Even in the difficult Corona times, there are bright spots and real great moments. As part of the INKISH@Work Tour in Switzerland, Andreas Weber, CEO INKISH D-A-CH, had an Over the Skype conversation with Gunilla Saltin, CEO of Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper, based in Vienna, Austria. The top manager, who comes from Sweden, inspires us with her smart and clever messages that have not yet been heard in this form in the print and paper sector.

Here at a glance what we were talking about:

Focus 1: Innovations
What are in your POV the core results of the virtual Press Conference from Tuesday September 22nd, 2020 (what is new, special, groundbreaking?)

Focus 2: Management
What is the special challenge for you in person and what is the most interesting thing about your job as CEO of Mondi UFP?
How do you set accents for the employee and company culture in the context of the Mondi Group?
What does your approach mean for customer orientation and go-to-market at Mondi?

Focus 3: Outlook
What trends do you see coming? Or how will the importance of print develop from your point of view?

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Selbst in schwierigen Corona-Zeiten gibt es Lichtblicke und wirklich großartige Momente. Im Rahmen der INKISH@Work Tour in der Schweiz führte Andreas Weber, CEO von INKISH D-A-CH, ein Over the Skype-Gespräch mit Gunilla Saltin, CEO von Mondi Uncoated Fine Paper. Die aus Schweden stammende Top-Managerin inspiriert uns mit ihren smarten und klugen Botschaften, die im Druck- und Papierbereich noch nicht in dieser Form zu hören waren.

Hier auf einen Blick, worüber wir gesprochen haben:

Fokus 1: Innovationen
Was sind aus Ihrer Sicht die Kernergebnisse der virtuellen Pressekonferenz vom Dienstag, dem 22. September 2020 (was ist neu, speziell, bahnbrechend?)

Fokus 2: Management
Was ist die besondere Herausforderung für Sie persönlich und was ist das Interessanteste an Ihrem Job als CEO von Mondi UFP?
Wie setzen Sie Akzente für die Mitarbeiter- und Unternehmenskultur im Kontext der Mondi-Gruppe?
Was bedeutet Ihr Ansatz für die Kundenorientierung und Markteinführung bei Mondi?

Fokus 3: Ausblick
Welche Trends sehen Sie? Oder wie wird sich die Bedeutung des Drucks aus Ihrer Sicht entwickeln?

Good morning. Gunilla Saltin, if I pronounce it in the right way. Very happy to have you in that conversation. And maybe let’s talk about what is your actually. What are you actually doing as the CEO of Mondi Uncoated Fine paper? Maybe you explain it a little bit and introduce yourself please.

Thank you. Thank you so much for the invitation. I really appreciate the opportunity to to talk to you today. As so, I am the CEO of Mondi Uncoated Paper. And I guess I’m doing what everybody else is doing in similar positions.

that sounds so shy.

I think you. I think the challenge right now is that I started in February and then in March, Corona happens and we are very decentralized, organization. And to have all my closest colleagues in different locations without being able to go and actually see them is, of course, a challenge.

I can imagine. But then it’s not a normal job you are doing. Then it’s hardcore. You jump just into the cold, icy water. And what were the first thing you have to be focused on in that extreme situation?

I think I have the advantage of starting in Monday, six months prior to joining you at peace. So I did have the opportunity to visit some of the mills and my colleagues before. But of course, in a situation like this, which is extremely stressful for everybody, nobody really knows where the pandemic is going and all these lockdowns that happened in March. It is, of course, important to try to create a level of trustful collaboration fairly quickly. It’s not easy, but everybody is affected personally at one way or another in this in this situation. So that was what I at least tried to do in the beginning. And of course, I also understand which were the real challenges for us right away.

And I think I was the heavy guy who was able to try on your last press conference late in September, September 22nd. And it was a firework off of innovation. So that means that means you have had the chance to really something like rethink your business, reinvent your business and the outcome was new products and new ideas and wonderful also corporations with Adobe stock and so on. Maybe you can tell a little bit off about your press event and the outcome of that. And what what were the highlights?

