Day 7: Skylab is closer than we think!

Buckle up everyone – this is a long one! This was our earliest day so far. With a two hour drive ahead of us we had to be on the road at 6:45. Still coming off of the oversleeping debacle a few days ago, I may have set 6 different alarms on two different devices. The good news: I was early to the bus. Smilie: :-)

The two hours gave me some good nap time and scenic viewing. The nap was much needed as I’d been up the night before repacking my bag to try to be more efficient with my space. Currently I think I’ve packed OK considering that I have another 10 days of travel. By the end I may be regretting packing too much/not enough.

I’ve decided that I love Sweden. Again, part of it could be that it reminds me so much of driving through the Midwest. There are beautiful rolling hills/plains dotted with small farms, red barns, and cows. Speaking of red barns: our guide in Stockholm told us that one king had declared once that all buildings must be painted red. Someone else came later and said everything had to be yellow. I’m not sure if that original decree impacted the color of barns but so far almost every barn (and random other building) is pretty much painted red. We’re headed to another part of the country tomorrow so it will be interesting to see if the topography stays the same or if it will change at all to the big hills and mountains that I’ve always imagined Sweden having.

The first part of our drive ended at Saab Aircraft. I admit: I had no clue that Saab made aircrafts. I only knew them for the cars that are no longer produced. But they have been making aircraft for a very long time. Going into their production plant, I was expecting the layout that I’ve seen of Boeing – one huge assembly line where a plane slooooooooooowly moves along as people work on it as the behemoth passes them by. NOT the case as Saab. Saab works in production stations or cells and the aircraft is moved to the next spot once work has been completed, roughly every 28 days. We did not see it but Saab does some fabrication on site but most of the electronics and computer systems are supplied by partners. Compared to others we have seen, such as Fiskars which produces everything, the difference in priorities was interesting. Saab recognizes that they are not software developers – they know production and assembly and that is what they focus on. As with all companies, they are also implementing various Lean processing but, like all companies, in their own way. One of the biggest areas where they have leaned down their process was getting rid of quality control. I know – how the heck can an airline manufacturer get rid of quality control!!??!!?? Surprisingly, very easily. Instead of having specific individuals, Saab instead decided to invest in their personnel and empower each line worker with being in control of their own individual quality. Each line worker has to get more than 160 separate certifications and if they screw in a bolt, they must certify that they screwed in that bolt to the standards that are required by Saab and their partners. I was quite skeptical but such a system has shortened production time and now each section has a plane for a max of 28 days.

Saab was also very forthcoming in discussing the requirements – and challenges – placed upon them by their customers. As a B-to-C (business to consumer for those non-MBAs reading this) Saab has to answer to the customer for the finished produce. This has required them to source products from specific countries, open production facilities in specific countries, and even develop transportation routes to different places. Though not explicitly stated, it would appear that the customers chosen by Saab must be carefully chosen. For example, they are opening a production facility in South America. Now, they have to find staff to work there, suppliers who can supply the products while simultaneously dealing with the various import and tariff regulations, building a transportation network within that new country which means they need to know all the regulations regarding size of trucks, how much can be loaded, etc., and also develop a transportation network back to Sweden so that the finished product can be built – while having to also figure out the best way to get that product back to that country. Just writing this gave me a headache – I can’t imagine what it must be like to be boots on the ground so to speak and have to actually develop and manage that process. One final interesting nugget of information about Saab: I had asked how the final products were shipped, whether by air or sea. For China, pilots come to Sweden and fly them back. However South Africa prefers to send theirs by boat. At the end of the visit I had a much greater appreciation about how certain lean practices are more applicable to some industries and maybe not to others.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what might have been the most impressive thing we say at the Saab complex: robotic lawn mowers. That’s right – ROBOTS THAT MOW THE LAWN!! The picture below was taken from the bus so it’s not the greatest quality but you can see what it’s doing. Skylab really is getting closer and closer.

Lawn mowing robot!

Lawn mowing robot!

