Story | 03/05/2024 11:57:12 | 4 min Read time

Heading into a new era of technical customer support

As the new head of UPM Pulp’s renamed Technical Marketing and Services team, Roberto Mirande emphasises the importance of listening closely to customers’ needs in building a trustworthy partnership.

Roberto Mirande’s career in the forest industry began in 2001, when he worked as Project Director for the construction of a wood chip mill in Montevideo, before shifting to the role of process engineer at a local tissue paper company. He first joined UPM in 2005 as part of the project team starting up the company’s pulp mill in Fray Bentos and has since then been in different commercial roles already for over a decade – mainly helping customers to make the most out of pulp from a technical standpoint. 

“I consider having a combination of experience both from production and working on the customer’s side in a paper company as an advantage. I understand the customer’s concerns but also know the practical side of what we can produce at our mills,” Mirande says. 

With a background in engineering, three master’s degrees under his belt, and experience from working also in China, Germany and Spain, Mirande is more than qualified to return to UPM to steer his team in a new situation, where the company has taken a major growth leap in Uruguay. 

Building technical bridges 

Mirande explains that the reason behind renaming his new unit as the Technical Marketing and Services team – previously Technical Customer Service – is in highlighting its proactive role in promoting the best possible solution for each customer’s requirements. 

“I want to emphasise the positive aspects of working closely together with our customers and listening carefully to their needs. We have several different types of products in our portfolio, so it’s important to help customers choose exactly the right pulp for each end use, and develop our products together in the long term,” Mirande notes. 

He adds that UPM’s strategy is to offer a widely applicable selection that covers most needs. The focus is on delivering a wide portfolio of fibres with reliable and consistent quality. 

“One way of enhancing what we already do is strengthening the direct contacts between ours and the customers’ technical experts. Creating technical bridges could be beneficial for both parties, enabling us to better learn from each other.” 

A business based on trust 

Mirande says he is most looking forward to working with and leading an “awesome” team of technical experts, many of which used to be his colleagues in the past. His aim is to empower people by delegating responsibility as much as possible and believes his team is very much up for the challenge. Also, he finds it interesting to start working in a growing organisation that is both entering new markets such as North America and gaining market share in existing ones.  

“We are currently in a transition period at our Finnish mills with regards to our wood raw material balance, which presents us with both challenges and opportunities. At the same time, we need to technically make the most of our increased eucalyptus pulp volume from the new UPM Paso de los Toros mill and enter it efficiently to the market in the correct segments. This is still a learning process, as we don’t have all the technical knowledge of new markets as we do in Europe and APAC,” Mirande notes. 

He points out that even though pulp is a commodity business, it’s still a technical commodity, and it’s not only about selling volumes but also properties. This is where he believes the role of his team becomes even more crucial in the future. 

“In addition, building trust is very important for us because that’s what differentiates us from our competitors. Building trust is like taking the stairs, one step at a time, while losing it is like going on an elevator several floors down. We have achieved this in the past by delivering consistent, stable quality from UPM Fray Bentos and our Finnish mills and now we must establish this trust with our new plant.” 

Continuing a legacy 

In his new position, Mirande will continue to be based in Galicia, Spain, his home country for the past five years. With three children, one of whom is already in middle school, Mirande says it felt like the right choice for his family to grow roots in Spain. 

“Also, most of my team is working remotely from different parts of the world, so it doesn’t make much of a difference. I will still probably be travelling half of my time, around 150 days of the year,” he notes. 

Mirande will follow in the footsteps of his former superior Mats Backman who sadly passed away last year. He says Backman left a huge personal impression as a friend and mentor. 

“I will try to honour his way of doing things and continue the great job he did. He always had some wise words to share and really left a mark on the entire business,” Mirande concludes. 

 

 

Text: Timo Nykänen 

 

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