Caption: Since his appointment in 2008, Timo Sokka, local GM, has made significant changes to the local management structure and strategy.
A fully-fledged Raflatac factory in Pinetown, Durban, was established and, in 2001, started local production and sales of Raflatac labelstock and coated vinyl products.
A range of Raflatac’s imported labelstock was already well established in South Africa, having been sold in reels by a local agent for the previous seven years.
In the same year, Raflatac opened sales and distribution terminals in Johannesburg and Cape Town, laying the foundation for what is now known as UPM Raflatac South Africa.
Firm commitment to South Africa
During the last decade, investment in expanding South African manufacturing capacity has been ongoing.
In 2006, UPM Raflatac South Africa invested in a hot-melt coating line at the Pinetown plant, a significant move to secure local supply of hot-melt labelstocks. Hot-melt labelstocks are intended for demanding conditions, including exposure to low temperatures and moisture. The share of these products is exceptionally high in South Africa, compared to other regions.
Output at the Pinetown plant has since escalated 12-fold, effectively allowing the local company to replace around 80% of previously imported products. Moreover, output continues to grow with new, emerging markets.
Caption: The acrylic coating line at UPM Raflatac South Africa was installed in 2000, and today, along with a hot-melt coating line, produces up to 80% of the company’s local labelstock.
Focus on customer success
Since relocating to South Africa from group headquarters in Tampere, Finland, in 2008, Timo Sokka, local GM, has made some significant changes to the local management structure and the company’s operational, purchasing and sales strategy.
Two years ago, with huge emphasis placed on building long-standing business relationships with loyal and growing customers, UPM Raflatac South Africa introduced a dedicated programme – to focus on customer needs and to implement long-term growth strategies, as well as offering exceptional sales and technical support.
By monitoring sales, service and product performance through the use of advanced customer surveys and sales reports, UPM Raflatac has had an opportunity to fine-tune its product range and to improve overall support.
The programme has also enabled the company to identify and place more focus on growing end-use areas.
‘We are enhancing our sales strategy by adding more technical support to our sales team,’ explains Timo. ‘By working in collaboration with customers and end-users, we’re building more effective business relationships and creating win-win situations.’
In South Africa, typical major end-use growth areas include food, beverage and wine, FMCG products and personal and homecare brands.
‘We’re very excited at being given the go ahead to introduce new technical services and end-use marketing experts as a right-hand team for our sales force,’ explains Kirsten Steyn, product development manager. ‘We will focus on working with customers to build meaningful partnerships and specify products for targeted end uses; networking closely and utilising global resources of UPM Raflatac experts to accelerate this process.’
‘To support our plans to optimise our current business operations and improve service quality, we have centralised our sales service desk at our Durban head office,’ explains Elaine Govender, sales and sourcing manager.
‘We believe this change will add value and be of mutual benefit to our business and our customers,’ she adds.
Headed by Tiffany Steyn, internal sales co-ordinators are on hand to help customers, wherever they’re located, with orders, stock and new product enquiries. This provides an efficient and cohesive back up to customers and the external sales team.
‘With the new approach and various process improvements that have recently been launched, we’ve enhanced our ability to develop and grow within the label industry,’ Elaine continues. ‘Our key focus is to continue as a sustainable supplier offering a quality product plus service excellence. Our new and motivated sales and technical services teams are excited and ready for the next decade of challenges that lie ahead.’
Global quality standards
UPM Raflatac is using global standards with all products produced in South Africa. It is, states Timo Sokka, one of the few suppliers in this country currently producing 80% of its product range locally, with the balance imported.
Most filmic and speciality laminated products are drawn from UPM Raflatac’s global plants dedicated to their production. This allows the company to supply commodity and speciality lines cost-effectively and efficiently.
Each of the three terminals cover services in all main market areas in South Africa. This finishing capacity secures availability of high-quality labelstock with improved lead times.
Caption: A QC laboratory at Durban head office works in line with FINAT testing methods and UPM Raflatac global standards.
UPM Raflatac South Africa’s product development is supported by a global development team – ensuring it remains a leading player in the labelstock industry. The quality control laboratory at Durban head office is climate controlled and operates in line with FINAT’s testing methods and UPM Raflatac’s global standards, and sports an extensive array of equipment to fulfil stringent QC requirements.
With the adoption of a global UPM Raflatac system designed to drive continual improvement, the quality of products manufactured, and the processes themselves are rigorously checked.
For instance, the use of the reel labelling system means that reels – whether locally produced or imported from other manufacturing sites – are traceable throughout the group’s systems. In addition, global purchasing power, involving close collaboration with suppliers, supports the local company’s commitment to quality.