From Saab we headed off to Ikea. Along the way we stopped off at a roadside stop for lunch. My options were Burger King or a place called Dinners. I opted for Dinners which ended up being a buffet-style deli with some hot food options. Not being able to read the sign with the specials of the day (though I was able to make some educated guesses and finally asked the nice couple in front) I ended up just getting the chicken. It was actually nice after a week of meatballs to have something as “normal” as chicken and french-fries. J After this we were shortly at Ikea.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect at Ikea. I knew we were going to see their distribution center but I didn’t really know what that would be. Would it be complete orders just ready for delivery? Would it be raw materials? Well, I sure found out! The tour was at an Ikea CDC which differs from their DC in that the CDC is where all online customer orders from the Nordic countries are fulfilled. These centers are scattered around the world. After a very informative presentation giving a broad overview of Ikea distribution, efforts towards sustainability, and strides in greater gender diversity it was time to suit up! Yes dear readers, you heard right – it was time once again to put on safety gear for a tour! I know how much you missed such pictures from Saab and Electrolux. We were required to wear bright colored vests and – most problematic – rubber shoes. Now, shoes shouldn’t have been a huge problem but that was the problem – they were HUGE! No one could find a small enough pair. Initially all the women were walking around looking like they were wanna-be clowns waddling like penguins. As you can see by my yellow pair, they were quite attractive. One of the guides, realizing that 20 people unable to actually walk around the factory floor was quite unsafe, ran off and got smaller sizes. The good news: my rubber shoes now fit. The bad news: I had two right footed shoes. Oh well – on to the distribution center!

 

Ikea Distribution Center

Ikea Distribution Center

Ikea Safety Gear

Ikea Safety Gear

These are WAY too big!

These are WAY too big!

Two Rights Are Better Than None, right?

Two Rights Are Better Than None, right?

The CDC really surprised me. From above, you are able to see a LOT of automation process, use of scanning, etc. to move the products. It was extremely smooth and efficient. I couldn’t wait to get to the floor and see the efficiencies down there. Talk about eye opening! The floor was, in a word, chaotic! People were on forklifts driving like maniacs, products were all over the place, and there was a general sense of frenzy. Come to find out, the pickers (those people driving the forklifts) were six hours behind on their product pickups. Essentially, an order comes in from a customer for one set of sheets, one set of knives, a comforter, and a tea kettle and one person is responsible for driving all over the distribution center to pick up that one order. The thing, though, is that these products are ALL OVER THE PLACE. They try to put things that tend to be bought together near each other, i.e. bed rails by mattresses, but in general these pickers would have to go to four different locations to pick up the products and Ikea has a time estimate for how long that should take. Today, they were six hours behind which our guide said was better than yesterday which saw them 9 hours behind. I asked about staffing and our guide said that there were a lot of new summer help which was causing delays. I asked about the night shift and whether they would be able to make up the time and she said most definitely, though probably not all 6 hours due to that shift being a dedicated shift and usually people with long tenure who move to that shift because it’s actually highly desired – mainly because of the fact that it’s experienced people and you get extra night pay.

This visit really hit home the concept that a company can implement Lean in certain areas but completely not in others in the exact same process. The automation to move the products as they arrive was sooth, quick, made things easily trackable, and automated. But then the final part of the process was so dependent on human energy and vulnerable to human frailties. I came away with the impression that what Ikea is doing now is OK for them; it works, things for the most part get done in a timely fashion, and they are not going to change anytime soon. However, I’d love to come back 5 years to see a new, leaner operation that I think Ikea will have to implement if they actually do reach their goal of doubling their ecommerce market because I do not think that the current process can meet that demand.

Following Ikea we quickly made our way to Jonkoping (pronounced Yawn-shipping), the 10th largest city in Sweden which sits on the shores of a beautiful lake. Driving through, I got the impression that this was primarily a blue-collar area due to all the plants and facilities in the area. Image Detroit, but in Sweden, clean, and crime free. Some of us walked around the city before dinner where a bird ensured that I will have great luck and fun the rest of the trip by deciding that my arm would make a great place to leave its crap. The ladies were in H&M so Pete found a mostly clean napkin to help me wipe everything off. Luckily that was the second time I’ve worn that shirt so it’s not too much of a wardrobe loss. J Dinner was meatloaf and rhubarb crumble at the hotel followed by drinks with many of the group at a great lakeside bar. Around midnight a few of us called it a night and headed back to the hotel. Since I owed Hans an ice-cream from the night before when he got me one we grabbed some in the hotel lobby on our way up to our rooms. We get to sleep in tomorrow as we don’t need to be on the road until 9:30am. We get a free day to just be tourists as we head down to Sweden’s Kingdom of Crystal. Hopefully my credit cards can handle the trip! Smilie: :-)

Sunset over Jonkoping

Sunset over Jonkoping

Not sure I'd want to eat here

Not sure I’d want to eat here

Day 5: Little Purple Pills and My Next Vacuum

Today was the first site visit after the ferry from Stockholm. 5:45 dawned bright and early but after my last oversleeping I wasn’t taking any chances. We were on the bus to promptly at 7:15 to go see how the little purple pill, aka Nexium, was made.

