As Trelleborg proudly celebrates the remarkable 39-year anniversary of Torben's journey with the company, we are honored to sit down with him and delve into his experiences, memories and insights from his long and fulfilling career.
From his beginnings as an Application Engineer for industrial PTFE products to his leadership role in the Global Aerospace Group, Torben's unwavering passion for aerospace and technical expertise has left an indelible mark on the industry. Join us as we delve into his story and discover the future of aerospace sealing technology.
Tell us about yourself. How long have you been with the company, and what positions have you held during your tenure?
It all started 39 years ago when I joined W.S. Shamban in Helsingør, Denmark, in August 1984. Initially, I worked as an Application Engineer for industrial PTFE products. However, my true passion lies in aerospace, and fate smiled upon me when I got the opportunity to manage the Aerospace Seals segment in Europe. Being an Aerospace "nerd," I couldn't resist jumping at the chance. We built up a group of aerospace specialists in the UK, France, Italy and Germany, and sales soared as we secured major programs like A320 and Typhoon.
After about a decade, I felt a bit restless and requested a transfer to help with the spring energized seal transition to our factory in the UK. My family and I moved to Somerset in England and it was an incredible experience. Working with such a diverse product range exposed me to demanding applications across industries like oil & gas, food & beverage, chemical transportation, and, of course, aerospace. I particularly enjoyed collaborating with the oil & gas team globally.
Things took an exciting turn when Trelleborg acquired Busak & Shamban in 2003, prompting a stronger focus on the aerospace segment. I was offered the chance to lead this segment, and it was exhilarating to be back in the aerospace world, albeit on a larger scale, with a broader product range, including airframe seals.
Trelleborg's unwavering support enabled continuous growth even in the face of challenges. We adapted to the changing aerospace market, forming a Global Aerospace Group, which proved to be a wise decision, propelling us to new heights. The recent formation of the Trelleborg Aerospace BU is the natural progression of this success, positioning us for an exciting future.
As I look back on this incredible journey, I feel grateful for the opportunity to contribute to Trelleborg's success and the aviation industry as a whole. The passion for aerospace that drove me from the start continues to fuel my commitment to excellence, and I am excited to pass on my knowledge and experience to the next generation of engineers in our organization. Here's to 39 years of aerospace adventure and to the promising years that lie ahead!
As an employee, what are your main responsibilities in your current role? How has your role evolved over the years?
I have always had my focus on the technical side of our products, as I firmly believe that the key to our success is that we provide superior products to the customers. If we can help the customer design a more efficient aircraft, the costs of our products will pay off many times in the aircraft’s lifetime. And of course, improve safety at the same time.
Participating in technical associations like SAE International and working with other aerospace engineers deeply involved in the hydraulics systems to develop industry standards, has been a great experience, and the ten years I was the chairman of the Seals Committee were very inspiring. Over the years I have gone from engineering to sales and on to marketing but I have always tried to keep the technical aspect.
What has kept you motivated and engaged while working at Trelleborg for an extended period?
A key motivation is all the good people I have worked with over the years. And the relatively flat management structure gives more freedom to execute your own ideas. My interest in aerospace has motivated me a lot to be able to work on almost all aircraft projects globally. Our products may seem very small, but if we took them all out of the worldwide fleet of aircraft there would be no more flying! Seeing the Typhoon, the A380, and all the other aircraft I have worked on, in which we have so many products, fly for the first time at the big airshows has been great! And knowing that some of the products I helped design for the A320 family still are there after 30 years makes me proud.
With your wealth of experience, how do you envision the future of aerospace within Trelleborg? What trends or developments do you see shaping the industry, and how do you plan to adapt?
With the development of our superior sealing systems and sealing materials, we can now say that aircraft can be designed to be “Sealed for Life”, so we have probably reached the pinnacle of performance within hydraulic seals. However, new challenges await our engineers, in the form of rotary sealing for the new more electric aircraft, and certainly also the sealing needed onboard hydrogen powered aircraft. Luckily, we are already deeply involved in these new trends. On a personal level, I’m now focusing a lot on training and passing on the experience I have to the new people in our organization.
What advice would you give to people at the beginning of their careers, based on your own professional journey? Any key lessons or principles that have helped you succeed and grow?
Patience! Stay a little longer, so you become really good at what you do, rather than jumping on to the next company. Look for sideway jumps within the organization to build up your expertise and network. Don’t be afraid to reach out to colleagues in other units – typically, they will be pleased to work with you, and what may seem like a problem may just be a question of understanding each other better.
Outside of work, how do you spend your free time?
Riding motorbikes has been a big part of my life since I had my first moped many years ago. It is a great equalizer, where you meet people from all walks of life with a common interest. Riding Route 66, and other long-distance trips, have been real highlights. Flying in vintage aircraft such as DC-3, Spitfire and a jet Trainer S211 keeps my passion for flight alive. Walking my dog in the woods and along the beach when I’m at home is really de-stressing and allows time for thinking. And now of course I’m at the age where grandkids start to occupy some of my time.
Torben's 39-year journey with Trelleborg stands as a testament to dedication, passion, and expertise. From his start as an Application Engineer to his leadership in the Global Aerospace Group, Torben's contributions have helped shape the aerospace industry from within. As the future brings new challenges, Torben's focus on training and mentoring the next generation of engineers ensures that Trelleborg remains at the forefront of aerospace sealing technology. Congratulations on this momentous milestone, Torben, and thank you for your incredible commitment to excellence!
For more photos of Torbens adventures, please check our Instagram account: