Fit for the future: Svanehøj enhances lean skills in the factory


It takes rethinking of processes to handle a rapidly increasing order backlog and more complex products. Svanehøj and UCN act2learn have designed a unique educational program for all employees at the Svanehøj factory as part of a MADE research project.


In late 2021 Svanehøj initiated a comprehensive lean-based remodelling of its production facility in Denmark as part of an ambitious growth strategy. By developing a new factory layout with state-of-the-art automation solutions, the goal is to increase the factory output by 50%.


To achieve this ambitious goal, Svanehøj teamed up with UCN act2learn (part of the University College of Northern Denmark) to design an educational program for all employees at the factory as part of a research project in the Danish cluster for manufacturing, MADE.


With the educational program, Svanehøj aims to establish a mutual ‘lean language’ among the production teams.


- The hardest part about lean is the culture. It is essential to understand that lean is a way of thinking rather than a mere tool. It is a learning process where we must constantly strive to perform better and smarter than we did the day before. With this educational program, we make the theoretical aspects of lean more apprehensible for our employees, ultimately enhancing and strengthening our skillsets, says Mikkel Bülow Bundgaard Sørensen, Head of Production at Svanehøj.


New technologies call for an upskilling of the workforce

The educational program at Svanehøj is based on the ICoED method (Industrial Collaborative Educational Design), used to design upskilling programs for industry 4.0. The method has been developed to help companies deal with the challenge that the required skills among workers change when production lines are upgraded with new digitized technologies. It is a human centered approach to education design that ensures the voice of the learner in the process.


- The ICoED is the best educational design method I have ever worked with. The employees are involved in the design process and contribute to developing a practice-oriented educational program with their factory floor as a classroom, says Tina Donslund, Group HR Director at Svanehøj.


The training program at Svanehøj consists of an introductory and a specialized part. The introductory part aims to bring everyone up to a common level of understanding and knowledge. The specialized part focuses more on the specific job functions on the factory floor.


What if we upskill everyone?

The collaboration between Svanehøj and UCN act2learn is part of the initiative MADE Learning Factory, which aims to understand how companies can absorb and distribute knowledge more efficiently using digital learning tools. At UCN act2learn, they have often seen that the appropriate knowledge does not apply effectively within an organization if only the specialists are upskilled.


- So, what happens if we upskill everyone? That is what we want to find out. Together with Svanehøj, we have co-designed the framework for education. We work from a theoretical starting point, but we pull it into a more practice-oriented direction focusing on the actual workplace thanks to the accessibility of Svanehøj’s production facility, says Jonas Frendrup, consultant at UCN act2learn.