Innovation is when you nurture a new idea, grow it into something of value and deliver it to market
Lars Henriksson is Vice President of Product Development for Smurfit Kappa’s paper production. He joined in 1989 as a graduate trainee and is based at our Tech Centre in Pitea.
What does you role entail?
My role consists of product development, technical customer services and product safety. In my role I manage a talented team with an unrivalled knowledge of paper. The team includes technical customer managers specifically focused on our customers’ markets, and others with specific areas of focus, including Chain of Custody programmes and paper mechanics. My job is to also standardize our procedures to ensure all of our mills produce the same high standard of paper. Our uniqueness comes through the outstanding quality of our paper.
What defines a good innovation for you?
Innovation doesn’t just mean a new product it could be a process or a new way of working. Innovation for me is a new idea that works. However, it’s not just an invention, it needs to be something that is commercially viable. You need to nurture a new idea, grow it into something of value and deliver it to market.
How do you inspire innovation within paper production?
My inspiration always starts from understanding our customers’ requirements and solving them. The drive is to see something nobody has seen before and ask ‘How can we make it better?’ ‘What isn’t working right now?’ Nothing is more satisfying than optimizing or creating a process that revolutionizes the status quo.
What role does innovation play in paper production?
Innovation is critical to us; we need to maximize our business opportunities and differentiate ourselves from our competition. It’s a balance of being reactive and proactive. We are structured for both, with technical managers working directly with customers, which is probably as reactive as you can achieve. We listen to the market and focus our resource on what is demanded, whether its printability, strength or safety. We also proactively look for new technologies and possibilities through our external network, which includes institutes and universities. We ask ourselves what’s going to be important in the papermaking process in the future and move from there.
Collaborating with the packaging innovators
Collaboration is our uniqueness and our integrated structure gives us the opportunity to develop products with the end user in mind. We work in close collaboration with our customers and this seamless working together is how we outperform our competition. The packaging innovators are reliant on us to deliver high quality, and we appreciate our need to serve them. We have regular formal and informal meetings where paper quality is high on the agenda, and we agree standards, which are reviewed every year to ensure we are all working towards the same goal.