In Nykvarn the driver is the customer
At Ahola Transport’s optimisation centre in Nykvarn, south of Stockholm, two principles steer daily activities. Firstly, that everyone needs to feel included in the shared work, secondly, that the truck drivers are the actual customers.
“Here, the truck drivers are the customers. They are the people we need to serve so that they, in turn, can get to their customers – factories, warehouses and shops – as quickly as possible,” says Site Manager Juha Kuronen at Ahola Transport’s load optimisation centre in Sweden’s Nykvarn. There, every working day is about welcoming the trucks, optimising loads and making sure they make it to ferries and customers on time. The biggest challenge for Ahola’s optimisation centre in Sweden is what lies between the centre and ferries to Finland.
“Stockholm’s traffic is one key factor. If everything goes well, it takes an hour and 40 minutes from here. But a snowstorm can mean delays. It once took 12 hours,” says Kuronen.
In normal cases, trucks must be loaded by seven p.m. to make it to the ferries.
“That is our biggest challenge in addition to the downtown traffic. The fact that we manage it is very much down to our forklift drivers,” says Kuronen.
Planning ahead helps
Weather is something that the centre in Nykvarn can do little about, and in order to avoid traffic jams, all they can do is reroute trucks and reload them even more efficiently.
“We always try to check the situation and talk to the drivers that have come that way, but all we can really do is load the trucks as quickly as possible to make sure they make it on time,” says Kuronen.
The majority of the trucks passing through the centre are rushing to meet the ferries. The flow of goods through the centre is mostly from Sweden to Finland. At first glance, the centre may appear small, but when you take a closer look, Nykvarn is swarming with activity.
“Around 40 trucks are reloaded here each day and on a hectic Friday it can be as many as 60,” says Kuronen.
The centre in Nykvarn is optimally located as close to Stockholm as possible, but also near the E4 motorway to the south and the E20 to the west. The Swedish optimisation centre has been located in Nykvarn since 2008 and it employs around ten people who work Monday to Saturday in two shifts.
“2017 we also got a transport planner of our own, which has been a great help. We can now load the trucks even more effectively because the planner can go to the loadcentre and see how things are going,” says Kuronen.
An ordinary day in Nykvarn starts early in the morning. That’s when two forklift drivers and a shift manager arrive.
“We begin loading goods onto the trucks that have arrived late in the evening or during the night,” says Liza Johansson.
She has worked as a forklift driver in Nykvarn for just over a year and enjoys the work.
“We have a great team. The head office also provides great support and the truck drivers give us useful feedback,” she says.
Her interest in trucks goes back quite a long way and she discovered an interest in driving forklifts not long before starting to work for Ahola at Nykvarn.
“I like playing Tetris in my head,” she explains.
After 2 p.m., trucks heading for ferries to Finland begin rolling in to be reloaded and optimised. The evening shift, with up to four forklift drivers, arrives at 3 p.m. Then begins the rush.
“We have a little time to discuss the situation but then it’s just to roll up your sleeves and get cracking,” Johansson says.
At times they are rushed off their feet but Liza Johansson appreciates the challenge.
“I like having lots to do,” she says.
Success through teamwork
Although they already have effective working methods, the Nykvarn team are all convinced that they can do even better.
“I have faith in our setup, but you should never rest on your aurels – there’s always something to improve,” says Juha Kuronen.
His philosophy is that the operations should be developed together with the personnel, which is why he wants to offer employees both freedom and responsibility.
“I personally like to see people grow. I’m happy to give them responsibility. Everyone needs to see the big picture and participate. Here, everyone does everything. I also drive the forklifts every now and then,” says Kuronen.
When everyone learns a little bit of everything, it helps you avoid errors and deviations. Instead, the result is improved efficiency and quality.
“We are absolutely headed in the right direction, but in this sector you have to take it step by step. That’s the key to success,” says Kuronen.