UPM trains local young talent to run new pulp mill in Uruguay
UPM Uruguay is training the next generation of operators for the Paso de los Toros mill. Knowledge transfer from the Fray Bentos mill is a key element.Santiago Sagari, Director of HR at UPM Uruguay Operations, says that the ongoing training programme covers all future operators of the Paso de los Toros mill.
“In this regard, we have come a long way, as the programme has been running in Fray Bentos since the beginning of the operation back in 2007,” he says.
According to Sagari, the duration of the programme can vary slightly according to business needs, but it usually takes place over several stages. The training starts with a classroom course on the pulp production process, covering approximately the first five weeks. This module is taught by an educational institution, with the last two training sessions given by the Faculty of Engineering.
“Our Supervisory team then goes deep in the training with specifics in the various process areas, including related equipment and our way of working in the mill. Finally, future operators join the shifts in order to initiate a process of on-the-job training by working with an experienced operator,” he explains.
This last stage takes several months, during which the operations team leaders identify learning objectives, assess the progress and provide feedback. During the initial years, this process is repeated until each trainee has the necessary knowledge to operate their area in various possible situations.
Training considered highly valuable
The feedback from the training has been very positive. Sagari observes that, typically, those joining the company have commented they would not have been able to do the job without the knowledge gained from the different training modules. Likewise, many participants have said that without the training process, it would probably have taken them years to start performing adequately.
Regarding the profile of the trainees, Sagari says that heterogeneity is a key value of the teams. The different teams have, for instance, members with postgraduate degrees and those with strong practical work experience in industrial processes.
“The groups also vary in terms of age and gender. In our experience, diversity is a value to be protected.”
Keep learning, stay positive
Sagari believes that the most challenging thing about becoming an operator is always keeping alive the desire to learn – and a positive attitude to contribute to the team. As for the best part of the job, he views the possibility of joining a united, strong team as a very attractive one.
“After all, it is a very good working environment in a company that is genuinely committed to the development of operations in a sustainable way.”
Building on tradition
Obviously, the local expertise gained in the past 14 years from running the UPM Fray Bentos mill is immense. Sagari assesses that the key take-away from Fray Bentos is the value of the team.
“Year after year, one can see how people have developed a culture of improvement, which allowed us to reach the historical record of annual production one year ago. This is not a one-day achievement, but rather the result of commitment, constant knowledge development, professionalism and perseverance,” he states.
As the Fray Bentos know-how is being passed on to the young talent at Paso de los Toros, Sagari notes that this “knowledge transfer” is undoubtedly a crucial part of future success.
“We must bear in mind that when the Fray Bentos mill began operations, we did not have the opportunity to learn from ourselves, to build on lessons learned in the operation,” Sagari points out, adding that the key to success is ultimately based on the knowledge and commitment of the UPM people.
In addition to the operator training, there are many other programmes, too, that contribute to knowledge transfer, ranging from corporate programmes to local mentoring or process improvement.
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Job opportunities abound at Paso de los Toros
About 6,500 people are currently working on the construction of UPM’s mill in Pueblo Centenario. So far, more than 15,000 workers have already contributed to the construction of the entire project.
Currently, the project is at a stage that brings together both progress of civil works and intense assembly works. While the civil phase mainly employed labourers, skilled and semi-skilled workers, the assembly stage requires a greater number of specialised jobs, such as welders, assemblers and pipefitters.
The construction of the mill has brought about significant development in the area, employing regional labour and allowing local companies to grow. Similarly, different national companies from various sectors have settled in the area, creating more opportunities in the surrounding communities.