Summary of the trip

The gang and Bella, our bus driver, outside University of Budapest

In two weeks time we have toured four countries and visited twelve factories, two Universities and one Institute. It has been a great experience and we have had a unique opportunity to see a wide range of manufacturing systems and strategies. From the highly automated production systems to more dated looking workshop facilities with high paced manual work. It has been a learning process and at times a lot of impressions to sort through. It’s going to be fun and challenging to sit down and work out the notes and compile what we’ve seen. The group has constantly worked with a number of topics relating to manufacturing systems to analyze each visit with regards to a set of questions. The outcome will be a presentation and a report, presented and published in connection with the Swedish Production Symposium in the spring of 2014.

hela resan
The trip by numbers: 2 252 km of roads, four countries and a bit over 30 hours spent in the bus.

This is where we started and ended up, a view of Budapest from atop Gellért Hill

We would like to thank you for following our adventures and hope that you take the time to read our report when it comes out, All the best from:

Jon Andersson
Jonatan Berglund
Andreas Björnsson
Niklas Friedler
Richard Hedman
Pierre Johansson
Michael Lieder
Erik Lindskog
Sandra Mattsson
Rickard Olsen
Kathrine Spang
Christina Windmark

and Jan-Eric Ståhl


Day 12, Visit to Budapest University of Technology and Economics

Our Last day on the trip was spent with a visit to Budapest University of Technology and Economics to visit with the Mechanical Engineering Department. The University has about 20 000 students across many disciplines. We had presentations on research topics within Materials Science, The Digital Factory and Polymers  and then given a tour of the Polymer lab which had a lot of injection molding machines and related testing equipment. The lab is shared by Mechanical Engineers and Chemists working together to improve the materials and production processes and there seemed to be an active collaboration with industry, both Automotive and one famous plastic brick brand, especially popular among kids.

Learning about the University

We also presented ourselves and the purpose of our trip and visit (Jonatan)

During the tour of the lab, presentation of an injection molding machine

After the visit to the University we shared lunch with our host at a nearby restaurant and prepared to head back to Sweden.

Day 11, Driving through Slovakia Mountains and visiting SCA Hygiene Products

Thursday was one of our longest drives on the trip, we were to travel from Krakow in southern Poland, through Slovakia to return to Budapest in Hungary, where our trip started about ten days earlier. It turned out to be a very spectacular drive, especially the part through northern Slovakia and the High Tatras mountains. The mountains reach over 2500 meters and the forest that climbs them is mostly leaf trees which now range from dark green to dark red.

Quick stop at a very sleepy ski resort (Niklas and Sandra)


Views of the Tatras

Views of the Tatras

Enjoying the views

Descent onto the Slovak lowlands

After traversing the mountains we reached the spot of our factory visit, Gemerská Hôrka, just on the southern boarder of Slovakia. Here SCA produces Hygiene Products for the European Market. The most known brand is Tena but walking through the factory there were plenty of other brands to be seen, SCA products are sold in over 100 countries world wide and branding is often based on the different market regions. The plant had been here since 130 years and started as a paper mill, it was acquired by Mölnlycke in a two step process in 1992 and 1994 and currently employs about 900 people. The region has a high rate of unemployment and there was a noticeably higher standard of living around the plant compared to the villages we passed on our way there.

Our faithful bus outside the factory.

Group photo! SCA Hygiene Products Slovakia

Arriving in Budapest we went out for the last group dinner. With the help of Michaels old class mate who lives in the city we went to a restaurant in the Jewish quarters. It had live piano music and really tasty Hungarian dishes.

Dinner table Budapest

Andreas and Kathrine mid-discussion

Day 10, Alfa Laval and a visit to the Polish underground

Alfa Laval has a polish production site not far from Krakow. Like a number of the other companies that we have visited on our trip the local branch has a history from the communist days.  What is now Alfa Lava Poland started in 1951 as WSK, and at their peak employed over 5000 people. Already in 1961 they began a business relationship with Alfa Laval as a licensed supplier. The relationship progressed over the years and in 2000, nine years after having been privatized in the wake of the revolution they were acquired by Alfa Laval. The site is manufacturing separators used to clean fluids, mostly used for separating out the sludge or water content in oil. Predominant customer sectors are marine, such as off-shore drilling and shipping vessels, power plants and food processing industry.

