Wow, I can’t believe the trip is over! What an amazing experience… Although going back to work and catching up on hundreds (literally) of emails has occupied a lot of my time, I have had some time to reflect on the trip. My first trip to Europe was eye opening – I got to see both cultural and professional aspects of three countries in Scandinavia! Not only did I get to see operations and lean concepts live, I also saw what it was like to have passion for a job. The people we met at the company visits spoke to us with such passion and wanted to share their stories. In particular, AstraZeneca, Stora Enso, LEGO, and Maersk really stand out. This has opened to eyes to what I want out of my career and what I want to do when I finish my MBA program.
Although I told myself the first thing I would do when I get home is go straight to Chipotle, I was so exhausted that I went home, watched TV, went to bed at 7 pm and didn’t wake up until my alarm went off for work! Many of my coworkers asked how my trip was, but I couldn’t even begin to put into words why it was so great. Of course everyone loves two weeks away from work, but it was more than that! I learned so much from the companies, my classmates, and my professor. To Dr. Hoopes, thank you for all the hard work of organizing such an amazing experience that none of us will ever forget! You truly made the past two weeks unforgettable. To Carol, thank you for all the pictures, smiles and all around positive attitude! To my classmates, thank you for the laughs, stories, dance moves, karaoke, and wonderful memories! I can’t wait until our reunion!
I opted to stay an additional day for more time to explore Copenhagen. Noelle and I slept in (which was amazing) and spent the day in Nyhavn. We had lunch at a cute little coffee shop, went on a canal tour, and just walked around. During the canal tour, we passed by the Opera House and saw a Danish princess walking in! There was a carpet rolled out for her, a royal boat, guards, and a LOT of people! We also saw the famous little mermaid statue and a few other popular sites in Copenhagen. The group that stayed met up for one last dinner together and ate outside right on the canal. Afterwards, Noelle and I stayed in Nyhavn to explore the town a bit more before heading home in the morning. I can’t believe I will be back in the US tomorrow!
The Little Mermaid statue from our boat tour
Friday morning we visited Maersk, which is the company Noelle and I are researching. I was pretty excited about this visit because I think they are one of the more interesting companies on the trip. We had three presenters to talk about the Maersk Group in general, Maersk’s in house consulting service, and the Key Client Sales program. This was by far my favorite presentation of all the companies we visited. The presenters were well spoken, full of information, and interesting to listen to. I was sad when the time ran out because I had so many questions I wanted to ask! I think most of my classmates felt the same. It’s pretty incredible that they are responsible for a huge portion of global trade. They described their operations as a giant conveyor belt of ships that are moving goods where they need to go. While researching the company, I read a lot about Daily Maersk, a service that guarantees container delivery on a certain day of when it is shipped. This seemed to be a very unique service in the shipping industry because it is difficult to predict when a container will arrive to the day, and many containers are late. When we heard about it during the visit, we were told the customers didn’t care much about the service! This is the type of information that I could only get from the company visit versus independent research on the internet. The reason it isn’t a popular service is because the ocean portion of a container’s journey has the least variance. Daily Maersk only guarantees when the container will arrive at the port, not necessarily when it arrives to a final destination.
Overall, this company really impressed me. The breadth of knowledge the employees have, their passion, and the mission of the company made the visit so unique. When I finish the MBA program, I may start looking at their job openings in the states!
We ended the trip with a visit to Carlsberg which included a guided tour of the brewery and free beers after! There was a self guided tour which a few of us also went on, where we saw a room of beer that had about ten aisles of nothing but beer!
After the tour we had a few hours to explore before dinner, so Noelle and I went to Christiania. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to visit the area, but I figured I might as well see as much of Copenhagen as possible while I’m here! There was no photography allowed, so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the area, but it was cool to see all the graffiti artwork in the area. Christiania is a little area in Copenhagen that pretty much ‘makes its own rules’ and is left alone by the police for the most part. When we left, there was a sign at the exit that said “You are now entering the EU.” … ha!
For our last night together, we ate dinner at the hotel, gave out superlatives for the trip, hung out on the hotel patio, and went to Tivoli! Tivoli was GORGEOUS at night and I totally understand why this is such a huge attraction in Copenhagen. There was a live band and beautiful lights that lit up the whole area. I went on one of the roller coasters but mainly just enjoyed soaking up our last night as a group. It was so nice to hang out with everyone – I can’t believe this trip is coming to an end!
