We had a chat with Maja Bärring, project manager for Digitala Stambanan Produktion, almost a year after the project started. How are you?

I am good. I have started up my work as project manager again after a summer holiday in Sweden, mainly spent in our sailboat on the west coast.

That sounds lovely! Digitala Stambanan Produktion is a continuation of the previous project Digitala Stambanan that started a few years ago. Can you tell us a little about the background of the new project?

The project name Digitala Stambanan is, with Stambanan, a reference to the railway system in Sweden built during the industrial revolution, which changed how products and goods could be transported in Sweden and how business was done. The new infrastructure provided new opportunities. Today, the digital infrastructure with platforms and digital solutions can offer new opportunities. Using digital platforms and other digital solutions can change how the Swedish manufacturing industry exchanges data and information and, thus also, how we do business with each other.

When we finished the previous project, there was a continued interest from both involved parties and the financier Vinnova to continue working on the same theme. It allowed us to put together an application with the vision of increasing the use of digital platforms in value chains in the Swedish manufacturing industry and recruiting stakeholders to be part of the project consortium. Our partners represent several areas that are interested in the subject; academia, manufacturing companies that form value chains and have a supplier/customer relationship with each other, technology and system suppliers, and network organizations that represent even more companies within the manufacturing industry in Sweden.

The project was granted in July 2021 by Vinnova, but the project started in practice in September 2021. The application process began many months before that. What are your experiences working with the application for such a large and complex project with many parties?

During the application, it has been essential to set the project’s overall goal and expected effects and break them down into actual activities without making it too narrow, thus reducing the scope for those involved to influence. We run the project to reach the common overall goals while at the same time balancing it against what each project partner can benefit from and learn from our collaboration in the project.

The result of the application was a project organized into five work packages. Can you tell us about these?

The first three work packages are organized around three value chains. In these, we can work with manufacturing companies to identify the current situation and the challenges we would like to address with the help of digital solutions. Our technical project partners are also essential in working on how we can solve the challenges with their technologies and system solutions.

Work package 4 involves the Stena Industry Innovation Lab (SII-Lab), a testbed at Chalmers. In the testbed, we can test new solutions that address challenges we identify in the value chains. Here we will be able to work with demonstrators and show in practice what values can be created using digital platforms and digital solutions. In the work package, we also develop the methodology that we call Reseguiden (the Travel guide for industrial digitization), which we will use when mapping digitalization maturity in the value chain companies. The methodology is based on results from previous projects and uses the German model Industrie 4.0 Maturity Index for measuring digitalization maturity.

Work package 5 acts for collaboration, networking, and dissemination. We have activities with the parallel project Digitala Stambanan IndTech, Combient’s member companies, our project partners’ network that extends beyond the project, etc., to get both external dissemination and feedback on the project’s results and work. The training program Ingenjör4.0 with short course modules in Industry 4.0 and smart industry is also a resource and asset in the project to be able to work with skill enhancement and training efforts.

How do you think the work has progressed on an overall level in the project so far?

The work has started in the respective work packages with the value chains, where we have identified the focus and have begun identifying the current state of working in the manufacturing companies. New project partners have also entered the project during the year to complete value chains.

Overall for the project, we have had regular project meetings where the themes of the meetings have touched on areas that are important for the project to be able to achieve the set goals and expected effects; for example, on the topic of demonstrators and the use of the SII-Lab testbed, the training opportunities with Ingenjör 4.0 and how we should use it in the project, as well as the status and progress of each work package.

For communication and information sharing, we have regular status meetings for the entire project on the last Wednesday of the month to share what is happening in each work package and information relevant for everyone involved in the project.

In your role as project manager for Digitala Stambanan Produktion, what are your reflections from the first year?

There is great interest and commitment to the project from all project partners, and there have been many parallel activities during the year to contribute to the overall goal. During the year, we have arranged project meetings to meet each other physically on site in SII-Lab, and then we have been able to have longer sessions together. But we have also had many digital meetings that helped us get a pulse on the project. Without the digital possibilities, it would have been more difficult with such a geographically dispersed group of project members.

Now the work on the project is picking up speed again after the summer holidays. How do you see the continued work on the project?

In all the value chains, we are at a stage where we are planning how to map the current state using the Industry 4.0 Maturity Index method and The “travel guide” (results from the Digitala Stambanan project) which we employ in the project to develop further. This work will pick up now that we are back to project activities. Work with demonstrators is also on the agenda for each value chain.

We will also, during the autumn, continue to work with our partners to disseminate the project’s results and exchange them with other projects and stakeholders.

You will soon take on exciting new challenges in becoming a mother. What happens organizationally in the project when you take parental leave for a while?

We have some changes taking place in the project management where Johan Stahre from Chalmers, with support from Martin Friis, will be my replacement as project manager for Digitala Stambanan Produktion for the time I am on parental leave, and our doctoral colleague Arpita Chari will be leading work package 1.

Thanks, Maja, for this chat, and we wish you GOOD LUCK!