BILLERUDKORSNÄS – NEXT Generation
BillerudKorsnäs has always been a trailblazer in the packaging sector, but their new project will take them to a whole new level.
When it comes to the problem of waste, an industry that takes a lot of flak is the packaging industry, some of it justified. As Maria Engnes, Program Director for BillerudKorsnäs says, “Sustainability is not an option, it is a must.”
BillerudKorsnäs is a company that is working to redress that balance.
“We are doing it together in partnership with customers and suppliers, to develop renewable packaging solutions. The largest challenge is to how to replace plastic, which has attributes that paper will not have,” Engnes explains. “BillerudKorsnäs’s Innovation agenda is about addressing these challenges. We have recently launched a U-bent paper straw, which replaces plastic straws. Next in the pipe is our paper battery. Imagine if we can replace the current small batteries with paper. For instance, many consumers think plastic bottles are more convenient than cartons. We are also looking into paper bottles. For all our solutions, we use a renewable source, meaning the forest. It is very important to us to ensure the sustainability of the forest. The largest opportunity is to move away from plastics and into solutions where we can replace plastic with board.”
The company has become known for providing board packaging that is of exceptionally high quality, in fields where many people often have not even considered board-based packaging as an option.
“Our first selling point is very much our consistent quality. We make customers comfortable. But also the solutions we provide are helping customers move towards more sustainable solutions, such as Fibreform, a formable fibre-based packaging solution,” Engnes says. “Fibreform can be formed like a shell and you can use it in the fridge instead of plastic packaging trays.”
A NEXT-GENERATION MACHINE
These innovations are only stepping-stones compared to the quantum leap in technology the company has been preparing for, however. Talking to Engnes it is clear there is something exciting she wants to talk about and with good reason. Because BillerudKorsnäs is about to embark on the biggest investment in future development in the company’s history.
“We have had a lot of people working on it, with over 5 million worked hours spent on the project,” Engnes tells us. “We have contractors from more than ten countries working with us. It has been a huge investment. The project name has been ‘NEXT Generation’ because it is the next generation of the site and we have a next-generation board machine installed.”
That machine is the KM7. It is 8.8 metres wide, 350 metres long, and weighs in at 17,000 tonnes. The machine is being constructed at the company’s Gruvön production site and will give the company an annual capacity of 550,000 tonnes of the board. It is the most modern board machine available in the world, and the largest machine in Sweden, capable of producing liquid packaging board, cartonboard, food service board and containerboard and the equivalent of 100 million milk cartons a day. This construction and the relocation of their entire facility has been an enormous project.
“The board machine is made for liquid packaging board and very premium types of the board for different applications like cosmetic boxes. Initially, the machine is producing kraftliner (paper outside of a fruit box for example). The machine is now producing commercial kraftliner, and reactions from customers are positive,” Engnes says. “That is what we are producing right now, but the machine is designed for far more advanced products. We want to have larger profitability, but to get there is the challenge. Fortunately, we have been able to deliver this on time and within the budget we committed to, which is a real achievement.”
An investment of this scale is not something a company goes into on a whim, of course, and BillerudKorsnäs had a good reason for launching this project.
“We saw the premium board market is a growing market. If you look at our portfolio of machines and production sites, we needed a machine that can produce the boards of the future,” Engnes says. “So even today there are elements of the machine that are not fully utilised, waiting for developments we have not discovered yet. We foresee global growth, so we need more capacity, and that is why we invested and rebuilt the whole site.”
The new machine is due to be inaugurated on the third of October when members of the Swedish Royal Family and customers from around the world will come to see the mach
The project has been completed hand-in-hand with BillerudKorsnäs’s own staff, who have been an invaluable part of the project.
“The most important thing is to provide a safe and fun environment where people feel comfortable,” Engnes tells us. “We invest in our employees so they stay with us, and invest in their development so they grow with us. It starts, really, with safety. A safe workplace creates an atmosphere where people take more responsibility and accountability for what they do. The new CEO, when she took the position two years ago, started to reinforce divisionalisation of the company. It brought everyone closer to the customers, and that gives people a certain amount of energy because you are not just in production or IT, you are close to the customers and can see why we do what we do.”
This has been a landmark achievement for a company on the front lines of the fight for sustainability, but it is far from the end of their journey.
“We are going to continue as we do right now, with a pipeline of innovative solutions, reliable and safe production,” Engnes explains. “We are solutions orientated company and we want to increase that.”
Ironically, for a packaging company, it seems BillerudKorsnäs is going to continue to think outside the box.