The day is finally here – we went to LEGO headquarters in Billund today! I was smiling the moment I saw the huge lego blocks at the entrance of the facility. We got to tour the plant and watch legos being produced right in front of us! We walked into a huge room with dozens of machines making injection moldings of specific legos and robots roaming freely. One of the things I found interesting is that one tiny lego person requires 9 moldings to make all the necessary body parts! I never thought about the work that went in to such a small toy. After the tour we listened to two presentations about the company and even got to play with legos (and take some home!). The hosts were very generous and gave us each a lego set as we left. I have really enjoyed the company presentations because I hear so many things that I never thought of before that companies have to think about. For Lego in particular, I found it so interesting that they consider Apple a competitor. This is something I never would have even thought about before – but I always see young children playing on iPads and iPhones!
I was here!
Hokies in Billund!!
After the visit with the company we got to go to Lego Land for a few hours, which was pretty cool! The rides were a bit tamer than American theme parks, but still fun! There was a ‘build your own ride’ that you choose the flips and turns you want on a computer and your ride is customized. Walking up, there were huge machine arms (that kind of looked like the big robotic arms we have seen in the factory visits) with seats at the end. Of course, Ashley and I chose the rides with the most flips and turns and spent a lot of time upside down!
The Lego Land adventure was a good experience and it was cool to see so many things built out of legos! We hopped back on the bus and started on to our final destination – Copenhagen! I know I speak for many of my classmates when I say that this was the most anticipated destination of our trip! We got in around 10:30 PM which left us some time to explore the city. A pretty big group of us went to a little pub (which we pretty much took over) for a few drinks. It was Allison’s birthday the day before so we wanted to show her a good time! We danced and enjoyed the night life in Copenhagen – I am already in love with this city!
On Wednesday we said farewell to Sweden and hopped on a three hour ferry to Denmark. It wasn’t long after we arrived and got back on the bus that our bus got a flat tire! None of us were expecting to be sitting at a rest stop for about three hours, but it was a beautiful day and we all sat outside playing games, sun bathing, and even had a beer! We rolled into Kolding at about 8pm, had dinner, hung out in the lobby with each other and rested up for our day at Lego in the morning. To be honest, I kind of enjoyed getting stranded with my class! We got to hang out more as a group and made the best of an unexpected situation. At dinner, we all sang to Allison because it was her birthday! Kolding wasn’t exactly the most exciting town in Denmark, so we decided to wait until Copenhagen to celebrate with her!
Visiting the Volvo Truck and Volvo Car production line was fascinating! We started the day by taking a small bus cart through the Volvo Truck production line. Our tour guide had a great sense of humor and made the tour even better. The production line was making 60 trucks for the day and we started by seeing the trucks cabs. They sit on an assembly line and slowly move through the warehouse while the line workers stay in place adding the required parts. The process was seamless and our guide explained how lean the process had become. Some of their parts are delivered only two hours before being used in the assembly!
At Volvo Cars we had a similar style tour and saw dozens of cars running down the assembly line. Volvo Cars is unique because different model cars are produced along the same assembly line. Car frames were traveling in the same manner as Volvo Trucks – slowly moving through the facility while workers were assembling the required parts. The conveyor belt of car frames even traveled to the second story of the facility! Probably the coolest part of the tour was seeing the ‘marriage’ of the base of the car and the frame. The frame dropped from the ceiling and attached the base seamlessly! It was very cool to watch the production of a product that we use every day!
In the afternoon we took a boat tour of Gothenburg, walked around the city for a bit, and had a low key night with a few beers at a local pub. Today we travel to Denmark for the last leg of the trip… Lego tomorrow!
Monday we visited Stora Enso’s newspaper mill. We started with a two hour tour to see the process from beginning to end – logs to newspaper! Stora Enso is unique in that they don’t use lyme to make pulp, they use a mechanical grinder (which uses a lot more energy). The only bad odor coming from the factory came from the ink from the newspapers. In fact, at points of the tour, it smelled like Christmas trees! Unfortunately for Stora Enso, the demand for newspaper has fell 5-10 percent each year and the company has had to lay off 40 percent of its employees. The company had to shut down some of the production machinery as a result. After the tour, we split into groups and brainstormed options for Stora Enso’s excess capacity in their factory. The class thought of ideas like producing more paper packaging materials, make clothing from the wood fibers, and even becoming a sustainable partner of Lego.
