Going out with a Bang

And then it happened – it was our last day in Scandinavia!

We started off with a company visit to Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company. Although each company we had visited was very different from the rest, this felt like the most different to me because it’s a logistics company. We heard from HR, their Internal Consulting Group, and the Director of Key Clients. My favorite part of this visit was learning from the Director of Key Clients. She was very open and had so much experience–I could have listened to her all day.

Then we were off to our final company visit for the trip:  Carlsberg Brewery. (Great choice Dr. Hoopes!!) Not only was it a delicious visit, it was informative as well. Check out this collection of beer bottles.

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That afternoon I had a little quality time with the roomie and we did some final touristy stuff in Copenhagen:  Little Mermaid, Guards, Nyhavn (colorful waterfront), and shopping on the pedestrian street.

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We hurried back to the hotel for our final group dinner where Dr. Hoopes provided the results to our ScanTrip Superlatives. I was voted “Most Adventurous Eater,” and rightfully so! :-)

The final stop on our Tour de Scandinavia?? Tivoli. It was a strange, magical place, and the perfect way to end the trip.


Thursday was a beautiful day. We got to sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, and play with Legos. :)

Our visit to Lego was fascinating, and even better than I had expected. We started out with a tour of their production facility where they had robots roaming around retrieving the completed Lego pieces (which they refer to as bricks) and moving them towards the warehouse. The warehouse didn’t have designated areas for certain types of products, instead the boxes of bricks were just placed wherever there was space in the racks. I found this to be really interesting. The thought of randomly placing product in this huge warehouse space really threw me for a loop. Normally when you think of a warehouse being “organized,” you’d think of grouping certain sizes or colors all together. However, Lego uses a barcode system so they know exactly where each box of bricks is located… Therefore it IS really organized.

Lego has a really reasonable lead time of 2-4 weeks and I feel it’s due to the processes they have out in place. For example, they purchase plain boxes from their suppliers and put the product wrap on in house. This way, they won’t run out of boxes for a popular time, nor will they have excess boxes for an item with less demand. Their strategy is to also pack boxes as late as possible. Again, this way they can be flexible and reactive to the demand of the market.

We ended our Lego visit with some fun exercises where we got to play with bricks! The first exercise blew my mind. We had 45 seconds to build a duck with six Lego pieces. Some people’s ducks looked more like dogs, some were anatomically correct, and mine looked like a Pokemon character. Even though all 28 of us had the exact same six pieces, not one of our ducks were the same! Riddle me that!

We left Lego HQ and were off to Legoland! I had an amazing time, and just like Disney – Lego is not just for kids.


Volvo Day

Tuesday was a Volvo day! Until today I didn’t realize how many things Volvo made: trucks, cars, construction equipment, boats, buses, oh my!

First we visited Volvo trucks. They practice a just in time lean inventory strategy, where deliveries to the facility must be within 15 minutes (plus or minus) of the scheduled delivery time. Each station along the production line has seven minutes to do their tasks before the equipment is in the next section. If they didn’t get everything done in time, there are “floater” workers throughout the entire line who can stay with the truck and finish up as needed.

The trucks are continually moving at a slow speed so at the end of the seven minutes, they are already in the next section. What I thought was really neat were the standing stations that were also moving down the line with the trucks, so if a task required some concentration, the worker didn’t have to walk, they could just stand on the moving platform and ride along. Oh yes, and Volvo trucks has an “inside jungle” area with palm trees where employees can relax for their lunch and coffee breaks. Kudos!

We made a quick midday stop at the Volvo museum. Among all the really cool things there, my favorite was the vehicle made of Legos. It’s helping me get even more excited for our Lego visit and Legoland adventures.


Our business day ended at Volvo cars. Although both Volvo trucks and cars are production lines, they were totally different from each other. At Volvo trucks there were a lot more humans along the line versus the cars plant where a lot was done by robots. At Volvo cars, they also pressed all the metal to make the car doors and bodies, but at Volvo trucks the cabs were already made. Also, Volvo cars was huge! I mean, really huge! There were many more stations along their production line and a car was each one for only 75 seconds.