I think it just them to highlight that also they want what’s really impressive about this because, of course, meant the things that were presented in the press conference in September. They were not just invented the month before. But to be able to sort of have the collaboration going and keep that up in these products and also sort of have a timeline for September, given the circumstance, I think was sort of the the real achievements here. And like you pointed out there, the collaboration with Adobe started, of course, much earlier than September and also the glass paper innovation and the and the color copy clop and color lock. But the thing was that we made we we we managed to keep those things happening during the pandemic and keep the innovation going in a remote setting. I think that is that is very impressive, especially in a time when when everything is sort of very unusual to keep focusing on what we need to do was a very I think that was a strength testimonial to the organization. I’m very much impressed by it.

So that that means all the preparation work was done. And then the Covid-19 stopped you in the middle of everything. And I think it’s fantastic to be able to to switch, what you would say in Germany, you switched the horse on the fly. You’re riding the horse. And I can’t imagine that that was that was a fantastic job. And how was the team spirit where people are more shocked or that people more motivated to really show the beauty of digital communication also for paper manufacturing company like Mondi?

I think there were different stages. But also, I would say that when I joined, I was very much impressed by the digital strategy that you see has developed already before the pandemic. I mean, they were already sort of had the foundation to keep in contact with account with their customers and also to do marketing digital. So the foundation was there and they and they also managed to to continue working as a team, collaborate to be in in a digital environment. And so, of course, there were other things happening. At the same time, the market development was challenging, to say the least. So, of course, that was also an initial shock. And then we just had to decide to keep working together and do what we can control. And I think that was a very good team effort in the end.

Yeah, I had the chance to to talk to some people out of your team like like Brownout Chancelor, that we had that nice conversation. I think it was around May. So and at that time, he also said for sure there is an impact because when the printing industry, the whole printing industry is suffering, also, the suppliers are a little bit touched by that. But he said there were differences between commercial printing and packaging was quite stable. Also the German market. That means there was something like what we say in Germany upstroke. So it was really on the bottom line or in the valley. And now it’s it’s climbing back again. Are you. How how is the status and your point of view? Are we back to a normal business or not that normal actually.

You can look at last week’s euro graph figures. They are actually a little bit better for you if P as a whole than they were last year. So from that point of view, it looks much better. And if I look for Mondi, we also see that we are in a much better position than we were in the spring. But I say that with caution because you also see all these hotspots and partial lockdown’s coming. So to say that we are out of the woods and we can see see the sun. Now, it’s difficult to tell. Of course, I’d like to be optimistic, but with caution. I think it’s good here.

Yeah, caution is a good word. But my favorite one is confident. Normally I have my T-shirt with me and I have a hashtag confidence. Would you say that all of this what you are talking about is already part of the corporate culture inside your your company? And also because I really admire Mondi also as a group, because we learn that inside the group there are many, many activities switching to giving from that from your factories around the world, energy to the population. So supporting people outside that business also with that with great with great things, that then that’s a beautiful culture. Am I right or wrong?

Now, that is absolutely right. And when it comes to the confidence part, it’s less about where where we are in the in sort of in the pandemic and how that we develop the confidence part this that we know that that we will have a very good position. We have a very good position among the group fully committed to you P. And we know that our product portfolio and our people and our performance, will make sure that we come off of this as a winner. So the confidence level in their for sure is extremely high. But I also would like to to to confirm what you say. So the community’s spirit that Monti has in all the operating sites, I think is very impressive. I mean, taking, like you say said, also the donation of masks to local hospitals and really taking care of not just our production, but also the community surrounding. I think it’s been very impressive to me.

And what I also admire is because I I know Mondi for for really a long time and I saw how everything developed and first of all, Mondi uncoded fine paper was more or less in the tone of business than inkjet came and then also hybrid products. So you can also you have also offers to the traditional offset printing work. What kind of skills do do you need or your team members? Can you give us a little bit an impression? Because, you know, I know younger people. I know experienced people. It’s a good mix. But what are the special skills you and your customers can benefit from?

