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Davi Rauen e André Leonardo Nasser Pereira

Quality and Environmental Management Manager and Forestry Quality Leader of WestRock


Quality as a driver of social, environmental and economic results

In highly competitive business environments, such as the forest sector, combining productivity with quality is not an easy equation, but it plays an essential role in ensuring the success and longevity of operations. Organizations are always looking for ways to increase productivity, streamline operations and reduce costs. When we talk about productivity in the forestry sector, we have several successful examples, which demonstrate how much we think about the short, medium and long term.

The planted forests in Brazil are the most productive in the world, the result of intense investments in research and technology, as well as the excellence of sustainable forest management. When it comes to forestry operations, we have achieved exponential gains, either through improvements in production processes or through the use of new technologies. This positions the Brazilian forest sector at the forefront when it comes to sustainability.

However, an often overlooked aspect is quality in the broadest sense. The vitality of any business can only be conquered when all its activities are subject to continuous improvement flows, bringing social, environmental and economic aspects as a foundation. The search for productivity without taking into account the quality pillar can bring some short-term gains, but they will be quickly consumed in the medium and long term, greatly impacting sustainability.

In the forest sector, quality is a frontier to be explored and expanded. Working with quality within this productive activity implies acting across the company's functional structure, developing concepts, methods and collection tools, expanding the database, leveraging learning sessions and evolving a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

In this way, it is valid to develop and engage the operational teams that are involved or participate in the constructive process, understanding that these activities transform and evolve according to the needs of their time. At WestRock, excellence is one of our values. We are determined to achieve high levels of performance, for ourselves and for our customers, investors and communities. We see quality as a means to achieve excellence.

It is the result of repeated actions that align with our values and goals. We understand that excellence cannot be achieved instantly, but requires a constant commitment to continuous improvement, which requires a lot of planning, execution, discipline, understanding the value chain, developing tools and systems, using technologies, rethinking processes and, mainly, people development to create a culture of quality where everyone understands their role and assumes their responsibility.

People development has always been and will continue to be the great challenge for organizations. After all, what are organizations if not a group of people with a common goal? In this increasingly complex business environment, quality requires an organizational culture of teamwork, collaboration, mutual support, focus on the customer, cross-cutting action, a network and value chain vision.

The search for quality improvement cannot be limited to the quality area, but rather a collective effort, which allows the distribution of responsibilities throughout the organization, enabling employees to take ownership of quality, thus enhancing business results. In the forest sector, there are also different models and strategies for implementing quality in operations. The vision of WestRock's quality area, for example, is one of decentralization. To this end, we uncoupled the quality area from quality control itself.

The quality area is the segment that leverages the culture of innovation and continuous improvement, with the main objective of supporting the operational areas with indicators, learning sessions, proofs of concept, ex situ and in situ discussion forums, search for new technologies and tools, new processes, identifying gaps and connecting operations, in pursuit of excellence in forest management.

Quality control, on the other hand, constitutes a component of forest operations, which make use of technical prescriptions to immediately correct deviations, as well as suggest improvements in production processes. In line with our behaviors, by explaining why and aligning objectives, we increase the commitment and empower those who are carrying out forestry operations on a daily basis.

One cannot ignore the relevance of using technologies that generate and/or enhance positive impacts, direct or indirect, on the pillars of sustainability. The results obtained by the company's technological application materialize interfaces, strengthen functional relationships and expand the capacity to generate the knowledge necessary for the recurrent evolution of productivity in the broadest sense; maintenance of the balance of social, environmental and economic return.

Good examples of this are the already consolidated technologies that have been integrated, offering remote management and operations, through aerial images or other types of sensors (augmented reality, virtual reality, radars embedded in satellites, planes, drones or automated monitoring of operations of soil preparation and fertilization).

All these results are not observable only in the increase in productivity and in the economic pillar. In addition, they aggregate in the social and environmental spheres. Our quality area also plays a role in the development of operation professionals and stakeholders, seeking more engaging and attractive ways to engage them, thus strengthening the culture and gaining new allies. This means not only going to the gemba , promoting and receiving ongoing feedback, but also engaging all levels of company leadership to support this journey.

Professionals in charge of this area increasingly need to develop a nexialist profile, that is, to encourage the ability to integrate knowledge and skills from different areas and disciplines, aiming to solve complex and interconnected problems in favor of excellence. WestRock's quality area is to boost the productivity of our genetic material, the most productive in the world for Pinus taeda and Eucalyptus dunnii. This is a job that integrates different sectors of the company, as well as research institutes and universities.

Therefore, it is also the role of quality to act transversally, with a network vision, connecting the dots from all the knowledge acquired through the indicators, generated by the quality control. Motivated by the efficiency and evolution of our sustainability pillars, we advanced in the position that forestry quality needs to encompass and strengthen the interfaces between all operating segments.

The objective is not just to resort to the old rhetoric that quality will add value to the process, but rather to persist in the search for continuous improvement, avoiding waste and achieving a degree of excellence in products or services that must go beyond customer expectations. Building on WestRock's experience, it seems highly advisable to develop a concept and platform that supports and expands data collection and processing capacity to generate quantitative and qualitative indicators.

This platform also needs to ensure operational learning sessions, development of action plans and management of non-compliance, opportunities for improvement and innovation. The challenge is to seek objectivity and effectiveness, reducing the level of complexity, implementing fully digital processes, as automated as possible, always prioritizing providing the best experience for the end user.

In our particular case, developing the quality management system was essential for the successful change of culture. take advantage of the specialty everyone, from the operational to the management level, in order to ensure that the business plan adhered to the needs of the business, the user experience and was able to cover all areas, was one of the milestones in our quality strategy.

In addition, it is necessary to have a mature environment to deal with non-conformities and occurrences in each area, which collaborates in the definition of resources, responsible parties and deadlines. To this end, we have the support of senior management and have structured quality forums, where actions to adjust and improve production processes are discussed. It is also necessary to have consistency in the data collection that integrates the process of involving, engaging and developing people, working at three levels:

• Level 1: Operation: responsible for day-to-day quality control, in their respective process stages;
• Level 2: Quality team: responsible for carrying out audits and directing resources where there is greater demand, also acting to help implement improvements, new indicators, seek new technologies, carry out analyzes and help correct deviations;
• Level 3: Internal customer: is who approves all the work, as this is the next link in the monitored process and who participates with the same approach as at level two. Specifically in this case, the system and its process architecture must be prepared and capable of meeting these demands in an intuitive way.

Keeping the teams that make up the three levels well aligned is essential to have a standardization process for collecting quantitative data and, mainly, for the interpretation and evaluation of qualitative data. Thus, in line with this entire quality process, active leadership is needed to support the execution of the strategy, continuously and actively seeking to improve people's safety, increase the quality of life at work, operational efficiency and productivity, in addition to reducing impacts on the environment, waste, rework and costs, always relying on the contribution of the strategic vision of the quality area, to maximize social, environmental and economic returns.