Summing up Theme Programme Financed by the Swedish Transport and Communication Research Board, KFB
Report, 1998

This publication reports on a long-term research and development work financed by a research foundation (The Swedish Transport and Communication Research Board, i.e. Kommunikationsforskningsberedningen KFB in Swedish), who financed Engström during two different three years periods of time. This with an intervening academic evaluation which was officially published by the foundation/research board by three foreign (external) professors, while they at the same time were comparing the efforts by Engström (and his research colleague at Chalmers University of Technology) with similar efforts of two other research groups at two other Swedish universities, i.e., at Linköping and Lund (the actual evaluation report was published officially by this research foundation) (the reference is actually available publically as have been printed by this research foundation) ("Evaluation of KFB-funded Research of Freight Transport, authours Peter Klaus, Tage Skjøtt-Larsen and Luk N. Van Wassenhove) (i.e. KFB-Information 1992:2). 

Even though the author's research group gained the most favourable evaluation of these three parties, was still this not something that was judged favourably within Chalmers where during this period of time was exposed for drawn out (for several years) and for Engström (very) annoying case of building facilities dilemma ("lokalärende" or ”lokalförsörjningärende”  in Swedish), which after several years gave a substantial indemnification from the headmaster of Chalmers. 

This since this (very) case (dilemma) was evaluated by an external professional due to actions of the head of work environmental matters at Chalmers (Lars-Göran Bergqvist) (the external evaluation for this dilemma was a report for Chalmers ("Lärande i arbetsmiljön. En utvärdering av lokalplaneringen för forskningsgruppen i materialhantering", authour Hans-Olle Frummering) (Hälsa & Arbetsliv. Chalmers Tekniska Högskola 2001-01-01).

Comment (excuse the authour for being somewhat far too wordy here): This publication is important since it illustrates administrative preconditions, our environment and some of the more practical cooperation procedures with companies (i.e. in the context of what is registered in Chalmers Public Library CPL). It also (as an example of one specific administrative precondition) shows the extensive archive with various documents saved by us from the Volvo Automobile Company's assembly plants in Uddevalla and in Kalmar (no one else would, in fact, have been able to carry out such a documentation due to antagonisms and strains within Volvo due to these two closing-down decisions (allowing recognised persons from Chalmers to get hold of the documents was in some respects fairer decision. But, we had to master this situation, which in fact required some social skills as well as very good argumentations (it was by no means easy).

We had to develop routines and practices to carry out these two bewildering efforts that were conducted one year apart (how to manage to document two complete assembly plants?). For example, each and every binder were registered in tables by the word-processing programme Word on a personal computer (there were thousands and thousands of binders, which after some local clearing out of e.g. redundancies etc. were brought to Chalmers, i.e. to the basement of the experimental workshop we finally got inside this university). It must be mentioned that most of the local Volvo personnel kindly tried to help us out (e.g. in Kalmar were two girls typing in e.g. the sequence numbers denotation and finding-place after we had cleared out various redundancies).

However, this archive has nowadays been taken over by the Volvo's Historical Archive, who by the way have mistreated this material, as well as also being ill-behaving towards us. We mean that they neglected our earlier work to register all of the documents and they were by no means communicating with us for years of the transfer had been completed. And, most annoying they were not fulfilling the original written agreement with Chalmers (a written agreement with the earlier manager of this historical archive – as well as also responsible for the Volvo Museum in Arendal – was finally after some years after the transfer totally neglected). 

It thus, as partly already hinted, took several years to deal with this matter after having transported the documents to their basement instead of ours, i.e. this without with getting in touch (footnote). However, the new manager for Volvo Museum, who nowadays as before is responsible for the historical archive, is the person to blame for this particular situation. He considered the documents being Volvos property to do as he pleased with, but this was not true since we from the very beginning had written agreements with the two assembly plants in question, as well as also thereafter a similar written agreement with the earlier manager (see comment below). This was a documentation effort that proved to be rather meaningless for us, this since we really never prospected these documents academically (always too much to do at Chalmers). This protracted process definitively illustrates these companies (Volvo Automobile and Truck Companies) lack of interest in anything dealing these particular plants (as an afterthought, we ought to have let the local Volvo personnel thrown all the documents in the trash basket from the very start) (creating a mystery of the two pioneering assembly plants) (this was situation would definitely have been the results without our action).

