Holistic, flexible approach key to keeping on schedule | Uponor

Metsä Group’s new bioproduct factory in Äänekoski

Holistic, flexible approach is key to keeping on schedule

360 mindset from start to finish

When forest products leader Metsä Group completed their new bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, Finland, it became the largest wood-processing plant in the Northern Hemisphere. Valued at EUR 1.2 billion and with a construction schedule that left no room for delays, the installation opened on schedule in August 2017, with pulp deliveries to customers beginning just one month later.

Crucial to Metsä Group keeping these key deadlines was their early and close cooperation with Uponor Infra. Tasked with delivering most of the municipal infrastructure – including water, sewage and storm water pipes, and also wells and well parts – Metsä Group knew they could fully rely on Uponor Infra’s proven 360 approach to get the job done.

Uponor’s holistic 360 mindset means focusing its best know-how and experience in close consultation with its partners and clients throughout all phases of a project – to ensure the overall flow of the solution, process and
operation.

On site flexibility ensured timely completion 

The construction schedule was in fact so tight, and with so many different aspects of the project needing to be built simultaneously, that work vehicle traffic jams threatened to form at the site. What’s more, the old pulp plant, which has now closed and is awaiting demolition, was fully operational during the entire construction period.

Metsä Group found in Uponor Infra an experienced partner who not only could fabricate and install a wide of key project infrastructure solutions, but who could also consult closely and early-on with regard to the most effective and efficient-to-implement technologies and designs that would ensure a smoothly integrated construction process. It wasn’t just Uponor’s skillset – it was their mindset.

“Towards the end… the pipes almost laid themselves”
The company charged with coordinating most of the site’s various project contracts was Graniittirakennus Kallio, and they were also responsible for installing the new mill’s extensive underground pipe work. Their project foreman Arto Korhonen commented that even with his 20 years of experience in the field he was still amazed that such a complex, large scale project was kept on schedule: “Towards the end of the project, the pipes almost laid themselves compared to the early phases, because we timed things to avoid the busiest construction area. At the same time, daily negotiations with other contractors was kept to a minimum. We also benefited significantly from Uponor Infra’s solution – which called for pipe installation in shallow trenches which did not require separate labor-intensive support structures."

Weholite pipes made of polypropylene met – and even surpassed – strict requirements in the renovation of a waste water channel at the Stora Enso Oulu mill in Northern Finland.

Ready well before the deadline

Uponor Infra’s 360° approach adds value to every project

Korhonen also points out that “for the project to remain on schedule, the pipe installation work had to proceed flexibly – in ways that didn’t hinder other time-sensitive construction processes. Plus, there were occasional surprises created by difficult ground conditions.” He notes that unexpected change is the only permanent aspect of industrial construction, and that Uponor Infra’s careful planning, extensive off-site fabrication, and their ability to respond flexibly on site with an eye to the bigger picture, all ensured that construction deadlines were met. “I have only praise for Uponor. Despite various last-minute changes in the plans, we were provided with excellent insights and support from both Uponor’s sales and production staff,” Korhonen adds.

Early doubts replaced by brilliant execution
The first pipes had to be installed and built in a sheet-piled cofferdam, and the 22-meter pipe sections needed to be shortened to 7–8 meters. Korhonen admits now that at the time he doubted their ability to stay on schedule. “We were able to catch up once we’d moved to the embankment section. After that, installation of the pipe elements progressed quickly, compensating for the slow start.” Since no storage was available, Uponor Infra delivered the materials in a logical, timely manner as the work progressed; the lorries brought the fabricated pipe sections directly from the factory to the worksite.

Planning plus holistic thinking are key

What can one learn from projects of this magnitude? Korhonen points out that “when building a factory or in any other kind of large-scale development, a functioning infrastructure, including piping, roads, etc. should be planned at an early stage. Unfortunately, infrastructure plans are often made in the final stage of the design process, which can create schedule-breaking bottlenecks.”

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