We were very well received with presentations on history of the company, the product range and also given a technical demonstration on how the separator technology actually works, much appreciated. During the factory tour we saw high precision machining and assembly, and also got to watch the daily production team meeting.

We assembled outside the plant.

Next on our day schedule was the Wieliczka Salt mines, located just south of Krakow they mines were in use between sometime in the 13th century and 1996. They are actually still producing a small amount of salt, extracted from the about 500 liters of water per minute that are constantly being pumped out from the bottom of the mine.

Descending into the depth of the mine.

And further..

We got to try one of the old lifts used to hoist up material, manually operated by four workers.

Amazing underground construction to prevent the walls from caving in

Another version of the mine elevator system

Moon-like landscape, these are the old stairs where workers climbed up carrying rock debris in bags.

Underground lake

Huge underground hall, carved by three miners in 60 years time

A the end of the hall was an altar and there are weekly services held here

Throughout the mines there were statues of historical and biblical figures, carved by miners.

Another one, many where scenes related to the mines history.

Most parts of the mine that we visited was in the third level, about 400 years old, the mine reaches a total of nine levels down.
Towards the end of our tour was this dining hall, a bit unexpected (they also had free wifi!)

Day nine, Opel in Gliwice and a visit to Auschwitz concentration camp

On Tuesday morning we went to Opel’s factory which is about two thirds of the way from Wroclaw to Krakow. The GM brand Opel is produced here, five models of the Astra and the new Cascada the factory is used to supply mainly for the European market and the yearly production is around 200 000 cars. The operations in Gliwice was established in 1996 and the first car, an Astra Classic, rolled of the line in 1998. We had a nice factory tour Walking through the body shop and the final assembly.

Group photo session outside entrance to Opel

After Opel we traveled south east for our visit to Auschwitz concentration camp. It was difficult to know what to expect and the experience was nothing short of overwhelming. We took a three hour tour that started in Auschwitz I and ended in Birkenau. Our guide did a fantastic job of going through the chilling facts of what took place in this god forgotten place only about 70 years ago. Below are some photos from our visit, its hard to comprehend the scale of what was done here, and harder still to accept what humans are capable of inflicting on other humans. It was a very sober group that headed towards Krakow and our fifth and last city of this trip.










Day eight, Back to the factory touring business

Today we went to visit Volvo’s Wroclaw hub, where they produce backhoe loaders and buses as well as house divisions within Volvo IT and Business. We we’re greeted by the (Swedish) plant manager for Volvo Construction Equipment. He took us on a tour throughout the assembly lines and we got to see how they work with continuous improvement and how they involve the operators in the standardization work. We also had some discussions on life in Poland compared to Sweden and the fact that the “higher ups” in manufacturing companies tend to be a lot younger here in Poland than in Sweden and Western Europe (Our host was the only one in tha management group who had passed 50 years of age).

We then toured the Volvo bus facility which was considerably larger and it was nice to see some of the buses that we recognized from back home in Sweden. The tours were concluded with lunch in the shared Volvo restaurant, thank You Volvo!

Group photo in the Volvo lobby

Our last stop for the day was Wrocław University of Technology and the Polish Lean Institute. We got to see the Opto-mechatronics research laboratory and had a presentation on some of their research. A lot of it was on machine vision for quality control, e.g. using cameras to quickly and rapidly detect impurities or assembly errors on machined components or products. One slightly different use of their knowledge and methods had been put to recognizing forgeries in written text, for example if someone alters an 3 to an 8 on a check note. A technology that had been further successfully utilized to analyze old written heritage documents and in what order they had been compiled.


Presentations of research in the lab environment

Brief tour of Wrocław University of Technology’s campus.

Front of Wrocław University of Technology, facing the river

Lean Enterprise Institute Polska is the Polish branch of the Lean Global Network and was started by Professor Tomasz Koch of the Technology University of Wroclaw in 2006. It promotes and gives training of lean tools to Polish companies, within manufacturing and other industries. We got to know the history and had a guided tour of their offices. The entire office had adopted tools such as 5S, kanban and visual planning boards. The kanban even extended to replenishing supplies in the kitchen and 5S was used for keeping items on the desktops in good order, a very interesting visit for sure.