On the other hand, the help gained from Chalmers during almost two decades was neither impressive, in fact, Engström had to pay rent for these document by his own man money gained through the cooperation with Volvo Uddevalla plant (a substantial grant/donation was given to him, which he could have taken privately, instead). Help to maintain the written agreement proved to be a rather fruitless process (Chalmers was afraid of creating a conflict due to massive investments and ongoing co-optations with Volvo) (besides, Engström was almost retired that this situation became in focus) (see some of the other publications registered in Chalmers Public Library CPL).

Finally, to summarise, the central departments at Volvo in Gothenburg are or were the deceiving parties in this example, who as noted are not keen on the matters just briefly touched upon above and below. Moreover, at Chalmers (there the documentation was first were harboured and later on moved to rented premises financed by Engström between 1992 and late 2010s, i.e. more than two decades) was the situation also somewhat problematic (these matters were actually never resolved during the passing decades, and the projection of new building facilities for a number of departments never included considerations of these documents (by the way, still are an appropriate archive by no means available for the scientists). A more general contempt of some sorts of formalised knowledge in form of archive materials is likely at hand within both of the two organisations just mentioned above (i.e. Volvo and Chalmers) (the authour have similar experiences at Chalmers, which underlines a general inability to deal with the management of the building facilities). On the other hand, to be fair, it was a vast number of documents (there everything available was saved and carefully registered by us or by the people helping us out). Material which now never could be available for scientist again, and which to some extent is mutilated/destroyed (see comment below). Though, to prospect, these documents obviously calls for some extra skills.

Footnote: Most probably was the material just thrown in trucks by the staff from the Volvo Historical Archive at the period of time when these were fetched at our rented external store. This without considering that the binders belonged different categories, and thereafter crammed into far to small building facilities at the Volvo's Historical Archive's premises (why at all taking care of unnoticed documentations if you cannot take professional care of it?) (the author ought to have guarded the actual Volvo transportation the external store and also inspected the Volvo premises before) (to exemplify, the author and a research colleague visited these premises at Volvo after some years and the material was then still harboured disordered in pallets within an overfilled premises there almost not pallet could be moved at all) (at this very moment where the new manager in full agreement with the conditions of the written contract with the earlier manager, but as said before this changed later on after some years).

While at Chalmers, on the other hand, were the two documentations organised in bookshelves in accordance with the sequence number, i.e. as collected and registered at each assembly plant. While a delimited amount of material was saved en masse (in bulk), but this material was still on the shelves or located on the floor. Cramming it into pallets in an unorganised manner and then still yet cramming it once again at the Volvo premises, meant that the original logic became lost. This means that each pallet in the external Chalmers store comprised a defined number of sequenced binders of documents, there were two documentations (Kalmar and Uddevalla) and apart from the sequenced numbered binders there was the unregistered material (i.e. saved en masse due to time restriction while collection at each assembly plant).

A comment and important: The documentation work from our side was (rather naturally) organised in accordance with the process and organisation of each of the two assembly plants (such as dealing with each physical and/or organisational unit at a time) (several visits at each such unit were called for due to a number of different reasons). Thus, where the two documentations not following the Swedish Archive Standard with rather unmanageable PC-based systems (which the Volvo’s Historical Archive rather unfortunately practised or was forced to use). The later archive standard would in fact have fragmented the two documentations, and thereby not enhanced a deeper understanding of each assembly plant (such standards are used for saving/recognition of individual documents or series thereof) (interrelations between binders and documents are thereby entirely lost) (this was clear for the earlier manager and considered in the agreement between Chalmers and the historical archive, and Engström was originally supposed to help Volvo out by packing up the material at Volvo. But this was not considered by the new manager (who – as said before – in fact, neglected the registering and work carried out by the scientists at Chalmers).

preconditions for research and development work

long work cycle times

work structuring

learning and training

assembly work



materials feeding techniques

management of builing facilities

manufacturing technology

restructuring of information systems


Tomas Engström

Department of Transportation and Logistics

Subject Categories

Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified


Department of Logistics and Transportation

More information

Latest update