In 2017, Sappi celebrated its 50th anniversary in Lanaken, Flanders. In 5 decades’ time, the South African paper and pulp producer became a locally anchored player in the region’s easternmost province of Limburg and now employs 450 people. Furthermore, Brussels—the capital of Belgium and Flanders—is home to Sappi’s HQ for the whole of Europe, where the South African firm operates 7 mills and 14 sales offices.
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Why Sappi put pen to paper for a transformation in Flanders
Fifty years after first buying a plot of land in Lanaken, Sappi decided to give the green light for its transformation project ‘Horse’ at the end of 2016. The project is part of the South African company’s global investment program, which funnels EUR 305 million into strengthening its worldwide production: EUR 140 million goes to Sappi’s operations in Europe, most of which will be channeled into the Lanaken site.
“The global investment program supports Sappi’s new international strategy,” explains Eric Raedts, mill director at Sappi in Lanaken. “The aim? To continue our growth path of making Sappi a profitable and diversified wood fiber group, while keeping our production costs as low as possible. Transforming our Flanders-based site in Lanaken is one of the keys to succeeding in that mission.”
The transformation greatly boosts the Lanaken production mill’s output. Not only does it involve the modernization of one of the production lines, a new paper-cutting machine is added as well. In addition to expanding the site, Sappi Lanaken also uses the investment to support its sustainability goals. By deploying novel technologies, the Flanders-based site is able to recuperate more than 90% of a tree for paper production, compared to only 44% using conventional techniques.
Furthermore, Sappi is planning on developing new sustainable products. Think of biologically degradable paper for the agricultural industry, as well as food packing paper that changes color when the expiration date has been reached or surpassed.
Currently, Sappi relies on a team that’s approximately 450 strong in Flanders. “To aid Sappi’s transformation in Lanaken, Flanders provided support in the form of a government grant for companies that make large strategic investments or training efforts in the region. Once the investment program is completed, we anticipate creating around 100 jobs at our Flanders-based site,” concludes Eric Raedts.
To aid our transformation, Flanders provided support in the form of a government grant for companies that invest in large strategic transformations.