I think from the experience I have at, say, this specific skill set that the organization as a whole has is that it’s the passion here for both performance, but also to to give offsetting customer service and listen to what the customer wants. I have to say, I’ve been extremely impressed by these initiatives to develop new products that actually benefit customers like the new per Gothika brand with all the different colors and different shades. And the luxury packaging segments. It’s when you look at those products that you should not underestimate the time of passion and the try again that that was needed to be able to keep these results. And I think that it’s the sort of the the key thing that that we have that differentiates us from from the competition here. But as you say, of course, that the team has to be a mix of experience and young people to benefit both from what’s happening from the outside and what can be done on the inside. But the passion for the production and the products, I think its very telling here..

Yeah, And what I what I learned as well many years ago. So I was part of a different roadshow’s. Mondi organized that also in Dubai and in the Netherlands. And what I’ve learned is that when you want to be really a good paper manufacturer, you are something like a very a at the end of the value chain. But I’ve learned that Mondi people are so they are technology savvies. They are social media, savvies and then. so that means your team seems to have a great knowledge going really. At the at the, at the top. At the beginning of the value chain. Rethinking, analyzing everything. What is happening in the communicate marketing and communication processes. Is that, is that right?

So I think that is one of the most of the strength that I’ve seen that some through the process on this capture feels campaign. You’ve seen all the material that supports it. And and how this Adobes thought collaboration was developed. I think it’s difficult to find a match for that anywhere in any industry, actually, because it really is from what the people can do to what the customer need. And it’s it’s certainly thought through in collaboration with another completely different company. So, yes, I fully agree with you that the skills that fact is brought together has it’s really real strength or real value to us.

Yeah. When you talk about the customer, it’s not, I think there are no typical customers because you, you address so many business areas and maybe you can explain a little bit this go to market approach, because as far as I know it for sure, it’s still a dealer business. But on the other hand, you have established already for a couple of years a key accounting team creating special initial projects. And then maybe you can explain that approach a little bit.

I think what this really is very, extremely well done is, like you say, we have a merchant. This is one of our key customers, of course. But then also Mondi spent a great deal of time identifying the end consumers or the end customers and what influences their decision making and what we can do to make their life easier and make it easy for them to deliver great projects and understand their creative processes. So all parts of our very different and customers from the sort of those person that making a single project to somebody else. That’s many projects and oversees them. What what can we do to help them deliver perfection at their job. And I think that process and how that works, that’s also helped us develop the right products.

That means there’s this new form of accounting, maybe it’s something like that where you have customer experience. Experts in your team and what I understand you, right It’s not only to push products and messages from the Mondi side. It’s also to to to create feedback. And this feedback goes back to Mondi. And it’s influencing also the portfolio. Is that right?

Yes. Correct. And then at least by doing so, we can influence what we’re going to develop next. So the next innovation will, of course, then be more more tailored to was what our customers really need to perform.

And I think that is really well. I mean, you see the latest products for the grass paper, but also the the different shades and the Grafica and how they can be utilized. I think that is something that the circulation.

At what what also admire. When when I was the first time at Noisey in Austria, it. I was so impressed because I got immediately paper. You know, we have this paper. It looks so anolog and so simple, but it’s a high tech product. And it Nazi love was already we talk about Industry 4.0 and automation. This was already the fact 10, 12 years ago. And I think this is hitting your background because you come from this paper mill insights. You have those paper mill insights. Could you give us a little bit of an impression of how this production process is organized and how you make sure that all those lovely engineers working there are happy with with your new go to market approach? Are they happy to get feedback from customers?

