I’m writing this blog post from a hotel room in Södertälje, where I’m spending my last week as a Scania trainee. We finish our program with our third and final seminar week, and on Monday the 28th, I begin my next phase at Scania as a production engineer in our brand new BIW-workshop in Oskarshamn. I’ll post my concluding blog post about my trainee experience in a week or two, but first, let me tell you about my final weeks in Russia.
As you may remember, I had a customer visit in September that got cancelled. Or rather, it got postponed to my second to last week at Scania Rus. So on Tuesday the 8th of November, I boarded a plane together with a colleague to make the 6 hour overnight flight to Chita, in the eastern parts of Russia close to the Mongolian border. In Chita, we were joined by another Moscow colleague as well as the manager of Scania’s Chita dealer. Our final destination was Novaya Chara, a small town located in the mountains northeast of Lake Baikal, where we were to meet one of our mining customers and inspect the workshop conditions at their mining site. Flying from Chita to Novaya Chara was quite an experience, seeing as the flight was on a 40-year old Antonov 24 propeller plane. Having had an interest in airplanes since I was very young, this was of course a unique experience for me and something I never thought I’d do! I’m sure my mom wasn’t thrilled about it, but the flight was smooth and we landed safely in one of the most beautiful sceneries I’ve ever seen. We were then driven to our hotel, and had some lunch before taking a walk to the customer’s office in the freezing cold weather. Thankfully, I was dressed appropriately, and I had even grown a beard to give me some extra face padding for the wind chill. However, this tactic actually worked to my disadvantage. There was no wind, but my beard froze to ice maybe 10 seconds after stepping outside thanks to the humid air coming out of my mouth and nose. Thus, when we entered the customer’s warm office building, the ice melted and left a drool-like stain on my shirt. No one seemed to notice though, or maybe they commented in Russian which I obviously wouldn’t know if they did. The meeting didn’t take very long, since we only made some plans for tomorrow’s site visit, and we visited a local museum before returning to the hotel.
The next day, I woke up to see the thermometer outside showing -33 degrees Celsius. After breakfast, we went with together with local management from the customer to the mining site, located in the mountains north of Novaya Chara. The place was unlike anything I’d seen before. In fact, I don’t think many people from Scania in Sweden have been there, so I was very lucky to get to experience it. Being so far away from the nearest Scania workshop, we provide on-site maintenance and repair in facilities provided by the customer. During our site visit, we inspected the facilities and talked to drivers and mechanics to form a perception on what we need to do from Scania’s side in order to ensure the highest uptime possible for the customer. We also inspected and discussed some issues that the customer was experiencing with our vehicles.
Three challenges became clear to me from this visit. First, the challenge of finding competent mechanics who are willing to live and work on mining sites in desolate areas. Second, the challenge of keeping the team of drivers well educated in an environment where the driver turnover is high. And third, the logistical challenge of delivering spare parts to areas where the infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired. In this particular example, the customer does a good job of maintaining the road to the mining site, but this is not always the case. Also, during our visit, it was “only” -30 degrees Celsius and were treated to constant sunshine. However, this was only November, and by January or February the conditions might be much more challenging.
Going back to Moscow, there were no flight seats available for me and my two Moscow colleagues, so in the middle of the night we boarded a train for a 27-hour journey to Bratsk, where we would have to spend one day before flying from there to Moscow. The train journey was spectacular. Snowcapped mountain ranges as far as my eyes could see, and we also rode along the coastline of Lake Baikal before the sun set along the plains west of the lake. A train ride I’ll never forget for sure! We arrived in Bratsk early Saturday morning, and flew the 5 hours back to Moscow on Sunday.
My last week in the office was somewhat hectic. I needed to wrap my project up to my best ability to hand it over to my colleagues, and I also had to write my final report of my 3 months in Russia. Before I knew it, it was Friday morning, and I was waiting for my colleague to take me to Sheremetyevo airport, 90 days after first setting foot on Russian soil. I could not have wished for a better way to conclude my trainee program. I had the pleasure of working with some great colleagues while in Russia, and I also got to see first-hand in what conditions our vehicles are operating in, while also seeing some places of the world I never thought I’d get to visit before coming to Russia. I would like to thank the wonderful people at Scania Rus who made my experience in Russia such a great one! I hope I will have the pleasure of working with you again at some point!
Now I’ve been rambling on for long enough, so I’ll leave you with some pictures from my trip until I return with a post summarizing my experience in the Scania graduate trainee program.