‘We’re here to stay,’ Timo asserts. ‘We have a high-quality product line with added-value services to ensure our customers’ success. Superb service is what’s important. Moreover, we continuously seek opportunities to further improve ourselves and help our customers to improve their businesses.’
Sustainability for a better future
Globally, UPM recognises that new disciplines are steering the behaviour of individuals as consumers and business decision makers. Today, people justify purchasing decisions on new grounds – sustainability.
Sustainable bio-economy means that people prefer renewable energy and raw materials and recyclable products. For the manufacturing industry, it means a demand for industrial ecology – sustainable combinations of environment, economy and technology.
The same applies to UPM Raflatac’s customers – whether publishers, printers or brand owners.
The company is identifying new consumer patterns, new innovative products and production technologies.
With a new ‘bio-based’ industrial revolution gathering momentum, UPM is investing in new opportunities to add value to forest biomass to provide its customers with innovative and sustainable product solutions and services.
In 2008, UPM Raflatac South Africa attained ISO 9001 certification (PPM Oct 08), and is now working towards ISO 14001 Environmental Management certification.
Most UPM Raflatac factories worldwide are now ISO 14001 certified for the design, manufacture, slitting, sheeting and sale of self-adhesive labelstock. With the South African application process near completion – final audit is due in May – it’s a clear statement that environmental performance is an important part of the company culture.
Global expertise and vision
UPM’s global vision is to be the frontrunner of the new forest industry – dubbed ‘The Biofore Company’ – combining the bio-economy and the forest industry in one.
The new forest industry means an operating environment where companies have to find completely new ways to provide benefit and cost advantage to their customers. It means a new type of a competitive environment where cost leadership, change readiness and innovation lead to success.
It also means new geographic markets and new businesses, products and solutions. Globally, UPM focuses on three business areas: energy and pulp, paper and engineered materials. The company believes it can do profitable business in its traditional areas providing it is cost efficient, flexible in its thinking and ready to challenge the conventions of the industry.
‘Being a frontrunner means we want to be proactive in addressing challenges, taking initiative and clearly being ahead,’ Timo states. ’Our purpose is to add value for our stakeholders. Renewable and recyclable raw materials –sustainably sourced and processed – are crucial for successful operations. Our people have professional expertise to apply new technologies to add value to biomass-based raw materials.’
UPM is reportedly the world’s largest user of recovered paper for graphic papers.
Almost one third – nearly three million tons – of raw material annually used in UPM mills is recovered paper. UPM uses recovered paper as raw material for newsprint and magazine paper production in its European mills. Using recovered paper in paper production makes sense environmentally and economically. It saves energy and money as valuable wood fibre gets used several times.
During the past decade, UPM has invested over one-billion Euros in renewable biomass-based energy production. CO2-neutral energy sources dominate UPM’s energy portfolio.
Globally, over 60% of fuels used by UPM are biomass-based, and in Finland, the figure is more than 80%.
With sustainable products being at the forefront of UPM Raflatac’s global activities, Timo and his team are mindful of other, more immediate, needs in the local industry.
‘We’re constantly trying to provide added value for our customers,’ he says. ‘There’s a definite skills shortage in the narrow-web printing industry and we hope to address this in collaboration with local industry partners.’
He’s remaining tight-lipped for now on this development but remains committed to raising UPM Raflatac South Africa’s profile with the support and expertise of local management and employees as well as UPM’s global network of label and environmental specialists.
‘As The Biofore Company, we see our future as exciting, inspiring and full of profitable business opportunities,’ Timo concludes, with a winning smile.
Roadshows underline sustainability
Top of the agenda at recent nationwide customer ‘road shows’, hosted by UPM Raflatac South Africa’s new management team, was the subject of sustainability and UPM Raflatac’s continued commitment and growth strategy in the South African labelstock market.
Caption: Attending the recent UPM customer roadshow in Johannesburg were Marinus Holtzhausen (Unique Labels), Lee Barnard (Track & Trace) and Hennie Pretorius (Lithotech Labels).
Firstly, there’s bio-energy. International climate agreements are the ultimate factor for the ongoing positive development of bio-energy.
Most countries are committed to significant decreases in greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the share of renewable energy sources. Since 1990, UPM has reduced its fossil CO2 emissions per tonne of paper produced by 40% as a result of investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements. During the last ten years, the company has invested over one billion euros in renewable energy production, mainly in biomass-based combined heat and power production. UPM aims to become a major player in the production of high-quality renewable second-generation biofuels in the next few years.
Caption: PPM’s Susi Moore with Ann and Bazil Binder (Justagz) at the Johannesburg customer roadshow.
UPM is already investing in an innovative wood plastic composite material based on recycling. UPM Profi is a composite material manufactured from surplus materials, primarily paper and plastic left over from the production of self-adhesive labelstock, and is ideal for outdoor and indoor applications and industrial end uses.