Once business had been taken care of, we were off to be tourists! Almost everyone in our group went out on a Paddan (flat canal boat) tour of Gothenburg. They say that the best way to see Gothenburg is by water, and they are correct. Here are some pictures to prove it:

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After the boat tour, we walked to the old town area and checked out a fortress. The only catch? It was up on top of a huge hill. Holy moly we did a lot of stairs! But it was worth it for the view, and the mad amount of steps I logged on my Fitbit.

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Wednesday was another travel day. We boarded a ferry that would take us to Denmark where I was able to be very studious and make major progress on our group paper….and this blog post!!

More than a Paper Mill

It’s Monday and we are back on the company visit routine. Only one stop today in our supply chain tour across Scandinavia and it’s the Stora Enso Hylte Mill. I was unaware of this before today, but typically paper mills are stinky places. Luckily for us, this was not the case at Stora Enso because they barely use any chemicals throughout their processes.

We put on helmets, safety glasses, yellow vests, and these neat little headphones that allowed us to hear the tour better. The company representative Maria was very hospitable and took us on a thorough tour of the entire facility. We started at the raw materials and made our way through the plant, following the wood fibers step by step as they made their way into a finished product. While we were in the lumber yard we got to watch a truck get unloaded. They have large machinery with a huge claw that grabs the logs off the delivery truck. Three quick grabs with the claw and the truck was already unloaded!

At first glance it may be difficult to think of a paper mill as being lean, but they only had about one weeks worth of raw material inventory on hand and there wasn’t really any work in progress along the production line. Once the process begins, the material is constantly moving towards the end of the line.

I thought the visit was enlightening and continued to show that no matter the industry, the same basic principles can be implemented if you just adapt them accordingly.

Fun Fact:  The water that Stora Enso uses for production gets cleaned and then put back into the river, but it’s actually cleaner than what they started with. :)

Sunday Funday (and Saturday too!)

What a wonderful weekend! Saturday we got on the bus and headed to the Crystal Kingdom. We stopped at three different glassworks companies throughout the region to check out their work. Each company was totally different from the last, and it was cool not only to check out the different styles, but to also watch my classmates and see their different styles by the items they purchased.

That evening we went to Kosta Glassworks for the Hyttsill experience, a dinner in the glassworks facility. There was something comforting and almost indescribable about the atmosphere, the good food, and the Swedish drinking songs played by a two man band. I tried herring for the first time! Oh my, was it salty… After dinner we went next door into the workspace to see some glassblowing. My mind was blown. I’ve never actually seen glassblowing before, but even those who had seen it seemed pretty in awe of this guy’s ability to masterfully make the glass do as he wished.

Sunday was the best day ever! We drove out to an adventure camp on the shore of a huge lake in Ramkvilla (in the middle of nowhere). Going into this experience there were a lot of us that had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be the best day that anyone could have ever guessed. The weather was perfect – upper 60s, with a mix of clouds and sunshine – and the activities the camp offered were off the charts! (Actually, they were all listed on a chart, see below)


I felt very satisfied after Sunday’s activities… Bonded with fellow Scantravelers during the team building activities, ate the best salad in the Nordic region so far, delighted my soul with a bike ride through the country, and threw an ax into a bullseye! Ah yes, and I fully embraced the culture by indulging in some sauna time followed by a cannonball into the ice cold lake. Whoo! Refreshing!

I hope everyone else had as good of a time as I did, and that the next group in 2017 gets to go there as well. This adventure definitely added a lot of value to the trip.

Getting back into the swing of things…

After so much excitement and tourist stuff, it felt like we hadn’t been on a company visit in days…. But really it was only a one day reprieve.

We started Thursday with a knock-your-socks-off visit to Astra Zeneca. They just started really using lean concepts in the past few years so everything was by the book. It was amazing to see the concepts we’ve discussed in class come to life, and it made me feel like, “Yeah, I can do this stuff too!” This trip is really solidifying the fact that I do indeed love supply chain management and lean concepts and want to pursue it in life.

