On 11 February 2021, Metsä Fibre, part of Metsä Group, decided to invest in a bioproduct mill in Kemi, Finland. Thus, the largest domestic investment in the history of Finnish forest industry, totalling EUR 1.6 billion, was launched. The mill will be completed in the third quarter of 2023. Excavation work at the mill location is in full swing.
“Once the investment decision was made, we got started right away. The excavation and piling are proceeding according to plan, and the manufacturing of equipment has also begun,” says Jari-Pekka Johansson.
Johansson has more than 20 years of experience of project management, and also took part as the Project Director for Valmet in Metsä Group's Äänekoski bioproduct mill project in 2014–2017.
“The recent Äänekoski project is a great advantage to Metsä Group, as the lessons learned there will greatly benefit the Kemi bioproduct mill project. A company and its personnel don’t often have the opportunity to carry out anothersimilar large project in the same country so soon after the first one. In order to achieve a high environmental efficiency for the Kemi bioproduct mill, we systematically improve on our process and fine-tune the technical aspects of the project.
Already during the Äänekoski project, Johansson noted the high professionalism and efficiency of Metsä’s operations.
“I remember thinking that I’d like to be part of that,” says Johansson.
Johansson enjoys the variety of the project work and working with people. Now he is happy to be directing the Kemi bioproduct mill project that will have a positive impact not only on the Kemi district but on the entire country. Metsä’s fossil free Kemi bioproduct mill will be a global pioneer of environmental, energy and material efficiency.
According to Johansson, the cornerstone of managing any large industrial project is a systematic process. Before the project is launched, detailed plans must be prepared to cover it from start to finish.
“Systematic operations and following the plan are at the core of a successful project. Any further details that need to be added to the plans are carefully considered with attention to safety, project goals and efficiency. All work is carried out with a proactive approach and based on plans. This will help ensure safety.”
Safety above all
Proactive safety work is emphasised at the site, and through obligatory safety induction training, every worker knows how to work safely. For example, everyone working at the site must act to stop any work that they believe is dangerous.
“When selecting partners, we carefully assess which of our candidates share our safety values and are able to carry out the work according to plan.”
Schedules are particularly important.
“The project schedule is an extremely important project management tool that largely defines the project. Any deviations from the schedule must be reacted to without delay, and their impact must be carefully contained. Consequently, as a result of the immediate corrective action, the project is able to proceed according to plan.”
If there is a risk that the plan will not hold, Johansson takes systematic account of the situation.
“All aspects of the project can be looked at from multiple perspectives: some are factual and some are based on opinions. I aim to categorize and prioritize things so that they can be handled as smaller chunks, most of which are then relatively easy to solve.”
Challenges may appear at any time. Extra effort is then required to keep the project on track.
“There will always be surprises, but it’s all about how we are able to deal with them and move on.”
A strong and skilled organisation
Johansson leads by example and encourages people to grow into their roles.
“As the project director, I can’t be an expert in everything. A strong project has diverse people with different areas of expertise, so my job is to make sure that they are able to work well. This means giving people who have the skills and expertise the necessary freedom to work.”
Johansson is convinced that the ability to listen to the members of the organisation and to support them on their way forward are core skills for a good leader.
“I feel that my way of working is people-oriented; I talk to people and strive to listen to them. If I’m not doing that well enough, I hope someone will be there to remind me. I work in a very systematic way and always plan ahead. When the unexpected happens, routines help deal with the situation.”
Johansson has a home in Kangasala, near Tampere, and though he spends the working week in Kemi, he travels home to spend time with his family at the weekend. He enjoys working out at a gym, and has found a good one in Kemi as well. In the summer, he hits the road with his motorcycle.
“From the start, it’s been obvious that the bioproduct mill is very welcome in Kemi, which is why it’s very pleasant to work here. Another bonus is that both the town and the people are very nice.”
Johansson is particularly proud of the Kemi bioproduct mill project team and its good cooperation spirit and can-do attitude.
“We have a strong team who are a pleasure to work with.”