The trip to AstraZeneca’s (AZ) plant took about 45 minutes and I was able to catch another couple of zzz’s before we got them. Being a big fan of their products (Prilosec has been a God-send on more than one occasion) I was really curious to see how they implement lean systems while still maintaining the quality that is needed for the drugs that the produce. After my visit I have one word to say: Bravo!

Of all the companies I’ve visited so far, this is the one that I’d like to work for. They have work to do – and they admit it – but they are making great strides. If you were to look up “Lean Production” in the dictionary you would see their corporate log. One thing that really struck me was that the first thing that they said was a key to their success was the engagement of employees. Coming from an HR perspective, this was music to my ears. So much of my MBA course has been a bunch of buzz words, TAKT, B-to-C, B-to-B, Kaizen, etc. but at the end of the day it’s the people who can implement these changes. AZ seems to realize this and really are engaging their employees. They admit that there is some work to still be done but, on one line alone, they have seen more than 100% improvement by introducing some of the lean concepts that we are learning in class. I admit that I have been a little skeptical of these concepts in class, thinking “this sounds great on paper but how does it actually apply in the real world?” I now have my answer. However, I’ve gottan a little ahead of myself in terms of the order. We first went on a plant tour of the production unit and the packaging unit where we got to look like Smurfs.

All suited up at AZ

All suited up at AZ (pic courtesy of Prashanth)

I was with the group that first got to see the production unit. I am still amazed at the ingredients used (they passed around samples in jars) thrown into the machines I saw create something that I consume. And there was data everywhere! Every batch has accompanying data. Of interest to me, since I’m inundated with data all day long of varying kinds, is that this data is still produced on paper – stacks and stacks of paper. Though they did say that a new software system had been bought that would allow all that documentation to become digital. A great benefit of this is, should an operator of one of the machines forget to sign off on something, they would not be able to move onto the next batch. Again, from an operational standpoint, this was fascinating to me because I find that it is so hard to convince management on occasion of the cost-saving measures of these programs. Again, I saw this as a win-win for AZ: better documentation for regulatory authorities while also providing value to employees by getting them out from under reams and reams of paper.

Speaking of paper: I have yet to see Stora Enso packaging anywhere in the plants we are visiting (AZ used Eson Pac for their packaging). I keep hoping to see a glimpse of my company before I actually get there.

Moving on to packaging: This was where Lean was really shown. Line 18, a specific production line, was having problems. The amount of time it was in production was tiny compared to the time that it was sitting idle (I did not have my notebook with me for the exact numbers but trust me….these numbers are impressive). By implementing a lean system, reducing production times, and eliminating waste, AZ was able to see amazing results. As described by our guide (and reproduced in the lovely drawing I just did below based on his discussion), when you’re going along and not using lean measures, with say a production cycle of 180 days, you can think of it like a boat: you see that there are rocks in the water below you but they really don’t affect you because hey, you really have no deviations/issues with how things are going along. You make your numbers, everyone is happy. However, imagine that you drain the water, i.e., lean down to a 90 day production cycle, and now all of a sudden those rocks that weren’t an issue are now a huge issue because they are standing in the way of you meeting your goal. I admit that I had never thought of it from that perspective and it blew my mind! I left AZ trying to think of ways that there were waste at my company and how could I “lean” it up!

Lean Process Analogy

Lean Process Analogy

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ROBOTS! It was our first siting of the robotic machines that will move things around from place to place. And to make it more awesome, they were all named after Norse gods – Tor, Loke, and Balder were the three that I remember off the top of my heads. Since I was not able to take a picture (no pictures in the plants) I will instead leave you with this image – almost as awesome as robots.

Non-Robotic Tor and Loke

Non-Robotic Tor and Loke

After AZ we were off to Electrolux. Since I recently outfitted my new kitchen in Frigidaire products (an Electrolux brand) I felt I had a connection to the brand.

I  cannot speak for others but I really enjoyed the Electrolux presentation. Again, I think coming from an area where the office-operations aspect to the supply chain are most interesting personally, this presentation really resonated for me. With such a globally fragmented market, it was interesting to see how Electrolux was trying to differentiate itself from its competitors and, more importantly, how the teams who were tasked with that job went about their day-to-day business. The discussion of Talent Review was very resonating because so often in my MBA classes everything has been about the business side – how to you make money while cutting costs. Electrolux on the other hand spoke to my HR-loving heart – it’s Business AND People equally important. As great as it was to see the Lean processes in action at AZ, I found it equally enlightening to see the monthly cycles and meeting requirements that are needed to actually implement such decision processes. What we didn’t get from AZ was how hard it must have been to implement the Lean process – the way that it was presented made it seem as if they simply said one day “let’s do this” and it was magically done overnight. At Electrolux, they showed us the drudgery of how that actually happens and the planning, meetings, etc. that are required to make it work. During the discussion of the Matrix system that they use I even found myself going back to Dr. French’s International Management class and all the pros and cons to that system and having an internal conversation with myself as to why they might choose that system over another. For me, this was probably the first company that, listening to their presentation, I “got” what a variety of my classes had been trying to teach. So, at the end of the day, these two presentations back-to-back I think worked out really well. Again, part of that feeling I’m sure is because I’m an HR/Org Management person at heart and these both were able to showcase the best of that area.

