LearningWell’s project with steel producer SSAB centres on helping them to develop system solutions in, for example, automation and more general business-orientated system solutions.
Rikard Kindbom heads plant technology and steel at SSAB in Oxelösund, on the south east coast of Sweden. He is especially proud of Proview, their process control system developed in-house, which is now also available as open source software.
LearningWell has helped SSAB to develop automation solutions based on the Proview platform for more than 10 years.
“Being a skilled system architect is not enough. To do a good job you also need to have strong process awareness, know what’s happening on the factory floor and be open to new thinking. This also applies to our consultants.”
This is where LearningWell comes in. Rikard says that they have worked with SSAB at all levels, and therefore know which questions they need to ask to get things done. “What works especially well with LearningWell is the simplicity. It’s a flat company where I’m able to get in touch with the right person straight away, which also means we have a more familial relationship.”
Krister Tunon, project leader and TSO for, amongst other areas, material planning, agrees that LearningWell’s process knowledge simplifies their work.
“Because we work with relatively complex applications, consultants can’t just pile straight in. They need to mature into the role and learn a lot about how steel is produced. Ideally, we’d employ them, but we can’t. So the next best thing is having a long-term co-operation.”
For Krister, the bulk of the co-operation is about optimising the material planning system. Often at a level that is not visible for users. “But in the end, this results in improved lead times, and we obtain more steel from the raw material. And with our volumes, considerable sums of money can be lost or saved with these systems.”
More than just system development
Peter Karlsson is co-founder and CEO of LearningWell. He says that co-operation is about more than just system development.
“With SSAB we’ve had to learn how steel is cast and how to optimise plants of this size, which are not things you tend to associate with IT companies. We really want to see SSAB succeed, regardless of how clichéd that sounds. For this to work, we need to work very closely to the customer, from when the coal arrives at the port to when finished steel is shipped. Their business is our business.”
LearningWell and SSAB are currently working together in Oxelösund on introducing agile working methods in their development projects.
“It’s really exciting and challenging because it’s the first time this plant has worked like this,” says Peter. “Agile methods are about working with short delivery times. It’s about delivering product quickly. It’s about making minor changes that enable clients to understand and familiarise themselves with them. This allows clients who use the system at SSAB to be involved and influence it as it develops. This creates an entirely different level of openness in and credibility of the project, which in turn creates a sense of security for the client. Because we constantly evaluate and re-prioritise the product, we can also guarantee that users ultimately get what they really need.”
Peter explains that there are a large number of difficulties related to working according to classical requirement specifications.
“It’s not about people being bad at preparing or following specifications. Rather, it’s impossible to get the right specifications in place from the outset, and realise what consequences this will have for production. When you’re agile, the client accrues value at an early stage of the process in the form of part-deliveries that make it possible to evaluate results and manage requirements accurately. Perhaps some things on the list are no longer as valuable as they were, while new ideas need to be prioritised because they will generate more bang for the buck.”
Krister concludes the interview by saying that he believes that SSAB and LearningWell retain a professional pride that has dissipated elsewhere.
“It’s like that old saying: we’re not simply chiselling and stacking stones, we’re building cathedrals. We’re proud of getting involved in things – heart and soul – to do a really good job. And that we never compromise on quality.”
SSAB is a leading global manufacturer of advanced high-strength, quenched and tempered steel. The company’s annual production capacity in Sweden, Finland and the US amounts to 8.8 million tonnes of carbon steel.
Want to know more?
Peter Karlsson, CEO East
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