our strategy in everyday work as we continue to improve our competences and our services through strategic projects. Industrial efficiency means not only enhancing our operations but also engaging in long-term work to make the entire converting and value chain more efficient – to benefit the final user of the end product. We aim to be able to offer products and services that will also improve the industrial efficiency of our customers. Our new Rauma sawmill is a prime example of how we have completely rethought the use of modern technology to improve quality and increase production volumes while supporting the operational efficiency of customers. Through long-term customer relationships , we are able to create more added value across the converting chain and to jointly examine and develop product specifications that meet the needs of end-users better than ever. We can also provide our customers with added value services that support their business. For example, we have systematically developed the responsibility and sustainability of our own operations and can make this competence available to our customers. We want to be our customers’ first choice. We are updating our business strategy for sawn timber that will fulfil customer needs and expectations ever better and link them seamlessly to our raw material base, production, and supply chain. Our goal is to find sustainable ways of achieving industrial efficiency in creating added value across the chain. We also seek to help our customers support the business of their customers. They can, for example, invite their customers to Finland to see and experience Metsä Fibre’s sustainable operations, forests that are the source of sustainably produced raw material and Finland’s sustainable forest management. Reliable deliveries are another way to build and strengthen long-term customer relationships. We have several production units, and our sawn timber production is closely integrated with pulp production. We can produce and supply sawn timber regardless of market conditions. This is a major reason why we are the preferred partner of many customers.
Metsä Fibre’s strategy calls for sustainable excellence. The word sustainable refers to a strong culture of continuous improvement, responsible operations and a goal-oriented way of working.
In our strategy, sustainable solutions mean new products that can replace those made from fossil raw materials, as well as process improvements. Our goal is to mitigate climate change and promote the circular economy. Among other things, we are improving the use of side streams from sawn timber production so that they are always converted into the most valuable products possible or utilised in other ways. Finnish sawn timber offers an excellent way to curb climate change. Wood and wood products store carbon throughout their life cycle, and the sawmill side streams can replace products made from fossil raw materials, produce bioenergy, and so on. Our competent employees have a key role to play in implementing our strategy. The skills of employees become increasingly important as production processes become more complex and digital. We can also offer new and ever more interesting work. The forest industry of the future will require more diverse competence and will be an increasingly attractive employer. Electrical automation and mechanical maintenance are two of the skills already in great demand. Experienced operators must continue to share their experience now and in the future. At the core of our strategy is sustainability. We are developing our production to be entirely free of fossil materials, a milestone we intend to reach by 2030. At the same time, we create sustainable added value for customers, which they can pass on to their own customers. The forest industry has a long and important history in Finland. By developing the focal points of our strategy, we are contributing to its sustainable future.
CEO Metsä Fibre
LIVING COMFORT IN RESEARCH
At its CLT-built campus in Hyytiälä, the University of Helsinki is revisiting the question of what makes a building comfortable. Researchers believe that wood can mitigate construction emissions while supporting human health and wellbeing.
Text: Maria Latokartano Photography: Carl Bergman
The first sensors began transmitting data as soon as the CLT elements (cross laminated timber) left the factory hall. They recorded changes in relative humidity and temperature, and transmitted the data through an IoT network to a data cloud. The CLT elements were bound for Hyytiälä, a forestry field station of the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, where they were used to create a new building complex. The location is 50 km northeast of the city of Tampere in Central Finland. Designed for researchers and students, the main building serves as a Living Lab, a platform where research is conducted in real-life conditions. Sensors and technical systems embedded in the building allow researchers to collect information on how spending time in a wooden building affects wellbeing and the living comfort experienced by inhabitants.
