Day 15 – Last Day in Europe

Well everyone…we have reached the end of this journey. Today was our last day of company visits. This morning I went to workout at the gym. The gym wasn’t in the hotel so I got the opportunity to workout in a local Denmark gym. It was actually very nice and if I lived here I would consider working out there because they had a sweet collection of equipment including battle ropes. After working out we grabbed breakfast and then went on our first company visit to Maersk.

Maersk is a Danish company and is public traded. It is a shipping and energy company and operates throughout the world to transport materials and goods from one place to another using its large containers. You have probably seen the Maersk blue and white logo on containers all throughout the world. While you may think that Maersk just sells space on ships it really does much more than that – Maersk sells the optimal journey from production to the product market for thousands and thousands of customers in a cost efficient, on time, safe, and sustainable manner.

Our visit with Maersk was really fascinating. We talked to a representative from HR about the history of Maersk (she also seemed to be recruiting us which was pretty cool). We then talked with their in-house consulting group. In house consulting is apparently really popular in Germany and Maersk has found the concept to be useful. It allows them to get good, quality consulting experience from within the company instead of going to and outside source like the BCG or McKinsey. It is cheaper and can help them to protect information as well. Anyways their group talked to us about how they have been trying to improve port efficiency and have done so through a hub partnership project between Maersk Line and APM terminals. By actually sitting people together and sharing ideas, the business lines have achieved efficiencies during the pilot phase. The final speaker we talked to at Maersk was fascinating. I cannot recall her title but she was wonderful, engaging, and intelligent. She reminded us that while Maersk’s business seems simple (transportation and logistics), it is anything but. Trade is imbalanced and it makes logistics very challenging. It is very complex to get containers to customers when they need them and to get the customers to promise to get the customers to Maersk on time. As she talked, I just had more and more respect for what Maersk does each and everyday to ensure that its customers get the goods they need and that ultimately I as a consumer get the goods I need when and where I want them.


One final thought about Maersk – the entire team talked to us a lot about sustainability and innovation. I thought it was really cool to learn about Maersk innovations such as horizontal drilling, slow steaming, the world’s largest container ships, and energy efficient vessels. Further I thought it was fascinating to learn how Maersk is actually slowing ships down (slow steaming) to use less CO2 and is also using waste heat recovery to reduce CO2 emissions even further. I am amazed that they are so concerned about the environment and are actively pursuing strategies to decrease emissions.

After Maersk, we had our last company visit and what a good one it was. We got to go to Carlsberg Brewery! Carlsberg is one of the big four beer producers in the world. We had a quick tour of the facility and then we had time for a drink or too. What a way to finish the academic portion of the trip :)

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After Carlsberg we came back to the hotel, changed (it was 81 outside today!), and walked down to the iconic Copenhagen canal. We took some pictures and then walked back to the hotel for dinner. Speaking of…dinner is in 5 minutes so I better run! Byee!


Day 13: Lego and Welcome to Copenhagen

Today we visited Lego and went to Legoland. Lego was definitely one of my favorite visits because it was so interactive. After our factory tour, we learned a bit about Lego’s history and core values. I had not realized that the company began in 1932 as a wooden toy producer, and that even into the 1960’s, roughly 60% of the toy production was wooden toys. It was also interesting to find out that Lego’s standard brick has been the same since 1958, and that a brick from a set in 1958 will fit perfectly with a brick from 2015. That’s pretty amazing!

I learned a few other fun facts during the lecture. I thought it was really interesting how Lego’s name was formed from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means, “to play well.” However, years later, the company realized that in Latin, lego means, “put together.” I also hadn’t realized how tough of a market the toy industry really is. The presenter mentioned that in recent years, the toy market has grown less than a half a percent each year. Impressively, Lego has grown at a much better rate. However, interestingly, Lego will takes intentional efforts to cap their growth at 15% per year. The rationale for this wasn’t expressed very clearly, but it seems to have to do with a desire to not grow too fast and then deal with the sometimes difficult growing pains that inevitably result.

The last really interesting thing that I took away from the presentation was the cultural focus of Lego. Employees are empowered to do what is right, and if they don’t agree with the direction of their supervisors, they are expected to speak up. The presenter mentioned that part of this cultural norm likely stems from the fact that Danes have the smallest power distance in the works. There is also a huge focus on teamwork and collaboration at Lego. As the presenter mentioned, he tells his new hires that Lego > Ego, so if they are more interested about advancing their own careers, then Lego is not the right company for them.