Very 1st Electrolux Vacuum

Very 1st Electrolux Vacuum

After a long day I came back to the hotel, changed, and headed back out to the Old City with Prapti. We strolled the streets, I bought some souvenir horses that I am pretty sure I paid too much for (though they said that they were made in Sweden as opposed to the cheaper ones made in China – I wonder what that supply chain looks like??), and had a lovely dinner. Afterwards we met up with Thang, Hans, and Prashanth. As someone said later in the evening, Thang and Hans (who happen to be roommates) should have their own variety hour on TV – complete opposites who completely are perfect together and have everyone laughing in stitches. Thanks to Han’s generous offer of ice-cream, I can say that I got my sugar quota of the day. We then met up with more people and had a great drink down by the water. As happens in Scandinavia, it started to rain and we headed out. However, the most amazing double rainbow came out (my pictures do not do it justice) and Sean, Wayne, and I took off in another direction in the hopes of catching a better view.

Double Rainbow

Double Rainbow

Alas, we really didn’t but along the way the guys continued to rave about this meatball place that they had tried for dinner – it convinced me that I needed a meatball appetizer before I went to sleep. Sean was nice enough to buddy up with me (which was good since I had no clue where I was going) and got me to the correct place. We siddled up to the bar and tried to place an order only to be told that the kitchen was closed. I commented to the owner that I guess I had something to come back to Stockholm for and, upon hearing that I was leaving at 6:45 am the next morning, he opened the kitchen and made me a full meatball dinner. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d planned on ordering just an appetizer so at 10pm I was sitting there eating my second meal of the evening but I have to admit – so far they were the best meatballs in Scandinavia! So, if ever in Stockholm, you MUST go to Meatballs – For the People!

Best Meatballs in Scandinavia

Best Meatballs in Scandinavia

Special Update: It’s Not a MN Accent, It’s a Swedish Accent!

I grew up in Minnesota and to this day retain certain major characteristics. I’m “Minnesota Nice” to my core and, though I don’t have the heavy “Fargo” accent, there are certain words and phrases that to the day I die will peg me as a Minnesotan. What I’m finding, though, is that I don’t have a MN accent and I’m not “MN Nice”….I actually have a Swedish accent and I practice “Swedish Nice”.

I do not have a single drop of Swedish ancestry anywhere in my lineage – I’m pretty much Czech with a smidgeon of Irish but walking through the streets of Stockholm and listening in on the site visits today made me feel like I was home in that warm fuzzy way that only “home” can make you – in this case back in Minnesota (not VA). The people all talk with the same mannerisms, inflections, and even inject humor in the exact same way as everyone that I grew up with does and to top it all off everyone looks “Minnesotan”. You could drop an entire city block of Swedes in downtown Minneapolis and no one would look out of place. I wish I could describe it better but I think you have to grow up in an area where everyone’s ancestors emigrated from the same area (Sweden was the predominant country for where I grew up) to truly understand what I’m experiencing. It’s strangely eery.

And to top it off I heard a “Ja, you betcha” come out of my mouth today which pretty much only ever happens after I’ve been in Minnesota for a few days. I’m almost scared to find out how I’m going to sound after one week in this country.

Day 5: Design Failure as Public Tourist Attraction

Everyone successfully made it off the boat and onto our tour bus. We had a great guide who gave us a great overview of Stockholm’s history and all the major highlights of Sweden’s rise and plateau to what it is today.

The day started with a great guided tour of the City Hall, the location of the distribution of the Nobel Prizes, sans Peace. There was some debate over the appropriateness of the gold mosaic art nouveau decor of the Golden Hall but I personally really liked it. Though that could have been due to my love of anything by Klimt and this room reeked of Klimt even if he wasn’t commissioned to do this work. For anyone interested, it was designed by Einor Forseth. With some free time I peeled off again with Pete who, luckily for me, enjoys looking at old churches as much as I do. And unlike Helsinki these churches were actually open! We were three for three!