Measured data on living comfort
If you ask residents of a wooden apartment block whether they enjoy their homes, they will probably say yes. They may go on to mention indoor air quality, cosiness, a comfortable atmosphere and the good acoustics of wooden apartment blocks. This is already widely known, because the factors came up time after time in living comfort surveys conducted in Finland in the 2000s. What is not known is the exact combination of sources that create positive feelings among residents. Helsinki University expects Hyytiälä Living Lab to provide answers. “The sensors and technical systems in the Living Lab environment will allow us to adjust ventilation, lighting, temperature, and humidity in living-related test conditions. This will help us determine how different factors affect experienced wellbeing and alertness,” says Ritva Toivonen , Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry. In practice, indoor air research involves the measurement of gases. For example, we sense the aroma of wood through fine particles. At Hyytiälä, researchers are interested in questions such as how gas concentrations change in indoor air as the building ages. Toivonen describes the research data obtained from the Living Lab as both unique and socially significant. “It makes a big difference if the buildings we construct promote people’s well- being and alertness.”
Wooden buildings are carbon stores
The new wooden-framed campus, covering 1,400 square metres, includes a main building and a number of smaller buildings linked to it. “We wanted the new facilities to be constructed in line with principles of sus- tainability, and material obviously plays a key role in this. The premises must last for at least 150 years,” says Toivonen. While the campus was being built on a lake shore at Hyytiälä, new homes totalling around 190 million square metres were being built across Europe.* By some estimates, buildings produce a third of greenhouse gas emissions. Using wood can reduce this environmental impact. The Finnish Aalto University
* Source: Cities as carbon sinks—classification of wooden buildings / Amiri, Ottelin, Sorvari and Junnila, 2020
Technical systems in the Living Lab allow the adjustment of ventilation, lighting, temperature and humidity in the test conditions related to living.
and the Finnish Environment Institute have calculated that if 80 per cent of new residential buildings in Europe were constructed from wood, and if wood was used in their structures, cladding, surfaces and furnishings, the buildings would sequester 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. More than 600 cubic metres of wood have been used for the new buildings at Hyytiälä. Assuming that one cubic metre of wood stores 0.75 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the buildings store approximately 450 tonnes of it. * This is equivalent to annual CO2 emissions of 250 internal combustion engine cars, each driven 20,000 kilometres.
Research centre for the entire value chain
The new buildings at Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station are part of a global network of wooden Living Lab buildings, established in 2022. It includes the Peavy Hall teaching and laboratory facilities in Oregon in the United States, and the office and laboratory facilities of the InnoRenew CoE institute in Slovenia. Each laboratory measures some of the same variables to produce long time series data, which will increase our understanding of the characteristics, changes, and sustainability of CLT buildings in different climates. Hyytiälä’s SMEAR II station for atmospheric research offers an additional dimension to the study. It has been used since the 1990s to collect data on gas exchange and gas composition in the atmosphere, growing forests and soil. SMEAR data helps researchers link climate impacts to wood material and construction as a whole. “We hope to develop Hyytiälä into a research and innovation centre that covers the entire forest value chain, where companies can also do testing and research,” says Toivonen. At Hyytiälä campus, sensors in the wooden elements will continue to collect data hour after hour, day after day. Research based on the data has already begun. The first results are becoming available in late 2023 and in 2024.
* Source: University of Helsinki
GROWING USE OF CLT FOR OFFICES IN INDUSTRIAL HALLS
CLT (cross laminated timber) consists of three or more layers of board glued together crosswise. The structure is fire resistant, strong and stiff yet lightweight. The CLT elements used to build Hyytiälä Campus are made of certified spruce sawn timber from Metsä Fibre’s Vilppula sawmill. “The sawn timber used in CLT elements must be extra dry, meaning a moisture content of 12 per cent,” says Ville Valio , Metsä Fibre’s Area Sales Director, Europe. Drying is a sensitive and demanding process. If it is disturbed or if the drying process is too harsh, the sawn timber may twist or even crack. The timber for Hyytiälä was made into CLT elements at CLT Plant’s facilities, which produced 350 elements of varying shapes and sizes. Sami Kakkori, CLT Plant’s Sales Manager, says elements are particularly suitable for the construction of large buildings such as apartment blocks, schools, and kindergartens. “The stiffness of CLT elements is architectonically versatile and even allows cantilevered structures. Although they offer a structural strength equivalent to that of concrete, they weigh only a fifth as much. This is a good feature when adding extra storeys to a building. Transport is also inexpensive, as a single pallet can accommodate around 50 cubic metres of elements.” On the construction site, the CLT elements are erected using a crane. Thanks to their strength, the elements can serve as inside walls and load-bearing structures. The tight structure eliminates the necessity for a separate vapour barrier. Because of their visual appeal, CLT elements are used increasingly in the construction of office facilities in industrial halls. “Wood adds comfort to workspaces, which more and more companies are coming to appreciate.” •
Certified, specially dried timber from Metsä Fibre’s Vilppula sawmill was used as the raw material for the CLT elements at Hyytiälä.
