Mikael Engman works as a Metsä Fibre Technical Customer Service Manager in Southeast Asia. He has long and varied experience from the pulp industry and has been in Asia for the last 15 years. In his present duties he operates from Singapore.
How did you end up working with pulp?
From a young age I understood how important forests are to the Finnish economy. Naturally I wanted to work in the forest sector, and I completed a master’s degree in pulp technology.
For the last 20 years, I have been developing my competence in various assignments. I have been involved in pulp production, designed and launched mills, and I currently work at the customer interface. My work has taken me to five different continents. I have been with Metsä Fibre since 2017 and have spent all this time here in Singapore.
What does your work involve?
The most important part of my work is to support technical sales. I am responsible for Southeast Asia. Together with our Asian sales organisation and local agent, we look into our customers’ processes to find ways to serve them even better.
My workdays typically revolve around various short and long-term projects, such as studying the mixing ratios that work best for the production of a paper mill customer. We can also dig deeper into the customer’s production process and collect data to help optimise pulp refining. It is a way of getting the greatest benefit from our pulp.
In the last 18 months, I have also been involved in selling pulp to Australia, which has brought an extra challenge to my work.
What advantages does Metsä Fibre have in the Asian market?
Competition is tough here. On the Southeast Asian market, we mainly sell long-fibre pulp from our Äänekoski mill. Nordic wood fibre is very different from the fibre obtained from broadleaf trees in warmer climates. Long-fibre softwood pulp is stronger and therefore suitable for making paper of a higher quality.
Our main market advantage comes from the fact that, in addition to selling pulp, we also help customers obtain added value through the services we provide. This includes technical customer service. Not many other pulp suppliers offer anything similar.
Is being Finnish any advantage?
Finns have a reputation for being reliable. Typically, we do not pigeonhole people according to their ranks or job titles but treat everyone equally and fairly. It is an attitude that is appreciated here. Also, Metsä Fibre’s corporate culture is open, direct and reliable, and it works well in different cultures.
Finland is known for its forests and pure nature. Customers often ask us for training related to sustainability themes and, especially in this region, customer interest in sustainability is increasing.
Many Asians are surprised to learn that trees in Finland grow for an average of 80 years before they are felled. By comparison, acacia and eucalyptus are felled when they are 5–8 years old.
Another thing people admire is that Finland has so many natural and protected forests. I am happy to be able to talk about Metsä’s sustainability targets. It is my way of contributing to a more sustainable tomorrow.
This article was originally published in Fibre Magazine issue 2022–2023.