Saltå Kvarn propelled by Lean

Saltå Kvarn has grown since its start in 1964 and so has the assortment. (Photo: Saltå Kvarn)
Published Jun 05, 2019

Saltå Kvarn has grown rapidly in recent years – albeit without a strategic plan. When it was not possible to work any harder, Saltå Kvarn enlisted the help of the Lean Centre (Leancentrum) at KTH in order to expand further.

Most people have seen the vibrant, 1950s style packaging on the shelves at their local grocery store. Since its inception in 1964, Saltå Kvarn has produced organic, mainly cereal-based food products from its base in Ytterjärna.

55 years later, the rest of the world has caught up with the company and its consistent belief in organic production. Awareness of the environment and what we eat has expanded the appeal of Saltå Kvarn’s products to encompass an increasingly large customer group, but at the same time competition has hardened. In the past two decades alone, Saltå Kvarn has grown from a dozen or so employees in the early 2000s to around 60 employees today.

Sebastian Rydenfalk, business developer at Saltå Kvarn.

“All our operations have sprung up in a time of high demand, and today, when the competition has become tougher, we need to do more with the same resources. The café, shop, mill and bakery have been growing without much thought being put into it,” says Sebastian Rydenfalk, business developer at Saltå Kvarn.

You get to a point where you cannot run faster and work harder. To keep growing, you need to find solutions that make the whole organisation more effective, which became evident at Saltå Kvarn.

“When you find it easier to go to the store and buy a new tool rather than take the time to find the old one, it’s perhaps time to take a look at how you are working.”

Above all, Sebastian felt that the company needed to be better at utilising resources. Everything from the raw materials to the employees, whose creativity and ideas did not have enough space in the organisation. And how would you get the staff to pull in the same direction?

Sebastian Rydenfalk turned to the Lean Centre at KTH in Södertälje, which he was familiar with as a former KTH student. And here he began a journey that would change all aspects of Saltå Kvarn.

Together with Johanna Strömgren at the Lean Centre, the areas most urgently in need of improvement were identified.

“It was about achieving flow efficiency in the work, more satisfied customers, that is, delivering on time and in the right amount, and also getting the employees involved and engaged. For this, there are effective tools, but above all principles to learn from in the production philosophy of Lean.”

Thanks to Lean, Saltå Kvarn reduced set-up times in the mill from 2.5 hours to 50 mins. (Photo: Saltå Kvarn)

The company received a package of courses and lessons learned – knowledge that everyone at the company has benefited from. Initially the focus was on the management team and key individuals who were trained in Lean and change management. Each employee has subsequently received around 60 hours of Lean training, and a few years later, Saltå Kvarn is a “new” company, as Sebastian puts it.

“There are lots of positive effects, from a reduction in set-up times to a significant drop in complaints. But most important is how the culture at the company has changed and is going in the right and desirable direction. Through simple measures like brief, quick physical meetings where all functions meet every day, we have begun to help each other realise that we’re all on the same team.”

Are you fully trained now?

“Oh no, the more you learn the more you want to do,” concludes Sebastian Rydenfalk.

Text: Anna Gullers