One of my favorite things about the presentation was that during the lecture, we took some breaks to use our hands and minds. During the first break, we were given about 45 seconds to build a duck out of six bricks. Out of all of us, none of us built the same exact duck, though Tommy and I did have very similar ducks. The lesson from this exercise is that Legos exercise creativity and imagination, resulting in a different product from each individual. How cool!

The second break was a bit longer. We were given a the truck that new employees are given during orientation to assemble for homework. It has been so long since I had built anything out of Legos, and I really did enjoy following the instructions to make the truck.

In addition to the structured exercises, there were bowls of yellow bricks sitting out in the meeting room. I used this as an opportunity to exercise my mind and imagination even further, and built a gorilla! Here’s a shot of my masterpieces:

My Masterpieces

My Masterpieces

After the presentation, we spent the rest of the afternoon in Legoland. I think that much of the group was a bit underwhelmed by the park, but I am pretty sure we all still had a good time. After we finished up at the park, we headed to Copenhagen. Though we were all pretty exhausted, a large group of us made the decision to rally, especially since we still had to celebrate Allison’s birthday. We definitely had a fun time mixing with the locals. I hope that you had a very happy belated birthday, Allison!

Dag Fjorten (Day 14) – Capping it all off with a Carlsberg

Well here we are at the end of our two week Scandinavian advenutre. Our last day of business visits started off with Maersk, the world’s largest shipping container company. They operate in mainly two industries, transport and energy. For their energy division they have both oil and drilling. Out of about a total of 32,000 employees, 7,000 of those are seafarers (those who operate and work on the ship). Maresk really works hard to reduce their carbon footprint. They set mutliple goals for themselves, reducing CO2 emmissions by a certain amount by a certain year. They recently reached their second goal, reducing their CO2 emissions by 40%. They are not shooting to reduce total emissions by 60% by 2020. At the rate they are going, I have no doubt they will reach it. 

For the most part the three speakers we had were really interesting. At some points it felt like a recruiting event, but hey, they would be getting some great talent if they recruited from this Virginia Tech MBA class. Our last speaker, Ida who is a Key Clients Director really fascinated me. The way she talked and how much she has accomplished by the age of 31 makes me want to do more with my life. She made me really want to pursue something I am extremely passionate about. She also just spoke in a really intelligent manner and was a complete joy to listen to. During her portion of the presentation, she spoke to us about who Maersk’s customers are and what makes them key client ones. Basically Maersk’s customers are anyone who wants to ship goods from one place to another. What makes them a key client is that they ultimately have to be profitable for Maersk, especially so because the shipping container industry is a low margin industry. There must also be a match in the organizational structure of both companies as both need to have parties that can represent the company’s interests and speak to what is needed out of the transaction. 


They had some really cool shipping container models in their lobby.

After Maersk, we were let loose for a very quick lunch (30 minutes) and then we headed off to Carlsberg for our 13th and final business visit. Since there are 26 students we needed 13 companies to visit, so Dr. Hoopes added this one in the end and boy was it a great way to end this exahusting yet amazing two weeks. We didnt’ get to take a plant tour as their main manufacturing plant outside of Copenhagen is closed for tours in the Summer. We took a mini tour of the Copenhagen factory and then were treated to two “free” beers. Boy did it feel good to be totally done with business visits and relax for a little bit!


Hm…I wonder where the Clydesdales idea comes from.


It’s been a great two week with these ladies.

After Carlsberg, we headed back to the hotel. A group of us walked to Nyhavn, a strip along the canal that has some pretty picturesque houses. 


City Hall.


I just want to take this moment to thank you for following me along on my two week Scandinavian adventure. It really means a lot to me that you want to know what I have been up to. I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog. Like I have said, it’s been an exhausting two weeks but they have been amazing. I had never been to Europe before and had no idea what to expect. All of a sudden, after two weeks I have visited three countries in Northern Europe! I would definitely do this trip again. I’ll likely have one ore two more posts when I get home, most likely blogging about my 9 hour plane ride back to the states and my first American meal.

Thanks again! I love you all! 

Day 12: Traveling to Kolding

Today was a designated travel day. We hopped on the ferry at around 8:00. I was amazed that we actually formed a line this time, as opposed to the overnight ferry where we just kind of chaotically mobbed onto the boat. So many people were exhausted and spent a majority of the trip napping. I took a short nap, but I used the rest of the time to wander around the ferry and to catch up on some of my blogging! I was surprised at how many people (Europeans, not our group) that were drinking wine and beer by 9:00 a.m. It was kind of crazy!

Once we arrived in Denmark, we loaded up the bus and started driving to Kolding. We stopped to get lunch at a roadside diner. The food was very Scandinavian, and nothing on the menu was written in English. I went with something very safe: hot dog and french fries. It was actaully pretty good!