OPERATORS COMPLETE THE QUALITY AT RAUMA SAWMILL
Text: Johanna Flinkkilä Photography: Johanna Sjövall and Metsä Group
Rauma sawmill, operating round the clock is run by professional operators who monitor and fine-tune production throughout every shift to ensure the premium quality of Rauma’s sawn timber.
Arbo Lauri , an operator in the sawing team at Metsä Fibre’s Rauma pine sawmill, watches the massive logs move along the conveyor from the debarking section to the sawline. The logs now lined up for sawing are the sawmill’s largest to date, with a diameter up to 330 millimetres. “We can saw up to four premium grade planks from the heartwood of a log like this. There is also enough sapwood for narrower side boards,” says Lauri. The trunks are thoroughly examined at log reception with the aid of machine vision and artificial intelligence. The X-ray device instantly provides information about the inner quality of the trunk, including its knottiness and heartwood ratio. Every part of the log is used. The woodchips produced at the sawmill serve as raw material for pulping at the pulp mill in the same mill area, while the bark and the sawdust are used for generating power.
“It means making a pre-cut before actually sawing off the pieces. It facilitates first-class surface quality, dimensional accuracy, and high sawing speed in all log grades.” The sawline’s speed is optimised, for example according to the thickness of the log to be sawn, and the goal is to reach a maximum speed of 250 metres per minute. This is triple the speed of a conventional sawline. Lauri finds the efficiency and speed motivating. “I enjoy watching the sawline run at full speed with every- thing working smoothly. It requires continuous finetuning in the background,” he says.
Operators control quality throughout the process
Lauri’s career at Metsä Fibre began at Kyrö sawmill in 2006, and he was among the first applicants to Rauma. Lauri holds a further vocational qualification as well as a specialist vocational qualification in sawmill work. Operators at Rauma sawmill must have a keen interest in learning new things. The three-shift operation poses its own demands. The sawmill runs in three shifts seven days a week – another departure from the traditional practices of Finland’s sawmill industry. Thanks to automation, the operators now have more time for quality control. Ultimately, it is the operators’ experience and sensory quality control that ensure that sawn timber shipped worldwide from Rauma sawmill matches what the customer has ordered. “For us, quality means regular measurements. Visual inspections by the operators are also required. This applies to both the sawing result and the machines, because a blade
250 metres per minute
The area for which Lauri’s sawing team is responsible stretches from the sawmill infeed to the debarking department and the sawline. Each shift has two operators. During their shift, the team members monitor their area of responsibility in the sawmill’s control room, which is shared with operators from other teams. They also make field trips alongside control room work. The sawline is visible proof of Rauma’s role as a front- runner. At the beginning of the line, the log is rotated into the best possible position for sawing. This is the first place in the world to have introduced the dx, or pre-sawing, process.
“We are serious about safety at work,” says Arbo Lauri, who is an operator in the sawing team and is also the sawmill’s health and safety representative. “All the sawmill’s employees automatically don their helmets when they work outside the control room.”
that is in poor condition can easily leave an ugly mark on the surface of the wood.” The operators change the blades together at the sawmill. LSAB, the sawmill’s partner, services and sharpens the blades to be fit for reuse. The premium quality of sawn timber is important for the operators. It is a question of professional pride. “We aim to make such good sawn timber that we would buy it for ourselves,” says Lauri.
