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Focusing on forest products: Q&A with Fredrik Engdar

By embracing digital, forest products companies can improve performance and attract new talent.
Fredrik Engdar
Fredrik Engdar
Managing Director,
Global Forest Products Lead–Accenture
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The forest products industry is in a period of transformation. What does this mean for the Nordic region?
While the demand for paper is declining, other products are on the upswing. For instance, paperboard used in packaging and tissue paper continue to grow steadily around the globe. Wood as a building material is also receiving more attention.

Despite some tough years, we see Nordic forest products companies investing significantly in production capacity in the region and in other parts of the world. They are also redesigning and optimizing their asset and business portfolio, and developing new businesses. The largest forest products companies in the Nordics, for example, are exploring new business initiatives including advanced liquid biofuel, bio-chemicals and bio-composite material.

What role does digital have in helping forest products companies improve performance?
The industry has a strong history of developing innovative solutions in the production environment. Many industry-specific processes and equipment invented decades ago in the Nordic region have become standard in the global forest products industry.

However, the industry as a whole has been slow to capture digital opportunities, which means there is plenty of untapped potential. Companies that become early adopters of digital solutions, both in the customer interface and manufacturing environment, can create a competitive advantage. With this goal in mind, Accenture actually helps many of its clients across all industries accelerate the development and implementation of their digital strategies.

How can digital enable new products, services, information and platforms in a traditional industry like forest products?
First, supply chain management can become much more digital. Printing is moving towards “digital print near consumption,” that is printing in smaller batches instead of in larger printing houses. This means shorter lead times for deliveries and greater punctuality. Digital solutions can improve supply chain management by increasing efficiency and customer satisfaction through track-and-trace functionality.

Second, there is an emerging opportunity to make product packaging more “intelligent” by offering increased functionality and engaging consumers in new ways. For instance, packaging paper companies can work with brand owners to develop applications for anti-tampering and counterfeit functionality; they can also embed track-and-trace into the packaging. It’s still early days for this concept, but we expect to see this space expand rapidly.

Digital technology is changing the work experience for employees at every level. How can forest products companies reshape their business to attract young talent?
All industries are competing for talent, and the forest products industry has had its share of challenges. Fortunately, we see this changing. The global forest products industry is uniquely positioned to advance the bio-economy by storing more carbon and innovating with sustainably-sourced biomass. This sustainability story and the opportunity to develop new biomass-based products and businesses are attracting young professionals to the industry since they are a generation focused on being environmentally friendly.

If the industry also embraces digital solutions in production environments, in customer interfaces and with partners, then forest products companies will certainly be seen as employers who are sustainable, cool and modern.

What life experiences sparked your interest in the forest products industry?
My father owns a small farm in the south of Sweden. It has been in the family for a hundred years and includes a forest. So I have been involved in “unprofessional” forestry since I was a young boy. I remember the first time I planted a tree and how difficult it was to clear the forest after a storm. Even now, I still return to my father’s farm to help with thinning the forest.

How do you spend your precious time outside of work?
My wife and I have two small children so I spend a considerable amount of time with them when I’m not working. I also enjoy scuba diving and golf.