Day six and seven, a weekend in Wroclaw, Poland

Saturday was spent at an easy pace, touring the city and recharging our batteries, we had some really nice weather and there is plenty to see in this beautiful city. As some of us were heading back towards the hotel in the afternoon we started noticing a lot of riot police. Our first theory was that it could be a sporting event and the police were there to keep opposing supporter groups apart. When we asked the police what was happening we learnt that they were there to protect the participants of the Wroclaw love parade as they marched through the city center. At first we were taken aback as there were so many police on site. As we neared the hotel which happened to be at the same time the parade passed next to it we became aware of the large number of counter-demonstrators. It quickly became apparent that the police force was justified. It’s both sad and surprising to see the state of the HBT/gender issues here and a reminder of how recent the acceptance spread actually is in Sweden.

loveparade1  loveparade2
Love parade in Wroclaw

On Sunday we had a city tour booked and we got to zigzag through most of the old town city center to learn about both the medieval and the more recent history of this city. The city was founded in about 1000 AD for its strategic location at the intersection of the two main trading routes at that time. The area has been through a lot of turmoil since then and the rule has change several times, the most recent change came with the fall of the iron curtain and brought back trade and initiated a spur in construction of new infrastructure and renovations and repairs of the many old and beautiful buildings that were damaged during the Second World War.

A very interesting and quite recent story of this city is its population of over 200 metal gnomes, indeed its often referred to as the city of gnomes:

Learning about the gnomes

Gnome on top of a thumb

Chained gnome on the windowsill of a bar, the gnomes could be spotted throughout the entire city center.

This strange tradition of gnomes grew out of the resistance movement in the 80’s. There was no way to openly protest the state and any political messages in the public forums were removed. The resistance movement came up with the idea for a more subtle expression of their opposition. They started painting orange images of gnomes, this became an underground symbol of the resistance movement, as it didn’t hold any real message it could better escape the scrutiny of the police.

Here are some more photos from the guided tour and the dinner we had with a representative of the Lean Institute of Poland which is one of the destinations for Monday’s touring schedule.

The Wroclaw city square and its town hall.

University of Wrocław

Statue at the old meat market, now hosting small shops for local handcraft

dinner2 dinner1
Dinner with Lean Institute Poland representative after the guided tour.


Day five, Quick stopover in Czech Republic heading to Wroclaw, Poland

Friday October 4, 2013.
After saying our goodbyes to Slovakia we set out at dawn heading north. We had a midway stop planned in Czech Republic to see the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech manufacturing site in Frýdek-Mistek. Built between March 2007 and November 2008 it represents a 1.2 bn € investment, today producing roughly 300 000 cars a year and hosting a payroll of 3500 direct employees. We noticed directly that it was a way large organization and machinery than some of the earlier visits on this trip, running a little bit late we had to literally wolf down our lunch after calling ahead and being denied a slightly delayed arrival. By the way, here are some photos from lunch (chicken and french fries all around, to save time!):

Richard and Pierre entering the depths of the lunch restaurant

Jon contemplating the potential success rate of our 15 minute order..

Jan-Eric, Christina, Andreas, and Michael waiting somewhat patiently for their food…

andra and Pierre waiting patiently for their food to be served!

First we were given a video introduction showing the construction of the site and walking us through the manufacturing steps; Stamping, Welding, Painting, Transmission, and Assembly. Then we got to ride a train, much like the blue train back home (well for some of us) at Volvo Cars, taking us past all of the steps save the paint shop which had too high demands on cleanliness to accept any visitors. All in all it was a good although rather anonymous visit, by far the highest concentration of industrial robots so far, and we did get some nice pictures sporting our safety gear:

Safety first!

We like the Hyundai cars!

Obligatory factory front group photo!

Tomorrow, Saturday, is a day off from the study visits and we’ll take some time to enjoy the city of Wroclaw. We’ll be sure to add some photos if the weather cooperates, til then take care and have a nice weekend!

Day four, where we get to follow manufacture of bath taps from raw material to packaged product.