Problem solving is what Lappalainen enjoys most in his work. His training as an electrician is valuable, for example in determining the reason for possible device failures. “Being able to solve a fault or problem or adjust the trimmer’s calibration is rewarding”, he says.
One millimetre can be crucial for quality on the sorting line
“Quality assurance is our team’s most important task. Any product that does not meet requirements must be removed from the process as early as possible,” says Lappalainen. In green sorting, sawn timber is sorted according to its dimensions. Automation makes this fast and efficient. The sorting team’s operators check the dimensions manually from time to time, so they must always have callipers and tape measures to hand. “The line is equipped with precise cameras, but operators are also required to intervene in the process if the situation calls for it. Also, no sawing flaws such as blade marks or missing pieces are allowed in the boards. Planing must be done to a precision of one millimetre, so you really must pay close attention.” The green sorted sawn timber moves on to the sticking plant and drying department, and after drying to dry sorting, where the team also checks the quality of sawn timber. Thanks to the state-of-the-art technology used at the sawmill, quality data can be collected throughout the process.
Need for experts and all-rounders
In green sorting, recently sawn products move in good order along the two long sorting lines, controlled by sorting robots and machine vision. The pieces on the line are also examined by Pekka Lappalainen , an operator in the sorting team. Formerly an electrician by training, Lappalainen completed a further vocational qualification in sawmill work when he moved to Rauma. The training increased his knowledge not only of sawing operations but also of sawmill maintenance and technology. Understanding and using new technology require a great deal of learning. Metsä Fibre has invested in the training and orientation of operators. Operators also participated in on-the-job training at different sawmills. All this together provides them with deep competence. In addition, they must understand the entire sawmill process, as the future goal at Rauma sawmill is a model in which proficient multiskilled operators handle the tasks of several teams. Multiskilled people like Lappalainen were actively sought for Rauma sawmill during recruitment. With its varied experience, the team of operators can jointly solve challenges in the best possible way.
All-rounders like Pekka Lappalainen have been intentionally selected for Rauma sawmill.
“We aim to make such good sawn timber that we would buy it for ourselves.”
Take a virtual 360° tour at Rauma sawmill and see how it works
Riku Tamminen works in the sticking and drying team. The sawmill is connected to the drying room.
Aiming for perfect sticker stacks
In the sticking plant, sawn timber is piled into high stacks for drying. A machine places narrow timber stickers of specifically determined dimensions between the layers of products. These stickers ensure that air circulates as evenly as possible around the sawn timber that has been stacked to dry. “The sticker stacks must be perfect for drying to be successful. The stickering of different size products is a demanding task,” says Riku Tamminen , an operator in the stickering and drying team. “At Rauma sawmill the sticking plant is connected to the kiln drying department. This means our team is responsible for both phases, and we can affect the drying process by what we do in the sticking plant. It is motivating, and the variety of the work holds your attention,” he adds.
Rauma sawmill’s model of a single control room is the first of its kind in the history of sawmilling.
Get to know the work of the Rauma sawmill operators in the video
Precise drying refines the quality of sawn timber
In the kiln drying department, sticker stacks extending from the floor to the ceiling form impressive alleys in the hall. The size of the building is also impressive, covering approximately two hectares. The halls contain nine continuous channel driers and 26 chamber kilns. The heat needed in the drying process is obtained from the pulp mill that is part of the integrated mill.
Jari Trygg praises the collective spirit of the Rauma sawmill. All employees are united by the same goal, which is to produce first-class sawn timber for the world.
Precise drying refines the quality of sawn timber. It requires time; products that have been dried too quickly may crack. Drying is based on drying formulas, which determine how the air temperature and relative humidity are regulated. The moisture content varies from approximately 17 per cent, typical of shipping-dry sawn timber, to 10 per cent for extra-dry grades. Drying is always designed to suit the intended end product. Customers must be able to trust that products such as windows and doors made from sawn timber produced in Rauma will retain their shape in demanding climate conditions. “In the woodworking industry the right moisture content is critical. We invest in quality. It shows the results of our work,” says Tamminen.
