Lean Centre gets businesses going
In an era of pressing climate challenges, Lean is more relevant than ever. KTH’s Lean Centre (Leancentrum) in Södertälje supports companies and organisations in streamlining their processes and ultimately contributing to Sweden’s sustainable growth.
Those who think that Lean is an improvement method that peaked 20 years ago will be put in their place by Johanna Strömgren.
“Lean is synonymous with sustainability and highly relevant. It’s a business strategy that saves time, the environment, energy, resources and even people. We support the customers in developing working methods that are smarter than the existing ones, and the whole purpose is to create sustainable growth,” says Johanna Strömgren, Head of the Lean Centre in Södertälje.
Most of the time she holds courses and workshops for professionals, both at KTH and in the corporate world. KTH’s competence centre, which has been established for around ten years, now has two full-time employees since Oskar Wallström joined last autumn to help further develop the organisation. The squad also includes a researcher and a professor working part time. The core of the Lean Centre concept is to help others help themselves.
“We are not consultants who make business plans or create comprehensive strategies. We moderate workshops and provide management teams and other key individuals in an organisation with knowledge so that they themselves can develop their business. Lean is about methodically making continuous improvements, without needing to work harder.”
KTH’s competence centre started as part of Produktionslyftet (production initiative), initiated by IF metall and Teknikföretagen (the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries), with the aim of helping small and medium-sized enterprises in Sweden with competence development.
“From the outset we focused on the manufacturing industry, but we have seen the Lean philosophy work perfectly in all industries,” says Johanna.
She mentions customers like Arkitektkopia, Rosendal’s Garden Foundation and Indoor Energy, just a few of around 85 companies the Lean Centre has worked with in the past five years alone.
Many companies approach the Lean Centre when they get bogged down and do not understand how to achieve momentum with their change process. Johanna Strömgren helps them to define ambitions and needs and address challenges effectively.
“We then choose a pilot where we can test new ways of working at the company. We help them to get started and disseminate the methods in the organisation, but then it’s the company itself that takes over the improvement work.”
The Lean Centre is also engaged in contract education at KTH, such as Lean Production in cooperation with Chalmers, and its own course Lean Leadership. Thus far, around 300 people have taken the courses. The participants come from a diverse range of businesses, and CEOs can study alongside operators. And the problems and challenges they have are surprisingly similar, suggests Johanna:
“Everyone seems to have difficulty finding time for improvements and developing the business. Mixing the public sector with industry is the best thing we’ve done, and the exchange of experience is very much appreciated.”
After the end of the courses, networks often emerge that live on independently. In addition, the participants have access to the competence networks run by the Lean Centre.
“This is actually why we see the benefit of physical course meetings as opposed to digital courses.”
The competence centre is not solely a way for KTH to share knowledge. Through all the Lean Centre’s contact points, KTH also has the opportunity to identify relevant issues for companies and the challenges they face, which means that the Institute’s researchers can increase the relevance of their own research.
The company networks are also a potential source of data, available to researchers both here and at other universities.”
Currently, Johanna Strömgren is working with how the Lean Centre can expand its organisation in terms of offering.
“We will further align ourselves with the goals of sustainability. Keep an eye out, a lot will happen in the near future.”
Text: Anna Gullers