City Hall

City Hall

Blue Hall

Blue Hall

Golden Hall

Golden Hall

After a brief check-in at the hotel it was off to the Vasa Museum, or as I like to now refer to it, the museum dedicated to design failure. The Vasa was a Swedish warship built in Stockholm that had her maiden voyage on April 10, 1628, we’ll pick a time of say 10:15 am. She sunk 30 minutes later. Yup, sunk….in Stockholm harbor. The designer poorly placed some cannon holes and one good gust of wind and she sunk. In the 1960s it was raised and now has a great museum that provides information about Sweden’s naval history and these types of ships. But I still had a hard time forking money over to see something that sank because of a design failure. I also kept thinking back to my various classes such as Project Management, Org Behavior, Operations, etc. and kept thinking that had they only had an MBA with their PM certification that the design flaw may have been spotted sooner. I think I might see a case coming out of this visit. Smilie: :-)

Vasa Warship

Vasa Warship

Because it was still relatively early we decided to wander around Djurgarden, the island we were on. Being a good sport, Pete let me have some fun outside the Abba museum before we went to Skansen, the world’s first open-air museum. The best description I can come up with is that it’s like Colonial Williamsburg with a Nordic zoo. We saw some really interesting Swedish homes dating from the 1700’s and also saw reindeer, moose, peacocks, seals, and lynx. I wish we had been able to get there earlier when more of the exhibits had been staffed but it was an enjoyable couple of hours.

Outside the Abba Museum

Outside the Abba Museum

Pete bullied into having his picture taken with Abba

Pete bullied into having his picture taken with Abba

Skansen Home

Skansen Home

Pete the Peacock Whisperer

Pete the Peacock Whisperer

We were able to navigate back to the hotel via the public ferry and after an enjoyable dinner I am finding myself read for bed. Since we have a 7am call time and I do not want a repeat of yesterday morning, I think I’m going to call it a night.

Moi moi!

Helsinki Day 4: Scissors, Axes, and Why You ALWAYS Pack the Night Before

Oh what a day. The biggest lesson learned: have a back-up alarm set. Let me back up. So, last night I was at the hotel bar working on yesterday’s blog (go read if you haven’t) until 11:15 when I went up to the room. Mind you, I’d switched to water awhile before that despite the growing number of glasses of beer around my work area – for more of THAT  story go ask Prapti, Ashley, or Marc as it’s really not mine to tell. Smilie: :-) I went upstairs and roomie Allison and I decided that we should pack up our stuff that night since we had to check out in the morning. BEST.DECISION.OF.THE.TRIP. We hadn’t been too messy so by 11:50 things were in order and it was lights out. How do I know it was 11:50? Because I double checked the alarm because I knew we were on a tight schedule and we had to be on the bus by 8am. We fell asleep right away and went off to dream land. I woke up and felt absolutely refreshed in the morning and I couldn’t believe that I was feeling so great on 6 hours of sleep or less because it had to be before my 6am alarm went off, right? WRONG!!!! OMG was that ever wrong. I look at my alarm and it says 8:03am. We were supposed to be on the bus 3 minutes ago! We shot out of bed and just started throwing on clothes and shutting bags. Not to brag, but I was on the bus by 8:10. If that’s not quick then I don’t know what is. I think it’s safe to say that from now on, we will have multiple alarms going off along with fellow classmates knocking on our doors for the rest of the trip.

Luckily the drive to our next visit, Fiskars, was quicker than expected and our delay at the hotel did not make us late to the visit.

Fiskars

Fiskars

Fiskars was a company I have only recently become acquainted with, due to the future M.I.L giving the future husband a ton of their tools for his birthday right after he bought the house, although most people know about their scissors. Fun fact: in Sweden, “Fiskars” has replaced the original Swedish word for “scissors”, similar to how “Kleenex” had become the go-to word for paper tissues. From the first moment I used their garden tools I was hooked so I was really looking forward to learning more about this company.

The lecture was interesting, though more from a design perspective than from a supply chain perspective. The gentleman was an industrial designer who was head of their R&D. We heard a lot of interesting things about how and why things are designed in a specific way but not so much about the actual process. Something I had never thought about: in order to design new gardening tools you need to actually garden, so there is a huge outdoor area where all involved in R&D go out and use all the prototypes and current tools to see what works, what doesn’t, and what are things that need to be designed. So interesting! But all the supply chain and production info: that came on the factory tour. Unfortunately, there are no cool pictures of me in safety vests BUT I was able to get one of me in these most attractive safety goggles!