The conveyor lines automatically carry the sawn timber bundles to the lorry waiting by the door at the far end of the hall. Thanks to automation, operators can concentrate on supervising the loading process and ensuring the quality of the sawn timber packages. Safety at work has improved now that forklifts are no longer used to move packages. The control of the automated loading process is linked to the sawmill’s control system, so loading can be monitored from the control room. The system also allows waybills to be submitted automatically to the customer, port, transport company and loading system supplier. Trygg and the rest of the packaging team are responsible for ensuring that packages leave the sawmill as smoothly as they were produced. Specially equipped lorries pick up packages from the sawmill in three shifts. “The sawmill has no warehouse for finished sawn timber. The packaged products are transported immediately to the Port of Rauma, a few kilometres away,” says Trygg. Before transferring to Rauma, Trygg worked at a paper mill for 37 years. He is relatively new to the sawmill industry, but his long career gives him calmness and confidence. Like all the other operators, Trygg speaks warmly about the team spirit. The operators in the central control room help and learn from one another. They all share the same goal: to ensure that nothing but premium sawn timber is shipped to the world from Rauma sawmill. •
Automated loading is new in the sawmill industry
Grade-sorted sawn timber is ready for packaging. The pressing device squares off the ends of the sawn timber bundles and ties them with a hoop. The next machine in line slips a protective hood over the package. Jari Trygg is one of the operators on the packaging team. His team is responsible for ensuring that the sawn timber is of the right dimensions, and that the packaging looks as it should.
NEW BIOPRODUCTS FROM SPRUCE SAWDUST
Montinutra Ltd extracts biochemicals from the hemicellulose and lignin in sawdust to produce biochemicals that replace fossil raw materials in technical chemicals and cosmetics. This Metsä Spring’s portfolio company is planning a new production plant alongside Metsä Fibre’s Vilppula sawmill.
Text: Maria Latokartano Photography: Metsä Group
Metsä Group aims to use all production side streams as either materials or energy. This resource-efficient approach took another step forward when Montinutra Ltd announced the launch of a pre-engineering project for a new production plant alongside Vilppula sawmill. Montinutra is part of the investment portfolio of Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring. The project’s launch was sealed with funding of EUR 7 million granted by Business Finland in January 2023. Business Finland is a Finnish public-sector business operator that offers internationalisation and funding services to companies. The investment costs of the planned production plant are estimated at approximately EUR 20 million. Montinutra’s Managing Director Jaakko Pajunen describes Business Finland’s funding decision as a significant gesture from the public sector and a sign of strong support for the circular economy. “Plant projects are huge investments. The funding from Business Finland lowers the threshold for other investors to fund this project and contributes significantly to its implementation,” he says.
Rapid scalability possible
The main raw material for the new production plant, due to be constructed next to Vilppula sawmill, will be spruce sawdust generated as a side stream at the sawmill and currently used mainly in bioenergy production. The production process uses hot water extraction, where the raw material is processed under high pressure and temperature. The zero-waste process features closed-loop water circulation and energy recovery. “The forest industry has traditionally been focused on cellulose fibre. The other parts of the tree, more than half of which are hemicellulose and lignin, have received less attention. We will use these to develop future biochemicals,” says Pajunen. In the first stage, the Vilppula production plant will be able to refine 10,000 tonnes of sawdust annually. Pajunen says Montinutra is prepared to double or triple production volumes later. “In terms of scalability, it is extremely important to have an industrial partner like Metsä Group that can safeguard the first part of our value chain. The fact that we do not have to build a raw material network from scratch gives a considerable boost to our scalability.”
A value proposition based on fossil fuel-free operations
Pajunen divides the biochemicals to be produced at Vilppula into four categories: sugars, lignins, fibre products and dust binding products. Montinutra will launch the products under its Boreal Bioproducts® brand. “These are all new biochemicals, so we have intentionally opted for a broad development portfolio.” Montinutra’s value proposition is based on fossil fuel-free operations, the circular economy and sustainability. The products can be used in technical chemistry to replace fossil polymers and reduce the carbon footprint of products. As their raw material consists of industrial side streams, production does not compete for land with food crops. In terms of sustainability, another important factor is that the origin of the raw material can be traced from end to end.
