When SetraNews visits Setra Heby at the beginning of July, it is a rare warm summer’s day. Calm and not a cloud in the sky. The asphalt on the timber yard is almost bubbling. Charlotta Andersson Jensen, Mill Manager, leads us between the patches of shadow on the ground thrown by the tacked
packets of timber. Setra Heby is one of Setra’s three whitewood sawmills and is situated about 50 kilometres west of Uppsala. The mill, with some 70 employees, has a considerable production capacity, which is not really fully utilised. A pilot project was therefore started in autumn 2014 aimed at increasing productivity.
“We had our sights on the trimmer, an investment to enable us to produce more than previously. We wanted to increase productivity, optimise processes and be more efficient in order to produce more in fewer operating hours,” says Charlotta and adds that there was a basis on which to start a live project.
“Over the last ten years there have been a number of small projects, such as student theses, which have produced very nice reports and analyses of our production. Last autumn we felt it was time to use this material to really carry out improvement work,” she says.
Documenting working methods
The start was when Johan Eriksson was employed on a project basis. He had just completed a logistics project at Setra’s sawmill in Skinnskatteberg and took on a new project leader role at Heby. Johan set up an improvement group together with Pär Magnusson and Pia Tallroth, Shift Coordinators for the trimmer, and Alf Enström, Operations Manager. Johan was also a member of
the steering group which included Mill Manager Charlotta and Production Manager Olle Johansson.
“We started by documenting our working methods. How we worked and what we could do better. It was about setting a baseline which we could then work from. Then we took a closer look at technical solutions. How we can optimise the machines,” says Olle.
The improvement group discussed ideas and possible approaches to raise production and make it more efficient. Among other things the stacker, where the timber is put into complete packets, was identified as an important piece of the puzzle. The key was to get it to run with high availability, since it was often a bottleneck.
The result was immediate. During 2014 the trimmer averaged 2,670 pieces per hour. For the first three months of 2015 the corresponding figure was 3,150 pieces per hour, an increase of almost 500. In May 2015 the average was nearly 3,300 pieces per hour.
“Now we keep better pace with the saw. Previously there could be a much too high stock ahead of the trimmer since the saw couldn’t keep up. This led to extra costs and created a vicious circle. Now the flow is better. We have more time for preventative maintenance. Previously it was like a treadmill, we were forced to run all the time to keep up. Now we can plan better,” says Olle.
“Participation is very important”
As shift coordinators for the trimmer, Pär Magnusson and Pia Tallroth have had critical roles in the project. Partly this has been about getting the employees on board, party really testing and evaluating the ideas put forward.
“At the outset it can be difficult to break up old routines and try something new. It’s always easiest to keep going the way you always have. But discussion is good, even if those involved don’t agree. It shows commitment. And when we have got through it there is a really positive immediate effect. Now it feels highly satisfactory when we have achieved results and figures we didn’t think were possible before,” says Pia and Pär concurs.
“The best part has been getting the employees on board. Participation has been very important. That the employees get their suggestions and ideas tested, too. Now we have really been able to get a grip on things and see what works. When we start to see results, this is also an incentive. Everybody works hard every hour to achieve good figures,” he says.
During the course of the project new, complementary targets have been set, something that has gone down well with the employees who think it is fun to know how they are performing. Among other things the utilisation of the stacker in the trimmer is measured. At the saw the time taken to change dimensions is also measured. Both Pär and Pia emphasise how important Johan Ericsson was as project leader. A spider in the web who could put time into gathering all the ideas and coordinate both planning and execution.
“He has been incredibly valuable from start to finish. It would have been difficult to get through this without someone who saw the whole picture,” says Pia.
New project at the mill
This autumn a new project will start at Setra Heby. This time the focus will be on the saw. But the process is very like the trimmer project.
“We have learnt lessons from the latest project. Much has been very successful. At the same time we have learnt from our mistakes. We will carry this forward when we start to raise productivity in the saw. What I see as positive across Setra is that there is much more focus on productivity than previously. It’s more about optimising use of a facility than focusing on annual volumes and playing catch-up. Just now it feels quite right,” says Charlotta, who both sees potential and notes strong commitment and responsibility.
“We have a lot of balls in the air. I see a facility that can do more, where the employees are keen to make this happen. And the most important thing is that we have laid the foundation for working on improvements more generally. Now we are thinking differently. Living up to Setra’s values – commitment, innovation and responsibility – is key to getting the employees with you,” she says.
“When we breathe values it is much easier to work together. Everybody wants to do the best job they can. It is, for example, very important to catch that commitment. There will also be a positive chase when we innovate and get new figures and new targets to achieve. It fires you up and generates a wonderful team spirit.”
Footnote. At the beginning of August, Charlotta Andersson Jensen, Mill Manager, went on maternity leave. Karl Pontus Larsson has, in addition to his role as Mill Manager at Setra Nyby, stepped in as acting Mill Manager at Heby.
Text: Joakim Gerhardsson
Photo: Emil Nordin