Oh-So-Awesome Safety Glasses

Oh-So-Awesome Safety Glasses

What I really liked about Fiskars was that, though they did not tell us as much as we’d like to have seen, the production really seemed to be on top of things. We first moved to the foundry where we saw the ax heads being made. It was a pretty seamless process from one end to the other in the foundry. Though they may not practice just-in-time production or the most lean processes of all the factories we have seen so far, what they are doing makes sense for them. Yes, they have almost 9 days worth of products on hand but it doesn’t take them that long to actually make the products and having such a supply means that if a production line needs to be sped up or something else needs to come on line, they can easily do that.

In my head I had imagined that, of all the companies, this would be the one that would have one long production assembly line with one section doing one thing and then being conveyed onto the next. Yeah, that is not the case. Instead, each cell is responsible for a couple steps in the process, i.e, shaping, sharpening, and filing the scissors. From there, it is moved to an entirely different cell for assembly or painting or whatever is next on the list. I admit that I did not understand why certain cells were so far removed from their prior and next stops but we were also visiting many different product production areas so it might be more lean than it first appears. In any event, I really loved this factory tour and hope that the rest are as enjoyable.

Though what was my one take-away you may ask? It’s that I need a Fiskar’s ax. Seriously….the first thing I’m doing is going out and buying one of these when I get home. I feel justified in that we actually do have a need for this around the house. If you would like to know more about why, go to Google and start looking at video comparisons – it will blow you away!

Fiskar Axes: Which one to I get?

Fiskar Axes: Which one to I get?

After this, we were off to the M/S Silja Symphony, the overnight cruise from Helsinki to Stockholm. Anyone who knows me knows that Laura + Boats does not equal a good time and, true to form, as soon as the engines started and we pulled away from the dock the headache came on and the tummy got queasy. I soldiered on until midnight watching karaoke at the bar but I finally had to call it a night. I’m still up now writing this because a) it’s still so bright that my body can’t comprehend that it’s after 1am and 2) I’m still not feeling 100% and it’s preventing me from actually falling asleep. I’ve taken a sleep aid and I’m hopeful that I will soon be zonked out.

Helsinki Day 3: Elevators, Watches, Scissors, and Jackhammers

We finally started the site visits. Overview of things I learned: elevators are much more interesting than I ever knew, Euro skinny jeans actually look decent on men, and Finns get bitter when passed over for promotion. Let’s start at the beginning.

6:30 dawned bright and early though in Finland, with the never-ending light, it’s always bright even when it shouldn’t be. Our first visit today was Kone. Now to preface: the only thing I knew about Kone was that I saw a Kone truck outside the Springfield Town Center the Friday that I left for Europe.

Come to find out, Kone was REALLY interesting. They are focused on “People Flow” – meaning that if it involved elevators, escalators, or any such thing then Kone is there. In fact, DCites should know Kone because they are the company that just won the bid to refurbish all the Metro elevators. After the site visit I have confidence that they are more equipped than the current people who were in charge. I admit that when I went in I assumed that elevators were elevators – one size fit all. Boy, was I wrong! There is so much customization to elevators, from size, color, display,  etc. I admit that I was the bad tour person who stayed after in the showroom when everyone else was leaving to play with the new display/call destination displays. Yes, the professor had to come and get me and give me the “what are you doing??” look. But it was worth it. The newest innovations involve  selecting the floor before you enter the elevator, with the elevator intelligence deducing which car would get you to your floor quickest. It was interesting to think of how this affects Leed Certified Buildings and the energy consumption.

 

Kone Production Plant

Kone Production Plant

Kone Elevator Smart Technology

Kone Elevator Smart Technology

In my very attractive Kone visitor vest

In my very attractive Kone visitor vest

Interesting factoid: I asked why elevators do not have “cancel” buttons for when you accidentally press the wrong button and the answer was “I don’t know.”

Next up was Suunto, a company that I had never heard of. They are the leader of dive computers and super-intense sport performance watches. In other words, things that I have never done, will never do, and therefore a product that I will never need to purchase. However, if I were ever to need these products, these are the ones that I would buy. Each is hand-made and has amazing options. The most interesting thing, though, was our guide. First, I think he wanted to be any place but giving my group a tour. Second, I think he was annoyed that he was passed over for a promotion. He made a few comments about how he thought things should be done better, more lean, with less waste. Sidenote: his boss was hired in September from outside the organization. He, on the other hand, has been at the company for 15 years and had started on the docks. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for our visit it was very interesting to see the differences between the production at Kone and the one at Suunto and I’m glad I was able to visit both.

Suunto Production Plant

Suunto Production Plant

Different Suunto Products

Different Suunto Products

Me in my awesome Suunto anti-static jacket

Me in my awesome Suunto anti-static jacket

The day ended with another trip to the Bryggeri Helsinki Brewery. A fun night was had by all with converstations ranging from scissors, jackhammers, the Dutch, and currently the playing of the name game. Needless to say, fun has been had by all!