“Fossil fuel-free operations lay the foundation for our value proposition, but our products must also offer excellent technical performance. Being bio-based is not enough; we must also match the performance of competing products.”
Metsä Spring one of the investors
Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring aims to develop new business linked to wood-based value chains. This effort encompasses investments in promising start-up companies worldwide as well as promoting the company’s own pilot and demo projects. “Metsä Spring supports the growth of Metsä Group’s business ecosystem. We are a strategic investor and innovation promoter in the wood-based circular bioeconomy,” says Katariina Kemppainen , Metsä Group’s SVP, Group R&D. At the beginning of 2023, Metsä Spring had four portfolio companies. It began cooperating with Montinutra two years earlier when Metsä Spring made an equity investment in Montinutra. “We had been following Montinutra for quite a while, and when the company set its sights on producing higher volume products from hemicellulose, we decided that the time was right for deeper cooperation,” says Kemppainen.
A host of potential uses
Kemppainen says that interest in bio-based products that can replace fossil raw materials is growing strongly in various industries. “Currently, it is very important to find bio-based alternatives for fossil raw materials, and a lot of work in the field is underway.” She points out that Montinutra’s Boreal Bioproducts® offer stabilising and emulsifying properties that are suitable for various coatings as well as other purposes. The emulsions used in the cosmetics industry offer numerous applications. The technology risk related to production scalability is regarded as moderate in Montinutra’s case. “Technology risk is often a big question mark for start-up companies, but Montinutra has conducted several pilot projects and successfully avoided scalability pitfalls. In fact, their technology risk is actually quite small.”
Aiming for high volume business
Kemppainen sees the upgrading of sawdust as a good example of resource- efficient wood use that converts production side streams into a variety of bioproducts. “The sawdust fraction left over from the process is still an important source of bioenergy and supports Metsä Group’s goal of giving up fossil fuels.” She sees no obstacle to Montinutra developing from a start-up into an important operator in the next few years. “Of course, we would like to see Montinutra develop into a volume business, where production is not limited to Vilppula. Growth may also come from another raw material such as bark.” “The commercialisation of a new bioproduct is always a challenging process that requires patience and competence in many fields. However, Montinutra has always had an extremely competent team.” •
CLOSER ON-SITE SERVICE
Technical customer service interacts directly with sawn timber customers and provides a faster response to customer feedback.
Text: Katri Riihivaara Photography: Christian Jakowleff
When the first sawn timber delivery was dispatched from Metsä Fibre’s new Rauma sawmill, Technical Customer Service Manager Victoria Eklund also left for Denmark to be ready to receive it alongside the customer. On site, they inspected the quality of the sawn timber together. “We opened two packages of the consignment,” Eklund says. “Sawn timber is typically inspected to check for features like cracks visually, and to measure its moisture content and dimensions.” The customer approved the package, and Rauma sawmill will continue to ship sawn timber to Denmark.
In its pulp business it has been using technical customer service for many years to increase the efficiency of customers and mills alike, while improving its own understanding. In the sawn timber business, the service helps utilise wood as efficiently as possible throughout the value chain.
