The Finnish Kotka and Helsinki ports play a key role as UPM products from four sawmills are exported around the world. Customers need to receive the sawn timber at the right time for the right end use in a reliable manner. Long distances require good cooperation with logistics suppliers. One of them, Steveco Oy, provides UPM with forwarding, conveyance and stevedoring services.
“We ensure that UPM’s products leave Finland on time and on the right vessel. Shipping capacity is currently in high demand, especially on routes from Europe to Asia, and this is why the vessels do not wait for cargo arriving from Finland. For this reason, we have invested in a new information system and new straddle carriers. With these investments, we can ensure that containers are transferred to the right vessel on time. It also enables us to closely monitor which vessel the containers need to be on and when,” explains Tapio Mattila, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales, and Unit Manager of container operations at Steveco.
“The sawmilling industry has been particularly successful in designing its procurement and production chains. In Finland, the raw material is typically sourced very close to the sawmills. In addition, transport from Finland by sea is cost-effective. Of course, sea freight can be expensive due to shipping route fees and ice classification, but the efficiency of our operations is excellent compared to many other operators.”
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Previously, there was a continuous stream of containers arriving into port thanks to transhipment and there were always containers available. Today, many containers often arrive at the same time. As a result, the ship can take the maximum capacity for export.
“Hundreds of empty containers arrive at the port at the same time and we have to move them to the container depot to receive, inspect, sweep and repair them. We have developed a process to ensure the reliability of deliveries,” Tapio Mattila explains.
From UPM’s point of view, Steveco’s most important task is to ensure that the vessel leaves the port within the agreed time frame. Steveco employs around 800 people and operates 24/7. This is essential for the industry as production runs around the clock. New employees go through a very strict training programme that covers quality, safety, environmental issues and how the company operates.
The entire port infrastructure and information system have been built in co-operation with customers to assist with exports from Finland. “UPM is a very big customer for us and one of our strategic partners. We discuss investments closely with our customers to ensure that we focus on the right issues at the right time,” Tapio Mattila says.
Steveco also has a vision for the future, where continuous development and training are an important part of the business.
“If we look 10 years into the future, we anticipate having more and more integrated information systems with our customers in order to transfer data efficiently. I hope this will enable us to better serve UPM and take over some of the activities that the company is currently managing itself. In another 10 years, automation will have been developed even further, bringing with it quality and cost efficiency improvements," Tapio Mattila envisions.