For the past two years, Heikki Karhunen, Metsä Forest’s SVP, Customership, has worked with the biggest challenge of his career: How to deliver 6.5 million cubic metres of pulpwood a year smoothly to the new bioproduct mill at Äänekoski?
“The use of pulpwood at Äänekoski will increase by a good four million cubic metres compared to the present volumes. In practice, this means that 6–7 million cubic metres more wood than today will be harvested from the forests, given that, in addition to pulpwood, the harvesting will also yield more log wood than before,” says Karhunen.
Metsä Group’s own wood supply in Finland will increase by about a third in the long term. External deliveries and the volume of woodchip purchased from sawmills will also increase.
“Our goal is to purchase most of the wood from Finland and Metsä Group’s owner-members. This provides forest owners with a chance to improve the long-term profitability of their livelihood.”
The directions of wood flows are changing
The bioproduct mill will change the directional flow of the pulpwood delivered by Metsä Group. The wood destined for Äänekoski is purchased within a radius of roughly 100–150 kilometres.
“The greatest potential for increased thinning lies in the direction of Ostrobothnia and Kainuu,” says Karhunen.
As the pulpwood from Central Finland will, in the future, head to Äänekoski, more wood will correspondingly have to be purchased from the vicinity of other Metsä Group units in Kemi, Joutseno and Rauma.
“The harvesting will be carried out by Metsä Group’s experienced contractors, for whom the increased use of wood offers a chance to grow their business with a long-term perspective. The harvesting resources have been planned and dimensioned in such a way that we can respond to the challenge,” says Karhunen.
Once a forest owner makes a stump sale with Metsä Group, a harvester fells, chops and measures the wood in the forest. Then a forwarder transports the wood to a forest stock by the side of a road.
Steadiness and longevity are words Karhunen likes to emphasise when talking about the bioproduct mill’s wood supply.
“Together with contractors and machine manufacturers, we are also actively developing solutions that enable year-round harvesting.”
Terminals balance seasonal variation
Once it is fully operational, the bioproduct mill will use some 20,000 cubic metres of wood and woodchips per year. The unit will be receiving an average of 240 truckloads and 70 rail freight carriages of pulpwood a day.
“The timber trucks will transport the wood from the forest stocks either directly to the mill, or to a buffer stock in one of the fifteen terminals.”
The terminals serve to ensure a steady flow of wood for the mill during thawing seasons and on weekends, since the possibility to store wood in the compact mill area is limited.
The network of terminals is operated by two logistics contractors who have cooperated with Metsä Group for a long time. The terminals west of Äänekoski will be operated by the Seinäjoki-based transportation company Kuljetus Haavisto Oy, while the terminals on the eastern side of Äänekoski will be operated by the Joutseno-based Szepaniak Oy.
“The biggest challenge to the production chain in the logistical sense is how to control wood flows in a flexible way. Some 15,000–20,000 cubic metres of wood on wheels will be making its way towards the mill at any given time, meaning that we’ll have to able to respond to changes very quickly,” says Karhunen.
One of the tools used in this work is the new unloading time app, which is used to receive wood transportations at the mill according to pre-arranged schedules.
Considerable job effects
The use of wood, set to grow with the start of the bioproduct mill’s operations, requires a lot of additional resources in terms of both Metsä Group’s harvesting and wood transportation, as well as white-collar employees. The need for manpower will also grow in the supply chains of other wood suppliers.
From a personal point of view, Karhunen, who is 62, sees the bioproduct mill project as a ‘retirement post’, and he couldn’t have wished for a more pleasing task at this point of his versatile career.
“It’s great to be working when every operator involved is so full of enthusiasm. In the long term, this investment will create jobs and livelihoods for a very large group of people.”