Fun at Bryggeri

Fun at Bryggeri

Helsinki Day 2: More Wanderings and Luggage!

I really suck at jet lag and time zone changes. Forcing myself to stay awake until at least 11pm last night I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed….at 3am. Smilie: :-( Not being able to sleep, I ended up in the lobby from 4am to 5pm Skyping with Ben and sending postcards. Thanks to one of the guys on my trip who was also up at 5pm I was able to get some much needed Advil and did get back to sleep from 6am to 8am.

After lunch I went with a group over to the fortress of Suomenlinna. I will leave it up to you to Google its history but it was quite nice. Leaving on the ferry, the sky was clear and beautiful. Once we got there the fog rolled in and I felt like I was in a Stephen King movie. Though there were a lot of canons on the islands, which made me quite happy and I had to get one with my signature pose.

Fog at Suomenlinna

Fog at Suomenlinna

I found a canon!

I found a canon!

Next, a group of us decided to venture onto the Helsinki public transit system to go visit the Sibelius Monument. Jean Sibelius was a Finnish composer and – I admit – the only famous Finn I know. Most know of him due to his work Finlandia which ostensibly tells the history of Finland and was a way that the Finns, through music, could resist and protest Russia’s involvement in Finland’s affairs (I just paraphrased a very complex socio-political problem – I suggest Google for a more nuanced, full explanation). The monument was very interesting and I’m glad I got to see it.

Sibelius Monument

Sibelius Monument

Next we wandered back towards the hotel with a stop at the Temppeliaukio or “Rock” Church. It is built directly into the rock, almost as if it was formed around it. Very interesting architecturally and it gave me my “church” fix of the day.

Panorama of Temppeliaukio Church

Panorama of Temppeliaukio Church

However none of this could compare to the joy I had when I found my luggage waiting for me at the hotel! Seriously, I did not think I could be that happy for luggage!

After dinner a few of us ventured out one more time and I was able to snap these pics of Helsinki at 11pm. Though a little darker now, it’s still much lighter than I have ever seen anywhere in my life.

11pm in Helsinki

11pm in Helsinki

Tomorrow starts the site tours and the purpose of this trip. First up is Suunto and Kone. Knowing nothing about them I am looking forward to learning about their triumphs and challenges.

Helsinki Day 1: Wanderings

I think I speak for everyone on the trip when I say that, from a supply chain perspective, SAS airlines had an epic failure. Everyone got to Helsinki safe and sound but 16 of 28 people did not arrive with luggage – myself and my roommate included. We are currently rationing the little bit of toothpaste I had in my carry-on (three more travel tubes in the lost luggage) and using Allison’s hair clip as a comb. I think it’s safe to say that we will be utilizing the WhatsApp tomorrow for some necessary items. Luckily I packed extra undies, jeans, and a top so I’m set for at least one more day.

Now, on to the fun stuff!

Denmark via Air

Denmark via Air

Growing up in MN, I didn’t think a place could be more flat. I was wrong. Denmark is MUCH more flat. Flying over the country I kept repeating in my head “I now understand why they Danes capitulated so easily in WWII – they had no natural defenses!” (Sidenote: I am in the middle of listening to the A History of WWII Podcast with the episode focusing on Denmark’s surrender most recently played so Danish topography is fresh on my mind.)

We got to our hotel sans luggage and everyone headed out in search of food and fun. To add to the merriment (insert snarky tone) of the adventure to date, Finland decided to greet us with a thunderstorm! Luckily my awesome roommate had both an umbrella and a raincoat so I was able to avail myself of the umbrella. Most of the group headed to a local outdoor festival where I tried Rudolph (or was it Dasher?) for the first time. I would recommend – quite tasty. Smilie: :-)

Due to the rain, the group split with some going to a pub to dry out, others back to the hotel, and I found myself paired with a guy from our group (Peter) who, like me, realized that if I sat down much longer I would never get back up. 22,217 steps later I think I saw every closed church and government building (emphasis on closed) within walking distance of the harbour. It actually got to be a joke. We first ventured to the Lutheran Church, which was closed for a wedding.

Lutheran Church (in the rain)

Lutheran Church (in the rain)

All right, we thought, we’ll just head to the Uspenskin Cathedral (the Russian Orthodox Church) – also closed.

Russian Orthodox Church

Russian Orthodox Church

Next we saw some interesting spires off in the distance that we decided to explore which turned out to be the Johanneksen Kirrko ( Johannes Church) where – you guessed it! – it was closed, though my zoom got some good pics of the gargoyes.

