Lean and clean in Sweden

Lean and clean in Sweden

Xylem’s manufacturing plant in Emmaboda, Sweden, started out more than 100 years ago as a small workshop and foundry. Today customers visit the plant from all over the world to tour the state-of-the-art facility and to see the pumps and other products they ordered in action. Impeller recently visited the plant and was shown around by guides Jerry Cederholm and Karin Ohlsén.

“Many of the visitors to the plant are customers working with larger projects, like wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations and irrigation projects,” says Jerry Cederholm, Internal Communications Project Manager at Xylem. “Visitors come for witness tests, to check that their solution works as expected. The groups include everyone from presidents of companies to people who service the pumps.”

The beginning of Flygt pumps

Visitors to the plant, after being outfitted with safety vests and steel-toed rubber shoes, often start the tour in a building known as The Old Mill. In 1901, Peter Alfred Stenberg bought a foundry and workshop here in order to manufacture equipment and molds for the glassworks in the area. In 1929, engineer Hilding Flygt partnered with Stenberg’s company to begin manufacturing pumps.


Cederholm standing outside The Old Mill.

“One reason Xylem is a good company to work for is because we have such a long history,” Cederholm says. “When we celebrated our 100 anniversary we talked about how the spirit of the old factory environment lives on, and how that has been one of the reason’s for our success.”

Visitors from around the world

Though Cederholm now works with Visitor Services, he has also worked in the plant’s foundry for six years, built pumps on the production line, and worked as a guide. All of the guides at the plant have other main responsibilities, but each gives about three to four tours per year.


A Xylem employee assembles a mid-sized Flygt pump.

“I really enjoy being a guide and meeting people from all over the world,” says Cederholm. “When we had visitors from Saudi Arabia they had never seen a live apple tree before, which was amazing. Of course they also thought it was cold and dark in Sweden, but as long as they leave here thinking about how clean and organized the plant was, how friendly the people were and how good the food was, then I’ve done my job.”

It’s not unusual that many of the visitors to Emmaboda come from abroad, since 98 percent of the products made at the plant are exported. Xylem has grown to be a world leader in water technology, doing business in 150 countries around the world with 12,500 employees. The Emmaboda plant has also grown to be one of the largest private employers in the region, with about 1,100 employees.


Karin Ohlsén giving a guided tour of the plant.

Many visitors to the plant, Cederholm says, are impressed by how clean the air is inside, given that there is a foundry on the premises. “Environmental issues are a top priority for the plant,” he says. “We carefully monitor our emissions and use environmentally friendly oils, paints and resins.”

Constantly improving processes

“It is important that visitors see that we are dedicated to constantly improving our processes,” says Karin Ohlsén, who works as a Project Manager for Manufacturability & Operations Support as well as a guide at Xylem. “As part of our lean manufacturing practices, we have stations set up throughout the plant where every day management can quickly get an overview of production – covering planning, material and any deviations.”


Screens throughout the plant display goals and results for production.

Employees at the plant are part of improvement groups, which regularly review processes to look for ways to become more efficient. “Xylem has a history of continuous improvement,” Ohlsén says. “By organizing our work in this way today, we lay the foundation for more improvements in the future.”

As a Project Manager for Manufacturability & Operations Support, part of Ohlsén’s job is to study how or whether new designs and inventions can be manufactured. “One of Xylem’s strengths is its ability to provide complete solutions for customers,” she says. “We’re not going to rest on our success. Our company culture is to drive innovation forward.”


Karin Ohlsén, Xylem guide and Project Manager for Manufacturability & Operation Support.

by Simon