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A day in the life of Ilkka Poikolainen

Workplace: Metsä Group’s Äänekoski bioproduct mill, Finland
Position: Vice President of the bioproduct mill

After graduating from Oulu University, Finland, with a focus on pulp and paper, Poikolainen worked first for UPM’s label business followed by Stora Enso’s fluting business as a Operational Manager. In 2005, he started working at the Metsä Group as a Production Engineer of Äänekoski mill, moving into  Production Manager and then took over as Vice President at Metsä Fibre’s Rauma mill. Poikolainen was also responsible for the company level production efficiency project as well as the company level contact person to outsourced maintenance at other Metsä Fibre pulp mills in Finland. After five years at Rauma, Poikolainen was given the leading role of Vice President at Äänekoski bioproduct mill in early 2018.

Poikolainen is married to Mari, and between them they have children from the age 12 to 22 and a cat called Mimmi. The family live in a top floor apartment in Jyväskylä, a town some half hour’s drive from the bioproducts mill at Äänekoski. Poikolainen is an avid fan of athletics and is often seen traveling around Europe spectator at some of the larger international gatherings; he also likes running, cross-country skiing, and spending time at the family’s cottage in the Finnish countryside.

The bioproduct mill has gained a lot of attention over recent times, as it represents the largest forest industry investment ever undertaken in Finland. The huge $1.4 billion project was completed in August 2017 and the mill was started up seven minutes ahead of schedule. Since its start-up, the mill has been breaking all sorts of records in production and environmental performance, including being 240% energy self-sufficient, which represents 2.5% of all electricity production in Finland.

Metsä Group gave permission to the SPECTRUM editorial team in early October 2018 to share a DAY IN THE LIFE of Ilkka Poikolainen, Vice President of the bioproduct mill in Äänekoski.

VIEW VIDEO TO EXPERIENCE THE COMPLETE STORY

06:30 // EARLY MORNING BREAKFAST WITH MARI

It’s usually an early start for the Poikolainen’s – Mari, Illka’s wife is a kindergarten teacher and needs to get to her school on the outskirts of Jyväskylä by 7:30. Ilkka usually drops her off on his way to the mill at Äänekoski.

08:00 // ARRIVAL AT BIOPRODUCT MILL

Poikolainen starts his day reading production diaries from the evening shift, dealing with emails, and taking part in Skype calls. The Äänekoski bioproduct mill employs some 150 people and produces 1.3 million tonnes a year of softwood and hardwood pulp, using around 6.5 million square meters of wood of wood.

08:30 // MORNING MEETING WITH THE PRODUCTION AND MAINTENANCE TEAM

Poikolainen attends a daily production morning meeting at the mill, with the first subject on the list always being safety. “As a mill and as an organization, safety is the number one priority for us. I am very proud of saying that our mill is very clean and it is very important that it is kept clean for the well-being of our work force here. Our philosophy when it comes to all operations at our mill is to make every day better and better,” says Poikolainen.

09:00 // MILL´S MANAGEMENT TEAM MEETING IN THE TIMBUKTU ROOM


Numerous meetings are part and parcel of every mill manager’s day. Different kind of meetings offer great opportunity to discuss and share ideas, for example, the development of operations and products and committing people to this work.

Around 20% of the mill’s sales already comes from bioproducts other than pulp. Most recently, the Metsä Group´s and Itochu´s joint venture has started to build a demonstration plant for producing 500 tonnes of wood-based textile fibres next to the bioproduct mill. The mill also utilizes numerous side streams derived from the pulp process and produces product gas, sulfuric acid, tall oil, turpentine, and bioenergy.

12:30 // LIFECYCLE MANAGEMENT OF PROCESSES AND EQUIPMENT

The lifecycle management of process equipment is a very important part of a mill’s long-term success. Systematic and well-planned maintenance and lifecycle planning are as important as equipment performance. Close cooperation with the equipment supplier is essential to optimize both the overall operating costs and equipment performance. Regular meetings with Harry Qvintus, Senior Vice President of ANDRITZ Pulp & Paper Service in the Nordic Region are an important part of Poikolainen’s routine.

13:30 // COMMUNICATION STRATEGY STEERING COMMITTEE

The bioproduct mill has become a showcase for not only the global pulp, paper and bioproducts industry, but also for the nation of Finland. The mill has around 20,000 visitors a year from all over the world and Finland including, for example, forest owners, customers, students, and other stakeholders.

This means communication is a very important part of the mill’s everyday operations and the mill has a dedicated team looking after both external and internal communications. Today, Poikolainen and the communications team discuss an upcoming visit by 14 members of the Finnish parliament.

15:00 // MONITORING DAILY STATUS OF THE MILL

Being Vice President of the mill, of course, also means keeping a close eye on safety, quality, environment, cost efficiency, the actual production, operations, and equipment. Digitalization has been fully implemented at the bioproduct mill via extensive automation of production equipment that is comprehensively integrated into data networks. New features at the mill include tablet computers and a mobile application deployed to provide swift access to maintenance and conditioning not only from the control room but also from locations around the mill.

Preventative maintenance is a hugely important area of focus for the bioproduct mill, and Metsä Group has a company specially assigned to the task. Using the latest in digital, mobile technology, the teams are able to keep ahead of the curve and make sure any potential problems are quickly isolated and dealt with. “We can monitor such aspects as vibration levels and the status of frequency transformers during operation, thereby forecasting potential malfunctions,” says Poikolainen.

17:00 // WALKAROUND WITH THE PRODUCTION TEAM

“We have an excellent team here,” says Poikolainen. “and my passion is to drive the mill to achieve remarkable results in the future. Continuous improvement is in our hearts here at the bioproduct mill.”

After 17:30 // ANOTHER VARIED DAY AT ÄÄNEKOSKI COMES TO AN END

At the end of the day, when essential routines are completed, urgent emails are answered, and discussions on major topics are concluded, Poikolainen leaves the office. As Poikolainen departs from the mill, he tells the SPECTRUM editorial team: “One thing I can say to you for sure is that every day is different at the bioproduct mill.”

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