Metsä Fibre's new production operating model, based on self-directing teams, has gained national recognition. The model called "Mills of the Future" reforms the operations and supervisory work at our mills. "The most important asset are professional colleagues and a supervisor who encourages people to apply themselves to the fullest," says Annastiina Lehto, head of steering at Rauma mill.
Sheltered in a corner right by the pulp mill's control room, Annastiina Lehto's workspace is located in an open-plan office, where she is steering the pulp mill's 26-member team towards the best possible job performance. Her location close to where things happen is an advantage.
"I see both morning and evening shift workers every day, and I allocate separate time slots from my calendar for supervisory work, which can mean anything from a visit to the control room to focusing on digitally performed tasks. It is characteristic of this job that people turn to me in relation to a wide range of issues. Every supervisor makes use of their own strengths in their work. I happen to be a fairly pedantic person," says Lehto.
Coaching approach feels natural
At the mill, the teams work in a self-directed manner, and there are no longer any shift supervisors. Many problems are solved independently by the team, within the process. In her capacity as the department's supervisor, Lehto focuses on guiding people and on finding best practices with regard to issues that concern the entire pulp mill, such as quality. This coaching-like approach has felt natural to Lehto from the very beginning. "My starting point has always been that the employees are professionals. We ask them what they would do, and the decisions are made together.
A supervisor listens to people and is sometimes even confronted with difficult personal issues. At the same time, it is my job to ensure that everyone's activities support the achievement of our common strategy and plans," says Lehto.
"What I like about Metsä Fibre is the fact that new things occur fairly frequently. I support new ways of working and enjoy the fact that you can, within a certain framework, do your job in your own way, and that you can carry out projects alongside your basic tasks. The challenges brought about by changes keep up the interest."
The best experts of their work
The most visible change in the new operating model of Metsä Fibre's production in comparison to the old one is that the shift managers who used to work in shifts transferred to daytime work. Nowadays, the shifts operate independently.
Operator Harri Saisaari (in the photo) participated in the renewal from the very beginning, when he took part in the pilot project carried out in Rauma.
"The positive thing about this is that we work here independently, and we try to look for solutions as a team before calling for help. The process includes a number of variables, due to which it is important to react at the right time. If you talk about safety, for example, we have the best knowledge of what to do. You have to make decisions in good time," says Saisaari.
During the pilot phase, employees at Rauma developed the practices required for the new operating model. In the new model, the departments are in increasingly direct contact with one another, without any go-betweens.
Teemu Leppänen, who managed the "Mills of the Future" project, emphasises that everything is based on doing things together. Most of the training was carried out where the work is done, too. "We have people who have been running the process for 20 years and who have a deep understanding and knowledge of at least one department.
They already have a vision of how to develop the job. The objective was shared leadership, which gives everyone a chance to influence their own work. Now that they are working the day shift, supervisors can focus on their managerial job and on developing the operations of their respective departments, and on planning training according to personal needs."