Portrait of a professional: Almost anything can be made from pulp

​Metsä Fibre’s Product Development Director Raili Koponen has worked for Metsä Group for more than three decades. Pulp became her field of expertise by chance, but the work turned out to be so interesting that she became absorbed by it.
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  • 2021, Pulp, Our professionals

How did you end up working with pulp?

I graduated from Helsinki University of Technology in 1981. Later in the 80s, while I was working in an engineering company in Sundsvall, Sweden, I got a call from a company called Metsä Sellu. They asked if I would be interested in a job in Äänekoski, Finland.

At the job interview, I already knew this was a company where I would have the opportunity to learn and develop. I started working at the Äänekoski pulp mill in 1990.

Today, I work as Product Development Director at Metsä Fibre’s Business Development . At the beginning of 2022 my workplace will move from Äänekoski to Kemi.

An improvement can be as valuable as an invention

What is the best thing about your work?

The material, Finnish wood! Coming from the countryside and even owning some forest myself, it is great to be developing new solutions using a domestic, sustainable material.

Development work suits a curious person with an inquisitive mind like mine. I am drawn to challenges and want to learn new things every day. I am also good at planning projects, and it has been inspiring to implement them as a member of a good team consisting of talented experts in their field.

We have had and continue to have excellent leaders who inspire people to flourish in their work. In fact, I believe that each company is as successful as the people who work for it. With so much expertise and commitment, our employees want the best for the company.

It is just as valuable to think of new ways of doing familiar things a little better than to invent something completely new. If, for example, we manage to make mill operations more efficient by just one per cent or we can think of a way to get a little more out of our equipment, this can bring great savings and success.


What are your working days like?

I work in the customer interface and with research networks. I find demanding customers the best because they challenge us to new ways of thinking. Collaborative projects often involve a chemical, equipment or research component as a third partner. Their expertise brings added value to application development.

My work also involves the development of digital service solutions, which provides an opportunity to use information to improve the performance, quality or cost-effectiveness of our customers’ mills and products more quickly than before.

In addition, I am involved in research, where we are developing biocomposites to replace various plastics, as well as fibrous material products based on paper pulp.

What does the future look like?

Finnish wood holds great potential. At Metsä Fibre, we can promote sustainable development through wood-based innovations. And not only by developing new things, but also by utilising existing knowledge.

We have good values: cooperation, reliability, renewal, and responsible profitability. We develop our operations systematically, which makes our production and deliveries efficient.
With our roots in the Finnish forest, we are constantly taking small steps towards a more sustainable world.

This article was originally published in Fibre Magazine issue 2021-2022.