People and progress: ABB leading in pulp and paper with a sense of purpose

People and progress: ABB leading in pulp and paper with a sense of purpose

Stepping into one of the high-rise buildings in the Sudirman area of the capital city, it can be daunting to think about the people and stories waiting on the other side of the doors. The entire area is a map of companies that have led various industries for decades.  


With over 140 years of history that began in Switzerland and Sweden, ABB stands as a global technology leader in automation and electrification. It has been part of the Indonesian landscape since the 1980s and has grown beyond its original fields of interest in the country.   From infrastructure to smart cities, from mining to solar and wind power, the entire organization covers more than 25 different industries. At its core, ABB maintains its position as a pioneer, serving the needs of its evolving customer base.  

In paper-making, ABB has provided some of the world’s pioneering solutions to support customers’ productivity, quality and adaptability as the market ebbed and flowed over 70 years. At the helm today is Stefano Cinquina, global business line manager for pulp and paper at ABB. With a background in aviation engineering, consulting and business development, he brings a different leadership perspective from the more conventional pulp and paper industry experience.  

“I think there are many, many flavors to leadership. To me, it is crucial to inspire people, offer a sense of purpose and, of course, put the customer at the heart of what we do. With such a balance, we achieve and learn together, building a community of motivated individuals and teams within our organization. Each person has strengths and weaknesses, and it is important to recognize and take action on both,” said Cinquina.    

“The qualities for an employee depend a lot on the specific role they are in. There are many specialties linked to the functions, be it engineering, be it sales. What I can say is that a desire to continuously improve is a very valuable characteristic in employees. It is also my personal commitment to improve myself too. Everybody should be receptive to feedback and have the desire to incorporate that feedback to become better every day,” he replied when asked about the best qualities an employee can have.  

He revealed that his journey at ABB was not a typical one, at least from his point of view. However, Cinquina is not fazed about the fact that he entered the industry at a later date compared with his peers and predecessors, for him it is the opposite.   By sharing his past experiences, he hopes to encourage people to take the chance to change their career path should they find the traditional one company or one industry route does not suit them. He adds that learning from other industries or life experiences, and bringing these insights into a role, is important for progression.  

Furthermore, Cinquina believes that any leader should be surrounded by a knowledgeable, diverse and experienced team. “In our business line, we all bring different attributes, some directly from pulp and paper, and others from a broad mixture of disciplines. These personalities make a group that has hundreds of years of industry experience combined but also a range of perspectives for better outcomes,” he said.  

“I told my team from the very beginning that it’s not the pulp and paper experience that I bring to the table. I think it takes a lot of curiosity and also a bit of humility to learn about the industry. What I committed to bring is what you refer to as an outside perspective.” “I've learned that when you build your entire career into an industry, you look at opportunities mainly from what has happened in the past and how you can do it better, and sometimes there are opportunities to look at; can we do it completely differently in learning from what other industries are doing? Can we think that pulp and paper is not pulp and paper, but is the bio fiber industry? Can we help our customer do something else with the fibers that come from wood or other bio-based material?” he added.


In addition to diversity and experience, he also walks the rope between support and autonomy. This is about letting the team members make their own decisions that are within their respective perimeters yet providing the support when it is needed. He is finding the balance between not being a micromanager and providing enough support so his team feels empowered. Cinquina also explains that building a rapport to understand what motivates each team member has brought impressive results to maintain a healthy work environment. Cinquina references one clear example of ABB taking a chance to diversify using its pulp and paper industry expertise. ABB collaborates with Renewcell, a Swedish sustaintech company specializing in textile-to-textile recycling, to use automation, electrification, quality control systems, motors and drives to support a recycled textile production line. It builds on many of the techniques used in a pulp mill, including pulp drying, but in an industry new to ABB. Renewcell is diverting clothing from landfill and making fashion more sustainable as a result.   As a leader, Cinquina wants to use his perspective to ask challenging questions and encourage progress and, when appropriate, diversification. Another area, of importance to ABB in all business areas, is sustainability. Cinquina revealed that circularity has been put at the core of the company’s purpose and the company has shifted to renewable sources from fossil fuels to electricity to leave a lower carbon footprint.   

“The ongoing energy transition and the need to decarbonize operations will continue to drive businesses long into this century. ABB, as a long-term partner in automation, electrification and digitalization, is ideally placed to support customers with expertise and technologies to reach their safety, emissions and production milestones,” said Cinquina.  

To help in customers’ present and future missions, ABB recently opened a multi-million-dollar research and development (R&D) center for the global pulp and paper industry in Dundalk, Ireland. Cinquina revealed that the facility is at the heart of ABB’s automation and digital offering for the sector and is home to the ongoing evolution of the ABB quality-control system (QCS). New ideas and products will be piloted and managed into the suite of applications for improved quality in the complex world of paper-making.  

“It enables ABB to maintain a leadership position in terms of product innovation. We are combining that with digital artificial intelligence [AI], additive manufacturing [3D printing], collaborative robots and augmented/virtual reality for training and field service delivery to better meet the needs of ABB’s pulp and paper development team. The site also includes a new training hub for skills development support for ABB and customers alike, enabling more cross-industry partnerships and collaboration,” Cinquina explained.  

“Areas like AI, and the need for skills development, might at first seem overwhelming, but it is about opportunities and I personally find it fascinating. I think it's great to continuously learn whether you are at the beginning of a career or well into it.”   When asked about long-term goals, Cinquina revealed that increasing the R&D budget is a part of a long-term ambition, but balancing that with shorter-term goals is business critical.    

“One of the most important approaches is to maintain a pioneering spirit, to push the boundaries of what is possible from a technological perspective. We have quality in everything we do at ABB, backed by decades of expertise and technology development. Our people will continue to enable us to compete within our markets through their efforts and results every day,” he concluded.


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