From circular thinking to optimising truck engines and industrial kitchen pots
We continue our journey to meet and get to know more of our experts for a better tomorrow. This time we’re heading for the Swedish capital, Stockholm. We’re going to meet a tomorrow expert who is one of eight product development engineers who know all there is to know about problem-solving and optimizing everything from products to production lines.
Spring is in the air as we travel southwest from Central Station and arrive at Liljeholmen where we meet with Görel Wirenborn, the young product development engineer who managed to time her graduation in the middle of a pandemic. A job market, which just a few months before had been crying out for the skills such as hers, was suddenly cautious and hesitant. So when Görel graduated as an engineer in design and product development from the Royal Institute of Technology in the spring of 2020, there weren’t many jobs on the horizon.
So what do you do if you’re a creative multipotentialite, and a newly graduated engineer with an interest in art and are a dab hand at knitting? You could soak up some art at Stockholm’s many galleries, hang around in wool shops or just chill with your classmates who are in the same position as you are. But engineers don’t think like that. At least not Görel. She wanted to do what she’s trained for, not spend her days in coffee shops. It’s this resolute mindset that takes her away from her beloved hometown, and she ends up in Skåne, more precisely at Sturup, the large yellow building which is also known as Malmö Airport. LFV had a place for her as a validation engineer.
However, when a job as a product development engineer came up at Sigma Industry East North, back home in Stockholm, the choice was easy. This is what she had trained for and this is what she wanted to do. “If I’m honest it was the job that attracted me and not the employer. I didn’t know that much at all about Sigma. But I do now, and I already feel how my ambitions are being taken seriously and I also see the many opportunities there are for personal development,” says Görel about her workplace.
Before studying engineering, Görel dreamt of working in space technology and/or product design. And it all started with her love of science. She especially loved maths and that was what led her to technology. “When I was younger I asked myself, what job should you do if you love maths? Then when I found out what an engineer does, I immediately knew what I wanted to study,” she says, as to why she ended up at KTH.
Görel is one of eight in a product development group that works on a variety of different assignments. The time they spend out with the customers varies and depends largely on where in the process they are. They are responsible for the entire project cycle; promoting themselves, finding and pitching for assignments and then carrying them out. A varied work environment requiring different skills for different situations. “In my group, all eight of us are both salesmen and engineers. It really is wonderfully varied and it’s my dream job. One day I’ll be writing quotes, the next working on concepts and prototypes and another day I pull on my overalls and go into the workshop to assemble something we have made,” says Görel.
“One day I’ll be writing quotes, the next working on concepts and prototypes and another day I pull on my overalls and go into the workshop to assemble something we have made.”
At the moment, the group are doing a lot of work with the development department at one of the country's leading truck manufacturers. Görel has been involved in developing a test rig that measures the flow of air and exhaust fumes in truck engines. The test rig collects data which is then analysed and sent back to the design department, where the information is used to fine-tune, change and make the engine better, more efficient and cleaner. Görel loves the chemistry that arises when a group that really loves what they do are working together. “We tend to stand out a little on those occasions when it’s only us women in the group that go out on an assignment. But it doesn’t last long, because we all love to be in the research environment and that special atmosphere when us nerds get together. And that’s what matters most,” says Görel.
In addition to optimising engines, there are a lot of assignments that involve developing production aids for industry. Görel and her colleagues also get the job of reviewing entire production lines and optimising them based on aspects such as sustainability, ergonomics and economy. “Regardless of which industry you look at, there are endless opportunities for improvements in production. Things that were not even thought of 50 years ago are now at the top of the priority list,” says Görel, about how new technology and new ways of thinking create new and better ways of producing better goods. “For example, we work with a company that, among other things, makes big saucepans for school kitchens and large households. Preparing hundreds of portions is a heavy job and we have been commissioned to improve the ergonomics of these pans which, in turn, improves the working conditions of the school kitchen staff,” says Görel, when she talks about having to chop and change between ergonomic pots and efficient truck engines.
“Regardless of which industry you look at, there are endless opportunities for improvements in production.”
Görel and her colleagues are optimistic about the future, in which their skills and experiences will continue to be highly sought after. There is a huge need for efficiency and optimisation in industry, and in society as a whole. They are also excited about the opportunities that exist in traditional industry where there are lots of fantastic production lines that can be even better, safer, more comfortable to work with and infinitely more efficient. “It is satisfying to work with product development in our industry. The production lines may be old, but the platforms and the basic idea are often brilliant, which makes the potential for improvement even greater,” says Görel, when explaining how smart but small changes can make a big difference.
When it comes to a better tomorrow Görel and her group are definitely experts. They work almost exclusively with assignments where sustainability is one of the most important parameters. Thanks to improved efficiency industry is well on its way to becoming cleaner. Things are moving away from fossil fuels to electricity and even the pneumatic tools, which just eat up energy, are being replaced by electrically powered tools. The restructuring of the production industry will make it cleaner and more sustainable. It won’t be cheap, far from it, but in the long run, it will also be sustainable financially. “Technology is definitely valuable, but we’re not going to save the world by simply making more things, even though they may seem smart and climate-friendly. I believe more in circular work patterns, taking care of and re-evaluating ‘old’ solutions and getting better at extending the life cycles of machines and products,” says Görel when describing how unsustainable it is that rental kick-bikes only have a lifespan of three months. She believes that technology is the solution to challenges of this kind in the future.
“Technology is definitely valuable, but we’re not going to save the world by simply making more things, even though they may seem smart and climate-friendly. I believe more in circular work patterns, taking care of and re-evaluating ‘old’ solutions and getting better at extending the life cycles of machines and products.”
Whenever we talk to our tomorrow's experts about their ‘dream assignment’, we get the answer that they are already on it. Görel is no exception but she has more to say about that. Her dream is to always be able to work with exciting, complicated projects and industries that constantly challenge her. As an example, she mentions an assignment linked to the automotive industry's electrification, where the focus is on finding solutions that give fossil fuels a wide berth. The aim is to give a well-oiled industry a cleaner future.
As well as being passionate about developing and optimising solutions for her clients in the industry, she wants to continue to develop on a personal level. Both as a person and as an engineer. And she is happy to be one of Sigma’s experts for a better tomorrow. “I see ‘expect a better tomorrow’ as a promise, not only to our customers but also to me as an employee. A promise that I will get the opportunity to develop career-wise. I also like the fact that it’s a promise with attitude because by saying publicly that things will get better, it makes me want to take my share in making it happen,” says Görel.
Our time with Görel is almost up and we thank her for giving us a much clearer picture of her exciting and varied job as a product developer, involving everything from the development of diesel engines and boilers to the electrification of the automotive industry and circular thinking.