Mondi: improving efficiency for a sustainable and digital future
With sustainability steadily becoming a top priority for many businesses, Mondi is leading the way in the paper and packaging industry
Mondi is split into three areas of business: consumer packaging, graphical paper and fibre packaging. 60% of the firm’s operations are commanded by the latter unit, which also dominates the company’s value chain. The CEO of Mondi’s Fibre Packaging business, Markus Gartner, reveals how his team’s operations span from wood to pulp and paper making, all the way to corrugated packaging and bag solutions. Gartner prioritises three key functions to ensure his business operates as strongly and effectively as possible. “Firstly, we are really good at running our assets efficiently, which you can see if you look at our profitability – we are by far the most profitable player in the industry,” he says. “Secondly, we have well-maintained assets; we are not a company that invests and runs the assets down, but instead we always try to maintain the latest technology in our plants. Finally, and most importantly, we have a very skilled workforce. Topics like lifelong learning are extremely important to us to maintain the skill level.”
Having previously worked in the aluminium industry, Gartner brings a wealth of operational experience to Mondi. “The way we look at performance and operations are very similar: the type of key performance indicators we look at and the role that efficiency plays is very similar in the aluminium rolling industry as it is in the paper industry,” he says. However, Gartner enthuses, Mondi’s approach to sustainability is far more advanced: “The level at which we can offer sustainable products and solutions is far more progressive than I’ve seen in my previous industry. You see that reflected in how our organisation is set up – sustainability is really something that touches every aspect of our operations and our commercial thinking.”
As an aspect that covers all of the firm’s value chain, sustainability is at the core of Mondi’s values. For instance, the firm ensures it responsibly sources materials such as wood. “When it comes to wood procurement, 71% of our wood is procured from FSC certified sources, with the rest controlled by our high sustainability standards. We can, therefore, say that 100% of our wood resources are sustainable and that’s very important to us,” notes Gartner. The company also aims to keep its carbon footprint as low as possible, targeting energy generation to do so. “If you picture a large pulp and paper mill, it is a huge plant that consumes a lot of energy for its processes. However, there are several renewable residues – the bark and the wood that is not used for the pulping process – which can be used to generate energy. All of Mondi’s pulp mills and larger partners are completely energy self-sufficient. We generate all the energy we need and more, selling the excess to national grids as electricity,” he adds.
Gartner argues that sustainability is becoming more critical as urbanisation extends: “As more people live in cities, they are requiring totally different packaging needs. It also increases the needs of sustainability because people are living in confined spaces – we cannot generate as much rubbish as before.” Mondi’s connection to the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market is helping to drive sustainability. “We see a huge benefit in combining these two strengths: having a sustainable product offering and speaking the language of FMCG companies. Mondi calls that the ‘internally equal solutions’ – we aim to create more sustainable solutions for products that are less sustainable today. The benefit really comes from connecting the dots within the company, and it has brought us immense success already so far,” he adds.
Another integral aspect of the firm’s operations is digital transformation. “A lot of companies perceive ‘going digital’ as just increasing the level of automation. In my opinion, that’s not what it is about,” explains Gartner. “Digital is two things: it is applying advanced analytics, which is a new methodology that we haven't used in manufacturing and heavy industries before, and it is a new way of working.” He argues that technology has to be introduced in stages – with efficiency improvement programmes bein integrated into sprints a couple of weeks at a time – to be effective. The company is currently seeking to make use of the vast sources of data within its operations. In a pulp and paper mill, Mondi has implemented between 40,000 and 60,000 sensors that capture live data from the production process. “We are using various advanced analytics software tools as well as methodologies to look across the processes and steps of our value chain to generate insights. For instance, how does a boiler status evolve over time? Can we predict what the boiler’s status is in half an hour and then address the different parameter settings already to avoid any critical states?”
As Mondi continues on its journey to a more sustainable and digital future, its focus on efficiency is continuing to drive growth. “A lot of companies would say that the most prominent benefit of digital transformation is real efficiency improvement. This is no different for us,” comments Gartner. However, safety is also a crucial aspect to innovation for the firm. “There is more to it than efficiency – we have incorporated technology in the production process to make it safer to operate. Now with digital technology, we can predict breakages in the paper machines and avoid them before they happen.” The company is committed to ensuring the wellbeing of its team, which will undoubtedly lead them to a strong, secure future.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.