Wood products – bringing the forest into the cities

Published 18 November 2016
​Interview with Jari Suominen, EVP, Wood Products and member of the Group Leadership Team at Stora Enso.

Stora Enso continues its journey to transform to an innovative provider of higher value products and solutions in the wood products business. What does the competitive landscape look like?
Unlike the markets in our other businesses, the wood products market is fragmented and volatile, and the business processes and technology are less developed. However, we are one of the few players in the market who have global access to markets and an operative platform on the European level, meaning that we are the biggest wood products company in Europe with 20 saw mills in ten different countries. These factors give us a unique opportunity to optimise our portfolio of products and services. We are also well on our way in developing world class business processes based on digitalised tools. In this landscape, we find the market parametres to be opportunities, not weaknesses. They provide a framework for us to differentiate ourselves from the competitors.

Thinking about the whole value chain, from raw material in the forest to the customer, where can Stora Enso provide most value?
Building Components and Systems are areas where we want to evolve and where we have an extensive portfolio of products that can be combined into solutions for the customers, based on our building systems. We also continuously develop service concepts. MySupply is one example: it is an eBusiness solution where customers can order 24/7 and see the real-time stock situation. On the other hand, there is considerable development in wood supply in processes and digitalised tools. When looking over our total value chain, we work to develop 12 different process steps, and in each of those digitalization plays a vital role with the final aim to reach end-to-end digitalization.

In the end, the development of business processes and the digital tools enhance our management of the value chain and therefore benefit the customer.

What are the plans for Building Components and Building Systems? Who are these intended for?
We have developed the very first Building System for multi-storey apartment buildings, up to 12 floors. With the system, we can provide all the necessary building components and help the customer to build efficiently from wood.

At the moment, we are initiating a better network in the industry, creating an ecosystem that includes architects, designers, construction companies, city government officials and engineers, to mention a few. A strong network would facilitate cooperation, jointly promoting wood as the building material going forward and helping to simplify building in wood.

Bringing the message forward will be a big task, but there again we have a global platform where we can share experiences in different ecosystems and countries. We are highly advanced in wooden building in Austria, Southern Germany, France, the UK and Norway, whereas there’s still room for development in Finland and Sweden.

In terms of building, what makes the usage of wood superior to concrete and steel, glass and metal?
Speed, safety, ease, and being a sustainable choice. A wooden building also stores carbon dioxide. And let’s not forget that wood is a renewable material. With innovation, wood can enter into new end-uses earlier dominated by concrete and steel. The Stora Enso CLT and LVL massive wooden elements, for example, are very strong and can be used to build high-rises.

Will there be a day when it will be more natural to think about building with wood in a city landscape rather than with glass or concrete?
Surely. As an example, Australia’s first wooden office building, located in Sydney, is being built with Stora Enso CLT. We want to bring the forest into the cities. The growing forest binds carbon dioxide and the wood buildings act as a carbon sink. We want to raise awareness of how using wood as a construction material is a climate-smart choice and a solution to meet population growth and urbanisation. Wood is the only fully renewable building material, so from an environmental perspective it’s absolutely unbeatable.

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