I think what is typical for for our engineers and engineers that I’ve met in the past is that they are really, really challenged by problem solving. I mean, if you present something, the first instinct is usually no, I don’t think so. They would probably not be dumb, but give them an hour and they have started to think and then it can be done. And I think that was very significantly shown in the different colors and the different qualities of the graphic also because the story that I heard is that it was impossible almost to do that. But given time and sort of the chance and the problem solving skills, it was certainly very possible. But, of course, challenging. So I think the skill set in the mills, you need to do two percent the challenge and they will they will pick it up and deliver it. And they think that it’s also something that this is very impressive. And then the good strength to have not see any problems, but just see at as a challenge to solve.

And what is also interesting for me, because I think Mark graphica, got launched something next three years ago and starting not with a reduced offer, but with a very clear focus. And in the meantime, we have a full range of new things, creating and adding, adding value. Normally, you think in the paper manufacturing business, the time to market is not that fast. So but as you showcase it, it’s almost in real time in quotes. How could that happen to be so fast?

I just have to say, it’s the difference in the people that deliver, right? They have a passion like you mentioned. And they also have the skill sets needed to make things happen quickly. And also they take the opportunities that they see from a market perspective. If there’s an opportunity that presents itself for us to fail or avoid that we can see or teach them. Then we also have a good skill set to match with what is possible in the middle. And I think the sort of the. The burning or the intersection between the work with what you see in the market and what  the mills done, takes chance to deliver on is is making this go as quickly as possible. So I think the collaboration has to be very strong and both teams must be challenged in the in the in the process here.

And how how how could you measure if all those beautiful things we are talking about? In my opinion, it’s it’s more or less a hidden secret. It’s very beautiful, but it’s. What do you think? Could could create that effect that more people in the printing industry and also on the merchant side. Maybe in those big organizations. How can they catch up the spirit which is driving you and your team and to create the beautiful results?

I think what we’re doing, what we can do to course influence them, and they think they will. They also see the possibilities here. And I really don’t have a clear answer on it. If we have a passion that it shows, then I’m sure also, obviously, when we catch on, I’m looking at the fantastic products almost by just touching them. it’s it’s. Yeah.

You get the sense of the automatic and the passion to doing that. So I think the products would speak for themselves. And we just have to reflect our professionalism and passion to show.

That’s good to hear because that by by chance I have. I was asked by by Papyrus.

Your Business partner also for Switzerland. I’m actually in Switzerland. And we were talking about that initial story, how to make it more understandable. What is the beauty of paper? And I thought to make it very short in it, like an elevator pitch. I said it’s the best user interface you can create to get data converted in to a very emotional, emotional communication. Would you see it like that? Because i talk a lot to populous. We never saw paper as a user interface, but in fact, I think it’s like this. Right.?

Yes. And it’s also lasting. Right? Because I do. I mean, we also work with a digital approach, like you said it, on a piece of paper. It will stay for error. I mean, if you have a photograph or a message or some something, that you have written, it’s really easy that with a new kind of technology happening in your or your iPad or whatever, it’s lost. But if you save some paper, it’s a lasting memory or it’s a legacy that the state. So it’s both sort of the unique quality of something that you took the time to specifically do. But it also states with a receiver. I think, of course, we should not underestimate that. If that if the receiver doesn’t really appreciate it that much, you can recycle it. So there is also the same ability to think if the message is not last forever. But doesn’t the lasting aspect, I think, is important? The word that I learned when I started the You Peter Haptics, that that you also get the not just the visual, but also the the feel would be.

It’s very emotional. Yes. And I think you mentioned this. There’s this term sustainable. I think it’s also important for all of us that the digital world is realizing that what they do is not that sustainable. because it’s energy consuming. And and and this is so different with paper. You just mentioned recycling. But I think you have more on your schedule and maybe you can share a little bit, what, Mondi on you in person, on the stand by the term sustain to be sustainable. And that is also a claim sustainable by design.

