Story | 11/13/2023 12:06:00 | 4 min Read time

New vehicle flooring manager with open ears and an engineering mind

Sirkku Salmikuukka takes over the vehicle flooring managing duties at UPM Plywood after Juha Patovirta. With a strong engineering and business background and a long UPM Plywood career in the rucksack, the new end use manager will enter the role with open ears and an open mind.

The appointment of Sirkku Salmikuukka as Senior Manager, end use management for vehicle flooring, is part of a bigger organisational change within UPM Plywood, officially starting in August 2023.  

“The change offered a good chance to broaden the vehicle flooring competence base,” Salmikuukka says, and Juha Patovirta continues: “I've been working with vehicle flooring for a rather long time, and now we need to widen the experience inside the company.” 

After more than 10 years managing vehicle flooring at UPM Plywood, Senior Manager Patovirta will be responsible for UPM Plywood’s portfolio development, taking care of both the customer and commercial offering portfolios. 

Solid technical and commercial background 

As a kid, Sirkku Salmikuukka wanted to be a farm relief worker, who helps farmers, when they need time off.  

Nevertheless, her “engineering mindset” and appreciation for wood – partially induced by her carpenter father – steered her toward wood technology engineering. Through her 15 years with UPM Plywood, she has gained valuable experience in R&D, production, quality management, sales, and as product manager for WISA® birch plywood.  

“I know a lot about plywood’s properties, how it's been used, how it could be used, strength topics and other technical properties for example. I also understand what our mills are capable of, their limitations and possibilities.” 

A few years back she supplemented her technical expertise with a Master of Business Administration degree. “It has given me an even stronger customer focus and commercial understanding,” Salmikuukka notes. 

In her new role, Salmikuukka will use her technical and commercial expertise to manage and develop the vehicle flooring end use and commercial offering.  “I approach this role with curiosity and an open mind, and I'm eager to meet the customers face to face,” she says.  

Understanding the entire value chain  

The re-organisation officially happened in August, but, in reality, the full transfer of duties is gradual and ongoing.  

“The rest of this year I am focusing on getting on top of things in-house, with support from Juha and our sales team. As we turn to 2024, they will unleash me,” Salmikuukka laughs and continues; “I will definitely pay visits to the customers with the sales representatives.” 

Right now, she is concentrating on gaining a full picture of the vehicle production industry. 

“I want to understand not just how plywood is used by the trailer manufacturers, but also how their entire business works. I want to comprehend the value chain and business models and recognise the main stakeholders, so we can continue to create value for our customers.” 

Salmikuukka is particularly looking forward to discussing hot and important topics, such as digitalisation and circular economy with the customers.  

Strengthened portfolio management 

Former vehicle flooring end use manager Juha Patovirta will be withdrawing a bit from the limelight to focus on the entire UPM Plywood offering and the customer portfolio, which with the organisational change have been combined. 

Right now, Patovirta and Salmikuukka are working closely together to make sure that all necessary know-how is properly handed over. In the future, their paths will also cross, as portfolio and commercial offerings management have overlaps with the vehicle flooring end use management.  

“The target is that all WISA plywood end-use areas will be working together without being too far from each other from an offering point of view,” says Patovirta, whose UPM Plywood experience spans production, product development, product management and during the latest 10 years, vehicle flooring end use management.  

“During that time, I’ve been developing the strategy of the end use as well as the UPM Plywood strategy, so I have a quite wide horizon when it comes to plywood.” 

Continuing a 50-year-long plywood story 

What advice would Patovirta give his successor after more than a decade in the vehicle flooring plywood business? 

“Listen. To customers, salespeople and production staff. The target is always to find a solution that will work for the whole chain.” 

A wealth of know-how has been built over 50 years of plywood production for vehicle flooring, Patovirta reminds. “We need to keep that long-term commitment spirit alive while moving forward to remain an interesting partner to whom the customers turn. Now, I’m passing the torch to you,” he says to Salmikuukka. She will now carry it into the future.  

Text: Sara Steensig 

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