Story | 07/08/2024 08:13:51 | 5 min Read time

For UPM pioneer in Uruguay Bruno Vuan the greatest is the team

Bruno Vuan, UPM Uruguay’s Senior Manager of Maintenance and Engineering, is known as one of the first UPMers in Uruguay. By the time he joined the team, there was already a group of Uruguayan engineers in training in Finland – many of whom still work in the company.

“I remember the first time I visited the site where the plant was to be built in Fray Bentos with Alex Burwood, today a Manager in UPM Forestal Oriental in Uruguay. When we arrived it was all fields and there was a dairy farm on the site,” Vuan recalls.

The first activities were to fence the land and clear the field.

"We started to get to know the land area better and discovered paths that led to the river or places we had never seen before. It was hard to imagine what the plant would look like there.

“From that distant 2004 to today a lot of things have happened. We started as Botnia and later, in 2009, became UPM. We broke several production records. We made major changes that years later allowed us to reach production capacity of 1.3 million tonnes of eucalyptus pulp per year – which means we exceeded the plant's original design capacity. We patented developments and improved the production process, all of which were the result of our great team. And that wasn't enough – we built a second plant!”

Bruno has witnessed this journey and transformation from the very beginning. He accumulated anecdotes and challenges, and worked side by side with others to drive innovation. He emphasises that what he enjoyed most about the journey is the atmosphere and the relationship between the people with whom he has built a large part of UPM Uruguay’s history and what it is today.

The beginning of a great project

Bruno started working on the Fray Bentos mill project on 1 March 2005. "At that time there was already a group of colleagues who had started to learn in Finland and bring that knowledge to Uruguay."

At the beginning the team was really small. "It was a project that was just starting and many hands were needed. A few days after the work began, we had the first demonstration [of Argentinian activists who opposed the plant] on the bridge between Fray Bentos and the Argentinian city of Gualeguaychú. Journalists arrived at the construction site and we were not prepared to receive them. The team leaders decided that Bruno Vuan would be the local spokesperson. "My phone number ended up circulating to all the producers of all the local and Buenos Aires radio stations. They would call me at 6 o'clock in the morning, at any time," he recalls.

From one day to the next his house became a human resources centre. "I lived in Mercedes with my family and since everyone in the town knew me, people knew I was working at the new plant. So everyone who was looking for a job came to my house to leave their CV. My wife, during the day, attended to all those who came with their papers."

In addition, because he was born in Argentina, he became "Botnia's Argentinean".

Over time and as the construction of the Fray Bentos plant progressed the team grew and consolidated.


We are a great team

Bruno is glad to have seen those young people join as juniors, see them develop and lead teams in Fray Bentos. "Many of them were the ones who 10 years later led the project for the second plant in Paso de los Toros and who even took care of the Finns who came to work on the project," he says proudly.

Over the years UPM shaped and continues to foster a culture of innovation and collaboration. The Fray Bentos mill became a kind of "university" for the country's industry. Innovative projects were developed that were key for the company, success stories that were taken to Finland and have also been applied in other industries. It has also been a driver of development for the local community and industry. "From the way we approach safety to the way we do tasks, many companies have adopted our practices," says Vuan.

After almost 20 years at UPM Bruno maintains the same enthusiasm he had on day one. "What I enjoy most is the team we have. We have created a working environment where we learn and grow together. Now, with new projects and challenges, we continue to innovate and improve."

Early introduction to pulp at home

Until the age of 15 Bruno Vuan lived in Mercedes, Soriano, in a neighbourhood where there is a paper mill. "My father was a chemist and was in charge of part of the production. In those days pulp was made on a very artisanal scale compared to what the industry is today," recalls Vuan. "We practically lived inside the mill. As the mill stopped at weekends, we would go there with my father."

These experiences left Vuan with a special curiosity for forestry issues and, although his career path led him to electrical engineering, in the early 2000s he joined a newly emerging newsletter on forestry issues, ICI Forestry, which still exists today.

As a result of an interview for the newsletter in 2004, Vuan met Timo Piilonen, who later became the project leader for the new plant in Fray Bentos. That year Vuan travelled to Finland for the first time to visit pulp mills in a delegation with journalists. When he saw that a call had been opened for jobs at what would become the Fray Bentos pulp mill, he decided to apply.


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