After lunch, we were back on the road. However, about 40 minutes outside of Kolding, we heard a loud pop under the bus. Jon pulled over at a close-by rest area and we confirmed that we had blown a tire. Without access to the internet, our large group had to find a way to entertain ourselves. Luckily, Alex had a tennis ball in his bag. We started out playing catch, but soon Tommy was coming out of the woods with a large stick. So we played some stick ball! I was very impressed at the batting skills of our group. Thankfully, everyone let me swing until I finally hit the ball once!

Once we got bored with stick ball, we all took different strategies to pass the time. Some people read, others napped. A few of us decided to play cards. First we played War, which got old very fast. Then we tried Gin Rummy, but nobody wanted to keep score. Then Professor Hoops taught us how to play spoons (using candy pieces instead of spoon). Spoons (or the renamed version, Candy) kept us entertained for a good bit, but then we got bored of that as well (oh how technology has shortened our attention spans!). Finally, Tim, Prapty, and Mark A. decided to play a friendly game of poker. It was a pretty intense game, but Tim ended up winning in the end.

Around the time the game ended, we started to get hungry. The group shared a small potluck of snacks from the bus: mostly different varieties of chips and candy. Thankfully, not too much later, the guy showed up to help change the tire. Everyone did a full cheer once we were back on the road to Kolding. Even though it was an unfortunate turn of events, we were very lucky for so many reasons. including:

1) We could have blown the tire on the way to the ferry
2) We could have blown the tire nowhere close to a rest area, leaving us either stranded on the road or baking in a hot bus
3) It could have been a cold and rainy day

We arrived at the hotel very exhausted. The dinner was good; however, I think a lot of us were over eating salty fish, which we had for our appetizer.

Slightly Blurry Shot of Our Salty Fish Appetizer

Slightly Blurry Shot of Our Salty Fish Appetizer

One interesting thing about dinner is that our main course was served off of platters and placed onto our plates. The servers later came out with another platter and offered us seconds. I had never been served food at a restaurant in this manner before. I wondered if this is something unique to the hotel, or something that is more common in Denmark. I guess I’ll just have to do a bit more research (aka eating out) to find out!

Day 12: Unexpected Picnic

Wednesday was meant to be an uneventful travel day, a resting blip on our itinerary marked as the halfway point between our Mon-Tues and Thurs-Fri company visits. The first half of the day started on schedule. We boarded the ferry by from Sweden to Denmark at 7:30 and left the port by 8 am.

On the ferry, people did various activities. Some ate breakfast, some did their papers, some enjoyed a beer on the deck, I slept. Despite staying in the night before, the perils of roommate related sleeping issues, which sometimes happen, arose. My roommate Mark was antsy and locked himself out of the room, I fell asleep with the TV on, Mark made late night phone calls, I snored loudly. By morning, we both were exhausted, and probably felt we would’ve been better off going out then turning in early and trying to get a long nights rest. It’s a fruitless cause sometimes. Luckily, we had nothing on our agenda beyond traveling so we both planned to get good rest during the day.

After docking in Denmark and a nice lunch shortly thereafter, we were well on our way to our next destination to check in our hotel at 4 pm when, driving issues, which sometimes happen, arose. With a loud pop, one of the tires on our bus got a flat tire. Our driver, Yon, found a good highway rest stop and pulled over, calling his employer for assistance.

For the next four hours, just as we did on the ferry, our class amused ourselves with any and every activity we could think of. Several of my classmates played stickball with a tennis ball Alex had brought, others played a game called “Heads Up” with an app on their smartphone, and the two Marks, including my roommate, slept a whole lot. I enjoyed a bunch of card games, including war, gin rummy, a new game Dr. Hoopes taught a group of us called Spoons, and finally, an epic texas hold ‘em poker game against Mark A. and Propti, aka The Blue Dragon. We used Dr. Hoopes mint chocolate candies as poker chips. Twice I was brought to the brink of defeat and needed to go “all in” against the Blue Dragon before I made a comeback and ‘slayed’ her. She has vowed revenge; I look forward to another showdown someday.

Besides playing games, everybody banded together whatever food and drinks they had to make an impromptu picnic of sorts. Dr. Hoopes brought the candies, while others brought water, beer, and potato chips. Considering we were a group of 28 adults, there was very little if any complaining from anybody in the group, which was refreshing given the likelihood based on previous experiences with people that there were would be at least one ‘debby downer’ in the group. I think it reinforced many’s perceptions, which they’ve shared with me, that we’re really lucky that we have such a great group of people on the trip.