In the afternoon we visited Electrolux. They provided a very detailed lecture on their S&OP, and insights into how they look at their leaders. They understand that you need to be both a business leader and a people leader to succeed, and they have frequent talent reviews and succession planning built Into their processes. What I continue to find interesting at each of the companies we visit is their value and appreciation for their employees. That interest really pays off – we have met so many people here that have been working at the same company for 10, 15, 20+ years and couldn’t be happier.

Fun Fact: The modern refrigerator uses the same amount of electricity as a 20 watt lightbulb if it were to run all day.

Friday was the earliest morning on the bus that we’ve had so far and hopefully the earliest we will have the whole trip. (Fingers crossed).

First stop was Saab Aircraft. We received a tour of their production facility for the Gripen aircraft.
Again we saw the basic principles of lean and supply chains that were just applied in different fashions. The biggest surprise for me was how clean everything was. Not that I was expecting it to be dirty, but with mechanics I expected a little dirt and grease – this place was spotless.

Next stop was IKEA’s e-commerce distribution center. This was the company we did our report on so I may be a little biased, but I thought it was amazing. The place was non-stop: automated lines were moving product to there they needed to go, and people were flying around on forklifts picking orders. It was really cool to be in the middle of it all and watch it happen first hand.


Wednesday was a touristy day.

Dr. Hoopes hired a tour guide that spoke while we were on the bus, provided a walking tour of Old Town, and guided us through the City Hall. She was excellent! Not only was she full of fun facts, but she was also personable and entertaining. I even picked up my new favorite quote from her: “There is no bad weather, just bad clothes.”

In Sweden the weather is unpredictable and it may be warm and sunny one minute, or cold and rainy the next. (Thank goodness I packed my raincoat and multiple layers for this trip!)

Enjoy the pics!

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P.S. We also went to the Vasa museum, which was very cool. They have to keep the lighting very dim inside to help preserve the ship, so I recommend checking out pics online.

Happy Feet

Ok, I’m back from my hiatus. This week was a whirlwind. I couldn’t remember what day of the week it is or even how many days we’ve been in Scandinavia.

On Tuesday we visited Fiskars and heard from the head of R&D, followed by tour of their test lab, and the scissors and ax production facilities. The amount of passion and research that goes into their products is awe inspiring and makes me want to switch to all Fiskars products. I especially want to buy an ax, even though I have no need for one. But it will last me for pretty much forever so I might as well get one, right? :)

After Fiskars we returned to Helsinki one last time so that we could board the overnight cruise ship that would take us to Stockholm. FIRST CRUISE EVER! It was pretty neat, kind of felt like we were on a bus and and airplane all at the same time. Luckily my sea legs developed quickly and I was able to let my hair down and have a good time. We went to karaoke and discovered that some of our classmates hidden talents. (Way to go Rachel!)

After karaoke the place turned into a crazy dance scene, proven by the insane amount of steps I discovered on my Fitbit the following morning at breakfast.

Liz + Techno = Happy Feet



Surprise, Surprise

Aaannnd we’re on the bus! Right now I’m loving this quiet time en route to visit companies. I’m sure as the days go on, being on the bus won’t be quite as exciting so I’ll enjoy it now while I can.

Day 3 was full of surprises. It all started at our visit to Kone, a people flow company that specializes in elevators and escalators…

Surprise 1: Meat.
After checking in at the front desk and getting visitors badges, they moved us to a conference room for a lecture about their supply chain. As like many business meetings, there were refreshments and we were told to help ourselves. Some time through the lecture I decided to give the delicious looking pastries a go. Craving something sweet, I took a bite and was expecting chopped nuts and cinnamon but actually got ground meat and onions. Surprise! Once I got past the shock factor, it was actually really, really good, just not what I was looking for that morning.

Surprise 2: Double Decker.
Kone has a double decker elevator that serves two floors at the same time! That means efficiencies by getting more people get where they need to go simultaneously, and reduction in the use of power and electricity. Even if the distance between building floors is different–for example you have a high lobby ceiling and the rest of the floors are standard height–the elevator auto-adjusts the spacing between the cars accordingly as they are moving. Amazing!

