Students at UPM Biofore Boot Camp get to solve real-life problems
Mixing together different kinds of expertise and experience often creates the best conditions for new innovations. Forest-based bioindustry company UPM is developing new ideas, and one channel for this are the Biofore Boot Camps, which are focused on current areas for development. The Boot Camps are held both within the company and also together with different stakeholder groups.
In January 2018, UPM held a Biofore Boot Camp together with Aalto University. The aim was to find new packaging solutions for paper rolls. In its journey from the factory to the customer, the packaging must withstand the transport, handling and storage processes. The challenge is that conditions in the transport chain can vary greatly – from cold Finland to hot and moist Asia. The packaging methods must also be as environmentally friendly as possible, using as much recyclable material as possible.
Students with courage to question the normal solutions
“The UPM Biofore Boot Camp offers students the opportunity to work on real business challenges and develop new kinds of operating models instead of just being presented with theoretical problems. At the same time, the cooperation with students provides us with fresh ideas drawn from new perspectives – things that we could not achieve within our own company with our own resources. Students dare to question the old operating models and solutions”, comments Kimmo Ståhlberg, Category Director for Packaging and Consumables at UPM.
The students formed multidisciplinary teams which then used their technical and design knowledge and business skills, together with support from UPM specialists, to think up the most economically viable and environmentally friendly solutions and business concepts for packing paper rolls. At the end, the teams presented their ideas to a jury composed of representatives from UPM and Aalto.
Excursion provides good launchpad for brainstorming
Before the Boot Camp, the students took a trip to UPM’s paper mill in Rauma and to the Hansaprint printing house in Turku.
“It was much easier to start brainstorming a new concept once I had first seen how the paper rolls are manufactured and packaged”, says Paula Saratlieva. “Also, the visit to Hansaprint highlighted the customer’s perspective, which is important in understanding the key problem areas.”
Mikko Valkonen, who studies Fibre and Polymer Engineering, also agrees that the visits to the factory and printing house were very useful for comprehending the task and the problems involved. The visits gave a concrete picture of the handling and storage processes for the paper rolls.
A total of 32 students participated in the Boot Camp. These included students of technology, business, and arts and design. Indeed, one goal of the Boot Camp was to promote skills for working in multidisciplinary groups. In addition, the camp sought to develop students’ ability to solve real-life problems and present their ideas as convincingly as possible.
Teamwork skills and self-understanding
“Working in a multidisciplinary and international group helped me to see and understand things from perspectives different to those I have become accustomed to as a designer. This made the whole course interesting, fun and rewarding”, says Paula Saratlieva.
“The support from Aalto University teaching staff, the competence and openness of the UPM specialists and the excursion organised for us all amounted to an ideal learning environment which helped me to grow both professionally and as an individual. The course helps me to recognise both my strengths and my weaknesses in carrying out teamwork, and it gave me insight into how I can develop myself in the future."
Mikko Valkonen (second from the right) and the red team.
Mikko Valkonen also found the teamwork to be a good experience.
“Although we sometimes had different opinions about things, nobody in the group took things personally and we were able to consider the benefits and drawbacks of different things quite objectively. On the other hand, people’s different levels of active participation presented a challenge for moving forward with the task. This was nevertheless a good reminder that people are simply different to each other. I always tried to surpass myself and get out of my comfort zone, and in the group work I noticed that I was able to share my opinions without thinking too much about what others would think of me. I also surpassed myself to some extent by taking initiative instead of waiting first for others to do something”, Mikko Valkonen said while reflecting on his group work experience. “During the course, we got a concise but good understanding of paper manufacturing and packaging, and the related task was interesting. The course broadened my understanding of working life and possible work tasks”, he added.
Successful cooperation set to continue
Tapani Vuorinen, Vice-Dean for Teaching at Aalto School of Chemical Engineering, is thankful for the cooperation with UPM. Plans for further cooperation are already under way.
“UPM invested strongly in the project and our work together went exceptionally well. The goal of the Boot Camp was to find solutions for real-life problems, and this could be seen in the enthusiasm of the specialists leading the groups. Throughout the course, we monitored how well the students were able to make use of the specialists and other available sources of information. The opportunity for networking was also one of the most important things offered by the course to the students.”
Kimmo Ståhlberg was also very satisfied with the course.
“In the Boot Camp, we received from the students a truly new perspective on traditional roll wrapping. We will go through the students’ ideas together with our specialists and decide which of them to develop further.”
Tapani Vuorinen, Vice-Dean for Teaching
Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering
tel. +358 50 516 0048
Esa Laurinsilta, Director, Strategic Partnerships, Technology
tel. +358 40 821 0350
Photo of Paula Saratlieva: Bijan Bayat Mokhtari
Photos of Mikko Valkonen + team and Tapani Vuorinen: Nina Riutta