Below is a panaromic courtesy of Sean:

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We finally made it to the hotel around 8 pm, and many retired early for much needed sleep. We’re all trying to rest up for a great last two days in Copenhagen. Up next: Lego Group and Legoland, can’t wait!

We’re gonna need a bigger boat…

Today we visited Mærsk.  It was another lecture.  I’m tired of lectures.  But wait, this was a pretty interesting lecture.  We had two gentlemen from the internal consulting group give us a presentation on internal consulting at the company.  They are actually competing against outside consulting firms for consulting jobs, mostly in the realm of business processes and analysis.  They do have some engineers, but not a large percentage compared to business related folks. When I asked about that, the response was that they are trying to change that and get more diversity within their business unit.  If I needed a job and they had an office within a reasonable distance to the area of the world where I currently live, I would consider it.  As a 3rd party consultant, internal consulting is actually a term I would prefer not to hear.  I can see how they can have a unique perspective on the industry and their own company, but one of the advantages of a 3rd party consultant is the fresh perspective free of preconceived notions and biases.  The did say that they are not trying to eliminate the 3rd party consultants, but instead fill a niche and be low cost when their skill set fits a need within the company.  I actually found it to be very interesting presentation and appreciated the change of pace from general supply chain or S&OP discussions.

We also heard a presentation about sales.  This was also pretty good.  The most important part of sales for Maersk is relating to their customers.  They try to mirror their customers structure and have a counterpart to important contacts in the same location.  This means that they can be very responsive to the customer.  Once I’ve had a chance to digest what she said, I may have more thoughts.

Not much to photograph, so you get a model.  I may have a Maersk ship or container photo somewhere on my camera from the other day, but for now…


Day 11: Volvo²

On Tuesday, we visited two Volvo sites, Volvo Truck and Volvo Car. On both visits, our tour consisted of us riding around in small shuttle cars through the manufacturing facility while a tour guide explained what was occurring at each station.

Both sites were very similar in their layout and continuous flow of materials. They did differ in a couple of ways though. For one thing, the trucks were highly customizable while the car facility was much more automated. This made sense as when you purchase a car, it almost always comes with a specific model, color and features that our offered. They produce the quantity amount they forecast based on expected demand and historical actuals. Trucks on the other hand, are lesser in quantity, and often want features that are much different from sale to sale.

While we didn’t get as much information as we’d get on previous visits, it was great to see how an efficient car production facility is run. Instead of stopping production if defects are noticed, they continue to push forward while defects are noted and then corrected down the line.

I was feeling tired after the fun night previously so I went to bed early on Tuesday with out going out beyond venturing for an ice cream cone. I’m looking forward to the last three nights in Denmark.

Here’s a favorite iconic photo of mine which was a theme of 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.


Last Day!

It’s the last day of our two week Scandinavia adventure.  Most of the class are going back tomorrow, but I’ll be staying an extra day just to explore the city.  It’s been an awesome trip where I learned a lot about the companies we visited, global supply chain and manufacturing, and my classmates.  I came into this not knowing anyone, but now I feel like I had a chance to get to personally know everyone, at least more than what I knew before.  The company couldn’t have been any better for this trip.

So, as part of our last day, we visited two companies: Maersk and Carlsberg.  I thought the Maersk presentation was outstanding, especially the last presentation by Ida, Director of Key Client Program.  First, I have to admit that I felt a bit under accomplished after learning that she was only 31 and already a Director with a family and child.  But that’s good… those kind of things motivate me to never be complacent.  It was interesting learning about how Maersk, a huge global shipping organization with nearly 90,000 employees, operates and the challenges they continuously face.  I found it educational learning about how they achieved the sustainability goals of 40% reduction in emissions through tactics including vessel design, heat energy recycling, and travel speed.

The Maersk In House Consulting group was also very interesting.  As a strategy consultant myself, I love the field.  My passion is in strategic planning and design… taking something in its current state, defining the visions, and designing the strategy and all the fine details required to achieve that end vision.  However, as an external consultant, there’s only so much I can do and there’s always that sense of disconnect with a client because I know that its only a transient interaction.  After I make my recommendations, I’ll just move onto the next client/project.  I love consulting and want to stay within the industry, but I want a sense of investment in the company that I support.  From that sense, an in house consulting concept is a great appeal to me.  I’ve already known about the concept and have actually been keeping an eye out for similar opportunities.  Hopefully the trend picks up in the States, which I know it’s slowly starting from what I’ve seen, and I find myself with an opportunity in the future.

After Maersk, we visited Carlsberg.  We had a general tour of the site and learned about the history.  It was interesting to see the long history and the infusion of science and art around the facility.  The beer was great, especially during a hot summer day.  All in all, another great day!

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