After our visit, we traveled to Gothenburg for two nights. We spent the night exploring the city and dancing!
We took the weekend off from company visits and spent the weekend exploring Swedish culture. Yesterday, we visited multiple glass shops before arriving in Vaxjo. The pieces were beautiful so I bought a few of them. For dinner we went to a Hyttsill where we were served a traditional dinner cooked in a furnace that included herring, pork and sausage. It was pretty good! We also got to enjoy live music while we ate. A few songs were in Swedish and a few in English. We got to go into the glass factory and watch a beautiful plate get blown and shaped. It is crazy to me that glass blowers use pads of newspaper to shape the glass while it is hot! A few of my classmates even tried glassblowing!
Live glass blowing!
Today, the group traveled to the country side for a day in the outdoors. We started with some team building activities and broke off in teams to compete. I ended up being the team captain and my team won the whole thing. No prizes, just bragging rights! Some of the guys cooked meat on the grill and we had a delicious lunch. After lunch the group rode bikes, kayaked, canoed, went in to hot tub and the sauna, and had an axe throwing contest (never thought I’d ever see an axe throwing contest). I canoed around the lake – which was a lot more challenging that kayaking. Luckily I didn’t flip the canoe and left the boat dry :). It was so nice to retreat to the outdoors after spending a lot of time in packed cities and on the bus. For dinner, a small group of us went to an Indian restaurant, which was delicious! I didn’t expect to eat Indian food for the first time while in Sweden… but I am already looking for the Indian restaurants by my house for when I get back! Tomorrow we start another week of company visits so tonight calls for some netflix and a good nights sleep!
Yesterday we spent the morning touring AstraZeneca. The tour lasted two hours and was extremely informative and interesting. We saw two processes – packaging and tablets. The blister packs followed lean practices and our tour guide walked us through how the lean implementation has impacted the production. Initially, it was not well received by the workers because it was a drastic change in their every day work. They had daily meetings to discuss any challenges and successes and determine the root causes to process failures. Management was able to decrease the number of stops on the blister packaging production line and in turn increase output. This was a real life example of “The Goal” which we read in class! Next we saw the Nexium tablet process, which was fascinating! We walked down the line of how the tablets are made starting with sugar and adding the active ingredient and other layers to the pill. The line can produce 120,000 pills an hour! An interesting fact we heard from the tour guide was that tablets for the USA are made to taste sweeter than those distributed in Sweden. His reason was that Swedes don’t want their pills to taste good! Another interesting fact we got was that the demand for Nexium is not seasonal – the only fluctuations in production comes from staff.
After our visit with AstraZeneca we went to see Electrolux. We didn’t get a tour of a production facility but did get to see some of their products in their show room. What I found most interesting was a 100 year vacuum they had on display that still worked!
After our visits yesterday we enjoyed our last night in Stockholm. A few of us went to the ICE BAR, which was a 19 degree room with ice everything (walls, bar, glasses). We got huge coats and went in and enjoyed a few drinks! Then spent a few hours roaming the city. We stumbled upon a really awesome band playing oldies!
Today we visited Saab Aircraft and IKEA. Saab showed us their production of the Gripen, which is a fighter jet. One of the things I found interesting about the company was that all the employees that build the planes are fully responsible for the quality in their work. They do not have quality engineers to go behind the builders and inspect the planes. The company has an extremely skilled workforce with very little turnover. I didn’t know this before visiting the company, but Saab has completely stopped making cars!
IKEA was the last stop of the day and WOW, what an awesome tour we got. The distribution center (DC) we visited was massive. There were rows and rows of products in the DC that were totally in the dark with unmanned cranes pulling products. We saw the receiving area, returns area, and shipping area. One thing that IKEA does which I found interesting is use light weight paper pallets to ship boxes so that the load is lighter. Then, when the boxes are brought to the DC, they are placed on the wooden pallets for transport within the facility.
Tonight we arrived in Jonkoping and plan to head down to the pier for a few drinks. I’m so excited to explore more of Sweden!