Now, three months later I know a great deal more about valves that were very strange for me at the beginning of the summer and also a lot more about the operations of a multinational company that produces highly tailored high-tech quality solutions for its customers. My main tasks in the Item Data Management Team have been valve and valve part enrichment using the factory’s ERP-system and doing other chores related to the valve part procurement.
Enriching valves – what does it even mean?
I had absolutely no clue what my friend, who already worked for Metso Flow Control, was talking about when he first gave me a hint that Metso is looking for a summer intern whose job would be to enrich valves. After presenting a quick overview of the job, it didn’t seem too tempting. ‘’Well you basically just enter values into to the ERP-system’’, was his sales speech regarding the open position. It didn’t sound like the dream summer job for a soon to be a Master of Science in Technology.
But it was already the end of May and I was still without a working place for the summer, so it was no place for me to be picky and working for Metso sounded like a great opportunity. So, I called the team leader and he had a little bit more precise description about the job. The job would involve dealing with production lines where different types of valves would be assembled. Depending on the valve’s specifications it needed to be pointed on the right track in the factory. This information needed to be entered in the ERP-system.
Almost every valve is different, so it isn’t as easy as it sounds like. In addition, all the valve parts that weren’t yet in the system needed to be recorded into the ERP as well. This basically meant that the supply chain for the items needed to be created, because it wasn’t sure that the item could be made or delivered by a certain supplier. I think I need to point out that the parts aren’t usually just basic stuff you get from every hardware store. Prices and lead times for the items were needed so the Purchasing Team could buy the parts at the right time from the right supplier. That means one needs to send a lot of emails to all around the world to get the required info. So, all in all, valve enrichment is dealing with production planning, item data, procurement and supply chain management. Valve enrichment doesn’t sound so dull anymore, does it.
Item Data Management Team – what do we actually do?
The existence of the Item Data Management Team started about a year ago when Metso Flow Control started to implement lean office methods. I already told the basics about valve enrichment which is the main job for the Item Data Management Team; point a right production line for a valve and get the information needed to get the valve built. That is the job in short. However, to get the job done several procedures are needed. There are now six of us in the team doing the basic chores, plus the team leader, who delegates the tasks and tries to make the teams job as easy as possible.
Item Data Management Team in the Monday morning meeting
Us six try to keep the basic function working as smoothly as we can. We change the chores every now and then, but we all have our favorite chore we like the most. Usually one takes care of the emails, three of us enrich the valve parts, one takes care of the actual valve enrichment and one deals with the pre-enrichment, where the guidelines are given for the more detailed work.
We need to decode the valve type codes so we would know what is the material, size, technical implementation, etc. of the valve. For example, XG06CWEQS6SJSABD, is a type code for a 6-inch ball valve that is made from an acid proof material and has no painting. Of course, there are a lot more specs embedded in that code, but those are the basics. We also need to deal with machining drawings so that we know what kind of part we are asking for the supplier to quote for us. It also means that we need to know what a blind flange and a body cap and all the other valve parts are so we know if there are any mistakes and errors in the information that goes through our team. And then there are the actuators and positioners as well. We also need to understand differences between materials like CF8M, stainless steel, WCB, carbon steel and ALLOY 6, stellite, which are pretty basics but believe me, those were just examples. There is an almost endless list of materials that I have come across with this summer. There are also a lot of tests that can be performed to make sure the quality is good. And then, at last, we should know which supplier a) can provide the item needed with the required quality, b) has a good price for it, c) can deliver it in the required time frame. These are few of the things I have been doing and practicing the whole summer.
What summer at Metso has taught me?
The summer at Metso has been a lot of fun. It has also been a great adventure to the world of valves. I have learnt something new every day. The Item Data Management Team has been a lookout spot with a view to all the possible directions. I have learnt about production, project management, controller functions, procurement, item data management, planning, coffee breaks, software renewal projects and other important stuff related to the functions of a company operating all over the world. My understanding of supply chain management has improved tremendously and the knowledge of the fields we serve in the valve business has grown tremendously.
If we think about more concrete things, I can say that my IT-skills have improved during the summer a lot, even though I am sure that I wasn’t the worst computer handler at the beginning of the summer either. Still, using computer eight hours a day makes a difference. You learn small tricks every day that make you more efficient. It gives you time to focus on the things that matter when you don’t have to spend time on doing manual work that can be done by automation in few seconds.
One of the greatest lessons has still been quite simple one. Work is fun when you are surrounded by nice and fun people who are helpful and know what they are doing. I think that the importance of a good team and good atmosphere in it can never be highlighted enough. The team leader has a big role in creating the team and forming the team’s spirit. In my opinion our team and the spirit in it has been great.
Actually, I have had so much fun in the Item Data Management Team, so I decided to stay here as a part time worker while finishing my studies. I hope I would also be able to do my Master’s Thesis for Metso. That process is still in a very early phase, but if good ideas come in mind, my email is open for suggestions. We will see what comes after that.
Written by: Juho Lampimäki, Item Data Coordinator, Trainee, Item Data Management Team