An academic twist on production

Source: Exchange Magazine | Photo: Tobias Ohls | Text: Kristin Djerf

When Amanda Rosén worked the summer of 2016 in production planning at the Gränges plant in Finspång, she got the idea of doing her thesis project at Gränges. A hot rolling mill stopped and stood still, something that quickly had consequences for all of production.

I realized it would be interesting to map out the production flow to understand the causal relationships in disruptions and to learn from them. The knowledge of what to do was available, but there was no clear standardized template for minimizing the negative effects following a standstill, says Amanda Rosén

Gränges cooperation with universities

Starting in 2017, Gränges is strengthening its ties with Swedish universities, primarily to raise visibility as an attractive workplace for engineers. This includes becoming the main sponsor of KTH Project Destination, which links students and companies, and creating a new brand-building film for social media. In addition, the company participates in activities such as presentations, job fairs, and the ongoing supervision of students who are preparing their final theses.

Amanda and Louise are in their last semester of engineering school, studying industrial economics with a focus on production at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. In their thesis work, which they started preparing at the beginning of the year, and which will continue through the spring, they will map out how material flow through rolling mills and finishing at the Gränges plant in Finspång is affected by a disruption in production, such as a machine breaking down.

The goal is to produce a policy for planning the steps that can be taken to minimize the negative effects of a disruption in production, says Louise Lindberg.

Neither Louise nor Amanda have any previous ties to Finspång or Gränges, although Louise Lindberg feels some connection to the company because her dad comes from Grängesberg (where Gränges was founded at the end of the 1800s). Nor had they come into contact with Gränges in engineering school. Instead, it was Amanda Rosén’s plan to get a summer job near her parents’ home in Linköping that brought the company to her attention. Both students were also interested in experiencing heavy industry from the inside. “After we started our thesis work, Gränges CEO Johan Menckel came to the Royal Institute and gave a lecture that was really good. That made us feel proud,” says Amanda.

Amanda Rosén and Louise Lindberg spend two days a week at the plant in Finspång. They have been assigned an office and spend the majority of their time talking with representatives from the various parts of the business in order to gain understanding of the material flow. “We have been very well received everywhere, which makes the work easier. I got a basic understanding of production planning from my job last summer, but it is fantastic to hear the perspectives and needs of other departments,” says Amanda.

Their supervisor at Gränges, Planning Manager Kristoffer Kallunki, sees many advantages for the company in maintaining close ties with universities. For one thing, it attracts future employees; for another, it reinforces the business. “It is hard to be self-critical, but the students step in with fresh theoretical knowledge and a new perspective,” he says. “They also have the opportunity to devote a lot of time and break down a specific problem, which can otherwise be difficult to find time for in a lean organization.

Amanda and Louise make sure to take advantage of their access to the Royal Institute, including researchers and professors specialized in industrial production. For their thesis work to be accepted, Louise Lindberg and Amanda Rosén must do more than find a solution to the production challenges at Gränges. They also must meet academic requirements. 

In our thesis work, we have two customers. We have to solve a problem for the company, but we are also expected to contribute something new to research
- Amanda Rosén, engineering student at KTH Royal Institute of Technology