Johannes Church

Johannes Church

Gargoyles

Gargoyles

Not to be thwarted – and Peter being a good sport – we then ventured to the German Church only to finally admit defeat. Apparently every single church in Helsinki closes on Midsummer. But, come to find out, the Rock Church had been opened. I’m kinda kicking myself that I didn’t venture up today because I’m worried I won’t have time tomorrow and I was really hoping to see it.

Following this, we met up with some more of the group at Ateljee’s – a great rooftop bar that had been recommended by many of the guidebooks and one of my coworkers. Raining when we arrived, it was sunny and beautiful when we left.

View From the Observation Deck

View From the Observation Deck

The Group

The Group

And, never thinking I’d say this, this bar had THE BEST restroom view I’ve ever seen. I finally understood what the guidebooks meant when they said that they were perfect for exhibitionists.

BEST.BATHROOM.VIEW.EVER

BEST.BATHROOM.VIEW.EVER

Since it was sunny, and we knew that the wedding at the Lutheran Church was ended and that Russian Orthodox was to be open for a brief period, a group of us took advantage of the sunny weather and revisited those sites. It was definitely worth the second visit!

Peter, Prapti, Allison, and Thang

Peter, Prapti, Allison, and Thang

Prapti and Me

Prapti and Me

To end a very busy (and stressful) day, my roomie Allison and I decided to avail ourselves of the free Finnnish Sauna at the hotel. BEST.DECISION.I.MADE.ALL.DAY!!! It was glorious. Both of us I think felt our stress sweat out of our pores and surprisingly, after almost an hour of relaxation, having to ration my toothpaste wasn’t that big of a deal anymore. It really helped put the whole luggage situation in perspective which was that yes, my luggage was lost but I’M IN SCANDINAVIA! Really, can one day’s inconvenience ruin such a fabulous trip? I highly doubt it…..unless it doesn’t arrive tomorrow and then I might have to revisit this notion. Smilie: :-)

TripSplitter: The Easiest Way I Know to Keep My Spending Under Control

I have a huge confession to make: I spend money on vacation. I know, I know….doesn’t everyone? What I mean is, once I’m off U.S. soil, budgets go out the window. I’ve spent month saving for this trip while also carefully budgeting for tuition and a wedding so unlike past trips I really don’t have the “oh, I can buy this expensive tchotchke – I’ll just eat Ramen next month” wiggle room. That’s where my favorite travel app comes into play – Trip Splitter. Designed as an app to be used in a group, I have found it’s great for solo travel as well. Best of all: it will let you enter information in any currency and at the end covert into dollars. I can easily record everything I purchase and at the end of the day/week/country/trip look at how much I’ve spent, on what, and adjust my spending accordingly. I’ve used this in groups and solo and I love it!

I’ve created my “trip” for Scandinavia and I’m ready to go! Friday can’t get here quick enough!

Trip Splitter

 

 

Goodbye Glass, Hello Paper!

Stora Enso LogoSo, the last installment of my a-viking adventure was my excitement for Swedish glass. It has not dimmed but it has changed. Thanks to the glass companies being bought out by larger conglomerates, it was REALLY hard to find information on these companies. We finally admitted defeat and switched companies. So, good by Glass, hello PAPER! Our new industry is the world of international paper and pulp mills as seen through the eyes of Stora Enso! It’s one of the largest companies in this industry and we will be taking a plant tour at its Hylte plant in Sweden.

Surprisingly, I’m actually really excited about this though in a completely different way than the previous companies. Little known fact about Laura: some of my first memories are visiting the printing company that my Dad worked at as a kid that printed and bound final products, mainly magazines and tradepress.* 4 out of my 6 siblings at some point in their lives worked at the same place. Dad started off as a pressman, worked in bindery for awhile, and ended his 30+ career as a maintenance worker. Essentially, he (and therefore my entire family) knew everything there was to know about a printing company. And one thing that he definitely knew was the paper used. I can remember occasions where he’d come home complaining about the latest new type of paper and how it had problems, i.e., would bleed or wouldn’t hold ink, would get caught in the presses, was too thin and would rip, etc. I’m really curious to see how Stora Enso is able to innovate paper while still maintaining the standards and characteristics required by its customers.

*As the largest employer in the area, a lot of kids’ parents worked there. Most of the other dads would sneak out the Seventeen and Teen Bop magazines that were printed there for their kids months before those editions actually hit the stands. But not my Dad. I had to wait until they hit the news stand and paid full retail. I suppose as someone in my mid-thirties I should by now appreciate the lessons that this taught about honesty, morals, etc., but I admit – I’m still annoyed 25 years later. Smilie: :-)