A service that customers want to continue
Technical customer service for sawn timber customers will first focus on deliveries from the new Rauma sawmill and customers in Europe and Japan. “In Technical Customer Service, our job is to improve the whole value chain, improving our customers’ efficiency as well as our own. We ensure that the product always meets the customer’s needs without surprises or disruptions,” says Tom Nickull, VP, Sales Services. The quality data that Metsä Fibre collects on its production processes plays a key role in supporting customers’ business operations. Similarly, the feedback received through customer service helps in finding the best uses for the data. “As an example, inspections of deliveries take up a lot of customer resources. We are currently investigating if our data could help in these situations.” Eklund says that technical customer service has received a warm welcome from customers and that expectations for its development are high. The service offers key customers added value for their sawn timber deliveries free of charge. Customers get the best value from the service when they openly discuss their own production process. The people who Eklund meets are typically at work in production, which makes communication on technical matters easier. “We have learned from the pulp business that when a customer starts using our technical customer service, it becomes indispensable. In the future, we hope to be part of our customers’ own development projects too,” says Nickull.•
Eklund is responsible for the technical customer service of Metsä Fibre’s sawn timber, and visits key customers in Europe and Japan, introducing the new service to them. “The goal of technical customer service is to develop the business operations of our customers. We monitor the quality of our sawn timber and how it works in the customers’ production processes. The service is carried out through personal visits that allow me to continuously improve my understanding of the customer’s needs.” Previously, Eklund worked as a production engineer at Renko sawmill. This technical background is useful in her role as a go-between for sawmills and customers. The account manager still plays a crucial role for customers. Thanks to the feedback delivered by Eklund, potential issues can be tackled quickly. This ensures that the customers’ production remains free of disruptions. “The employees at Rauma sawmill were also looking forward to hearing what the customer thought about the first deliveries. It is important for production to get information quickly about how products and their properties could be developed further.” Technical customer service is part of Metsä Fibre’s strategy.
OUR TIMBER IN THE WORLD
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
Text: Matti Remes Photography: iStock
The Middle East and North Africa have long been a key market area for Nordic sawn timber. Close-grained wood is highly appreciated by quality-conscious customers who value craftsmanship.
Although the Middle East and North Africa are rich in natural resources, the dry and hot region has hardly any forests suitable for commercial use. As for sawn timber, the region’s countries are in practice entirely dependent on wood imported from elsewhere, says Heikki Vidgren , a sawmill industry expert from AFRY Management Consulting. “They produce less than one per cent of the sawn timber they consume. It is very different in Europe. For example, Central European countries have their own sawmills and generally import only what they cannot produce.” For decades, Finland and Sweden have commanded a strong position in Middle Eastern and North African sawn timber markets. Vidgren believes this is logical because both Nordic countries are major net exporters of sawn timber and are geographically closer than other global exporters like Canada and South America. Central Europe does not have a sawn timber surplus for export because most of its production is consumed locally. Sawn timber is shipped to North Africa and the Middle East by sea in containers and on bulk carriers.
There is also wide variation in lengths and grades. “We have hardly any customers in Europe who request such a wide product portfolio. Instead, European industrial customers and the retail sector have very specific sawn timber requirements, for example length.”
Only Nordic wood is good enough
In the Middle East and North Africa, wooden end products are still frequently made by hand. For example, in Algeria, most doors, windows and furniture are produced in small carpentry shops instead of large production plants. Woodworking skills are still valued, and the profession is often passed down from father to son. “However, Algerian production is being modernised, and industrial production methods are becoming increasingly common,” says Azzedine Chebirdou, owner and manager of Cotim Bois, a wood supplier. Carpenters handle wood by the piece and are very conscious of the quality of the material they use. “Our local customers are demanding. Each delivery must meet their quality requirements, which is why we only use sawn timber from Finland and Sweden,” says Chebirdou. Pine is used in Algeria for doors, windows, fixtures and furniture. Spruce is the dominant wood species in other types of construction.
Large differences in use
Tommi Saarnisto , Metsä Fibre’s Area Sales Director, points out that although the Middle East and North Africa are traditionally important markets for pine sawn timber, there is also good demand for spruce. The region stretching from Morocco to Saudi Arabia encompasses a variety of sawn timber markets, with major variations in wood product use between the countries. “Take concrete formwork. In some countries, spruce is favoured while others prefer pine,” Saarnisto explains. Metsä Fibre’s main markets in the Middle East and North Africa are Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt. Saarnisto says all standard sizes of sawn timber, from 19-millimetre boards to 75-millimetre heartwood, are supplied to these countries.
Saudi Arabia favours spruce for construction
Faisal Al-Muhaidib , CEO of Masdar Building Material, says Saudi Arabian customers are also very particular about wood quality. Masdar’s clientele consists of contractors, manufacturers, joineries, traders and end users. “There is no wood construction as such in Saudi Arabia, but wood products are used for various purposes by the
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