Thursday October 3, 2013
This was our last day in Bratislava, before moving on into Poland and Wroclaw on Friday morning. The first half of the day was booked for a factory visit and the afternoon was free for touring the city. Today’s factory visit required little in terms of bus ride and 30 minutes after departing we rolled into the parking lot of Teka Magyarország Zrt, until recently known as Mofem. The company produces a brand of taps and valves (Mofem), the most common bath and sanitary tap brand in Hungary. In addition they make kitchen taps branded TEKA and also a range of valves for all types of water carrying systems e.g. piping and radiators.

Mofem was founded in 1900 and the current factory is still in located at the same spot, evident from the many older, unused, buildings dotting the plant area. The number of employees was once ranging above 3000, but since then the production has been narrowed and focused and today the headcount is slightly above two hundred. We were welcomed by the president of marketing and international relations and taken to the head office. There we got to meet the entire on site management and given an introduction to the company and its operations. Also joining us was the Vice President, the production manager and the technology manager, a really nice, warm and humbling welcome!

The factory tour was perhaps the best yet, much due to our awesome hosts and the fact that we got to start at raw brass blocks and follow their way along the value chain all the way to shiny, packaged consumer goods. The company does close to everything in-house and you could almost touch the tacit knowledge stored in the minds and hands of the operators and process engineers. Here are a selection of photos from our tour of the facility:

Introduction sit down

Casting by hand

Kathrine in the machining hall

Discussing assembly work with the VP

Erik by the galvanization bath

Michael and Jon pondering on manufacturing strategies

Andreas was really enjoying this factory tour!

Richard and Sandra analyzing the work in the grinding hall

Rickard philosphing on the joys of warehouses in the warehouse

hristina and Jonatan posing in the warehouse

The always happy and energetic Niklas was also spotted in the warehouse

an-Eric strolling by some of the older factory buildings

Once through with the tour we were treated to a classic Hungarian meal, spätzli with chicken in paprika sauce. All in all a great factory visit! Here we are outside the main office:

Notice the Swedish flag next to the Hungarian!

After returning to Bratislava some of the group toured the city:

Pierre enjoying the view(?)

There it is!

And there!

This is the vantage point, which was actually at the top of a tall tower part of a bridge

There was also a castle close to where we stayed

And the day was ended with a hearty meal of Slovakian food at the very nice restaurant Modra Hviezda, ranked 7 out of 700 on trip advisor, yummy!

Nice cobble stone streets in all the old parts of Bratislava

The small table!

And the bigger one, dinner was accompanied by the occasional screams from the household parrot, who lived just behind the photographer.

Some internet connectivity issues has delayed the updates.. Polish internet so far seems a lot faster, so come back tomorrow and read more about Friday’s adventures!

Day three, where we head back to Hungary to visit an automotive sub supplier and an European premium car manufacturer

Wednesday October 2, 2013

Today’s visits took us to two very different production sites, first an automotive sub supplier and then one of the biggest European premium car brands. We literally got up with the rooster to start our travelling at 06:40. At around 7:30 we arrived at Lozorno Automotive Park and Brose’s Hungarian production plant. Brose was another very pleasant show of openness and warm welcoming’s that continues to strike us as we travel between these manufacturing companies far away from home. We were welcomed by the local Continuous improvement coordinator who in a very level and open way described the operations on site. During the tour we got to go through the plant from delivery of material via the processing steps, mostly manual assembly supported by automation equipment, to the finished goods stock. The manual operations were very similar to what can be seen in automotive sub suppliers in Sweden although the cycle times were somewhat lower than back home.

A picture of the PV46 group outside the plant.

After the Brose visit we got back onto the bus and headed south of Bratislava to somewhere a bit further downstream in the automotive industry value chain. Our target was Audi AG’s Hungarian production site. It’s the world’s largest engine manufacturer and supply most of the VW concern with its engines, at the same time it is the dedicated site for the final assembly of all Audi TT’s. This visit was less personal and we got the official factory tour concept, which wasn’t bad at all. Walking with our guide we went passed several engine assemblies and also the entire Audi TT assembly line. Although less detailed than previous factory visits on this trip we got a pretty good grip on the manufacturing strategy and level of automation of the visited production areas.

The PV46 group outside the Audi plant

Having Lunch after returning to Slovakia and Bratislava

Tonight we hope to get a grasp of the local culture as we aim for trying out a few ofBratislavs many micro-breweries. And tomorrow at eight we set out for the next factory visit, Mofem which is  MMA’s Hungarian sub-supplier.