Yes, i would like to take it into slightly different path for me. Sustainability is the crossing between social environment and financial. So when all those three aspects coincide, then you have a sustainable solution. We cannot just do something for the environment. If you don’t have the other two and the same thing with finance and you can do it for money, you have to have the other. So that is one really important definition for me. It’s always keep in mind. And then for the other parts, I think if it’s important to realize that you look at no industry is, of course, without footprints, that that is for sure. I mean, everything we use as humans has some kind of environmental footprint. But the beauty with the pulp and paper industry is that you have the growing trees that absorb carbon dioxide and you’ve cut them down to use that. And you make use of the whole tree both as the sort of the the chips and the barks. And so it’s a sustainable way of using you generate the electricity and the heat you need for the production process. as well as also too smart to design and communities produce some materials that can be recycled many times, seven or more. And then when it’s sort of done you can you can burn it. And if you can on the same time, planting more trees that will absorb more carbon dioxide, because the growing trees here, all the these are so much carbon because they are segment in their in their growth. So I think looking at the sort of whole cycle here, we have very good setup to have a sustainable industry in all these aspects using a natural resource that is renewable and recyclable and also can be good. And for me to sustainable by scientists combining that and also finding a solution that the customer appreciates. So we are deciding solutions that makes use of all parts, but also to fulfill the requirements of the end consumer and our customers. So we are utilizing the material in a very responsible way.

That sounds fantastic. And for sure, it makes sense if if a printed piece is done with passion in a beautiful way, you don’t throw it away so fast enough you know? And that helps a lot to the brand owners, too, to be part of the life of that of their customers. I think this will be sustainability will be an interesting topic and it’s worth to get part of further discussions. But, I thank you very much for this first. So at a glance impression what we can create now, because it’s I think it’s very, very complex. And I think you you you you spend a lot of your time as as a company to work on that permanently because things are changing so fast. But would you say we have good messages for the younger generation, which is what is a little bit shocked by the climate changes? So you have have a good message for those people as well?

I would certainly say so, because you look at how a responsible forest industry is operating these days, you take one tree and use it. Like I said, it’s sort of the circular way you plant three more trees to replace the first one. So so we really it’s an industry that is responsible and we have lots of good initiatives and interesting opportunities for young people. Where you can also contribute to even minimizing our footprint even further. So for me, I would say this is an industry with a very, very bright future. And also that is very responsible and has a story that it’s definitely worth telling. So everybody can see how everything works.

That’s that’s good to know. And so I wont want to  stress your schedule too much. So maybe the last point I want to discuss with you for today and hopefully we’ll have further conversations in the future. So at that point, everybody would ask a person like Steve Jobs. So, Steve, what is next? And I ask Gunilla. Gunilla what what is next? I’m I’m sure you will not sit down and do things like this. You will really drive your passion and the team’s passion for what you could give us a little bit and some some outlook without a tanning secrets right now. Secrets are difficult to tell because they are secret. But what I see for us right now is, like you mentioned, we have these new products. So now our job is to make them well known and also to make our customers really recognize that for them to buy. So that is, of course, very important. On the same time, we are also constantly looking for new opportunities and see what areas we can we can further improve both on the product side and also, of course, in production. So for us, it is with continue to drive for excellence in both product and production areas. Given that we don’t know much about where the world will be a year from now? We still have many years that we will continue to work on. And we believe that we can do it in an environment that is something. So keep the energy and move forward.

Thank you very much for that wonderful conversation. And as I mentioned, I hope we can continue in a certain certain rhythm. And in any case, I would be aligned with with your team. And I would, Mondi is always one of the favorites on my one by different watch lists I have. And I’m always curious to talk to people like you. So thank you. Thank you very much for that wonderful conversation. And so we say hello to each other. Right?

Yes. Thank you so much for the opportunity, I really appreciate that. And hopefully we have a chance to meet in person and a lot to discuss in the future. But really happy to meet you like this.

Thank you as well Gunilla. Have a safe time. Stay healthy. You and your team. Thank you for the great conversation.

Thank you very much.

Bernhard Cantzler · Over the Skype · MONDI

10 Jun 2020