Surprise 3: Suunto.
Our whole visit to Suunto was just a pleasant surprise in itself. We’ve read about so many supply chain management buzzwords and lean best practices that it was really cool to actually see them in action. They kept a tight ship with VMI, about one weeks’ finished product inventory on hand, and if you order by noon they will ship out by the end of the day. Oh yeah, and kanbans out the wazoo. Nicely done, Suunto, nicely done.

Surprise 4: Stranger Danger.
After the company visits a few of us gals decided to be tourists again so we headed out to the Olympic Stadium. My Spidey Sense has been really thrown off here in Finland because it’s hard to tell what’s “normal.” Fashion is so “heavy metal meets hipster” that you can’t really tell if someone is creepy or if that’s just the style. The architecture and building materials are also really different so I thought we were headed into a sketchy area but I think it’s just the Russian-influenced basic plaster buildings that threw me off course.

Anyways, our visit to the Olympic Stadium was really cool (I’ll post some pictures) but it was afterwards where the excitement began. We were standing at the tram stop trying to figure out which line to get on for at least ten minutes. The tram we wanted had just rolled on past us so we were looking for other options. Then this guy walks up and starts talking to Jenn in Finnish. Her response, “I have no idea what you’re saying to me right now.”

He begins speaking in broken English, talking slowly to gather the right words. I thought he was trying to tell us that the trams were on a different schedule during the week but then he just started rambling about Monday, his phone, and DNA, and then…DING! My Spidey Sense was back. This guy was on something. A tram had just pulled up and he didn’t make any motions to get on it, so I immediately turned away from him and got on. I had no clue where that tram would take us, but all we needed was one stop to get away from that dude. The girls caught on to my plan and followed suit, and it just so happened that the tram took us exactly where we wanted to go. Win!

Surprise 5: Cheetah Ice Cream.
We met up with some of the guys for dinner and they told us about this ice cream cone that had a big, growling cheetah on the wrapper…. of course we had to try it! This turned into one of those “don’t judge a book by its cover” sort of learning experiences. I don’t even know what I’d think the flavor would be if there was a cheetah on the wrapper, actually, but it turned out to be black licorice. Surprise! Good surprise for me because I inherited a free ice cream cone from a non-licorice fan 😉 It was an interesting experience, but I don’t think I’d ever buy one for myself. Maybe as a joke, like if my children wanted ice cream I’d tell them that it wasn’t tasty and prove it by giving them that cheetah cone. Muahaha….

Scandinavian Breakfast

Mmmm Scandinavian breakfast. Start your day out right with cold cuts and meatballs–or you can go the route I chose and load up on yogurt, granola, and fresh cut fruit. Literally fresh cut, you grab a whole pineapple and slid it up yourself. There’s something empowering about grabbing a big old knife at the buffet line to dice up your fruit of choice. Or maybe the confidence kicked in after my three cups of coffee. Either way, the breakfast buffet got my day off to a good start.

Repping my VT gear I hit the streets with most of the class to hop on a ferry to Suomenlinna, and island fortress. Pete filled us in on its history during breakfast, which was much appreciated because that meant I didn’t have to read the pamphlet myself. :)

We did the typically touristy things – pictures here, pictures there, wandered through the fortress corridors, saw a giant rabbit, more pictures, climbed on a cannon, read some history, and stopped to eat lunch. Beer and pizza of course! I shared a smoked salmon pizza with Alex which was good, until we split Thang’s last slice of pizza. Prosciutto and sun dried tomatoes. We had made the wrong choice. Ah, c’est la vie, but at least our bellies were full.

Cool fact about Helsinki: you can buy an all-day public transportation pass for 8 euros! The ticket we bought for the ferry could also be used on their busses, metro, and tram (like a trolley). Schwing! Taking full advantage of our great buy, a few of us hopped on the tram to go see the Sebelius Monument. This was a good call because we also stumbled across some other scenic gems: lush parks and beautiful coastlines.

Day two has trumped day one by a long shot. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that the weather was beautiful and everyone received their missing luggage, or maybe it all started with the breakfast.