- Tell us a bit about your business. When were you founded, where are you based and how many people do you employ?
UPM Plywood is now one of the six sustainability-focused business areas of UPM but was originally founded in 1912 and run as a family business by Wilhelm Schauman. From its first mill in Jyväskylä, Finland, the company was the first plywood manufacturer to introduce advanced, large-scale manufacturing processes to the sector and established itself as a market leader. By 1924, the company’s mills produced more than half of Finland’s plywood and was the biggest exporter of the material in the world – and this year, we’re even taking into space by launching a satellite made of plywood!
Now, UPM Plywood employs 2,100 people directly as part of UPM’s wider 18,000-strong workforce. The company is headquartered in Lahti, Finland and is supported by a global sales network with additional manufacturing plants in Estonia and Russia. Our sister businesses are UPM Biorefining, UPM Energy, UPM Raflatac, UPM Paper Asia, and UPM Paper ENA (European and North America).
- What does the business do?
UPM Plywood manufacturers high quality plywood under the WISA brand name for technical applications for the construction and industrial sectors – for LNG ships, and truck and trailer flooring, in particular. Weight to weight, plywood is actually stronger than steel. We have produced CV floors for the UK market for more than 50 years, when we first helped deliver a Coca-Cola project for Gerald Broadbent and Boalloy. Currently, we produce more than 1,000,000 m3 of plywood and veneer per year.
We became well known within the CV industry for our WISA-deck product, which was replaced in 1995 by WISA-Trans. This has been developed specifically for the transport sector and is used globally as laminated flooring panels for trailers. As a market leader for trailers, its multilayer laminated construction provides high levels of durability and is covered with a wear-resistant coating to prolong service life.
- Most people would be surprised at the idea of launching a wooden satellite. What’s happening?
To demonstrate plywood’s potential for wider applications, on 12 June we will be launching a test of a WISA Woodsat prototype – a wooden satellite. Carried to a stratospheric altitude of approximately 18.5 miles with a weather balloon, the flight will test the satellite’s on-board technology and demonstrate the material’s suitability for use in extreme conditions. Data will be gathered on the behaviour and useability of the wood construction, especially WISA-Birch plywood.
The next step will be a simulation in July at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands, where its durability will be tested in the same conditions as those experienced by a satellite being transported by rocket.
UPM Plywood is dedicated to taking fossil fuels out of production and this is at the core of everything that we do. With a heightened environmental awareness globally, it’s a good time to specialise in this area.
UPM also focuses on the creation of biodiesel, biochemicals and biocomposites, all of which are crucial areas to help advance the CV industry’s drive to increase efficiency and reduce emissions.
- How is business? What’s the outlook for the year ahead?
With a global focus on reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and with a series of companies committing to net-zero, demand for sustainable material is high and will remain strong for the rest of the year. UPM Plywood has experienced improved demand for vehicle flooring in 2021 Q1, resulting in higher production and delivery volumes. We remain Europe’s largest plywood manufacturer and operate the biggest R&D centre of its type in Lahti, Finland, which is able to run continuous testing to support our customers.
UPM Plywood UK and Ireland sales manager