Fernando Pan joined Trelleborg Oil and Marine seven years ago, following a wealth of experience working with rubber-based products. In this interview, we discover what it takes to work as a development engineer for Trelleborg, and the unique challenges and opportunities this presents.
Hi Fernando. Would you mind telling us a bit about your career to date?
Engineering has always appealed to me. I enjoy problem solving, combined with the practicality and hands-on approach this career offers. There was a time when I flirted with the idea of astrophysics, but in the end, it was engineering that won out. I graduated in 2001 as a Materials Engineer and started working in rubber products development across a range of different sectors. Seven years ago, when I joined Trelleborg, was when I first started to get to grips with the oil & marine sector.
What are your main roles and responsibilities as a Development Engineer with Trelleborg?
Throughout my seven years, I have been lucky enough to experience a wide variety of roles. I have been involved in product focussed areas, such as product design and process engineering, through to more holistic roles in project management and customer service. Currently, my focus is on product development in tandem with field work a few times per year.
How would you describe the current challenges in your current role?
When it comes down to it, business is competitive. Customers are always looking for the best deals, expecting a superior service provision at competitive prices. This can sometimes be at odds with what we see from a development engineering perspective.
For example, on the surface a crude oil transfer hose looks like a simple, cylindrical tube. However, we know them to be incredibly complex, composite structures; they are products of many different materials and each one takes many days to build. These complex, multi-component structures are what allows us the freedom to design the bespoke physical properties for each hose, depending on their purpose. The challenge with all of this is offering quality, innovative technology and robustness and a competitive market price.
When taking all of these challenges into account, what would you say is the most rewarding part of your job?
I enjoy problem solving – understanding the why and the how. If I wasn’t an engineer, I suspect I would be a mechanic. My current position provides me with the opportunity to know about a product inside and out, from inception to completion. It’s the life-cycle that really fascinates me, and the progression from design, supply, documentation, manufacturing and inspection, right through to installation and use. It’s a real pleasure being able to connect with people throughout all areas of this process and it is always particularly rewarding when you get to see the finished product in action.
At the time of this interview – you are in Asia! Is travel a pivotal part of your role?
Looking at my flight scheduling phone app, it appears that I have clocked 170.891 km since January this year. I usually travel for two reasons. Firstly, to inspect hoses in the field, and secondly to visit different Trelleborg production sites globally.
It’s particularly interesting to note that one of the key challenges in the energy sector at the moment is that different regions have their own specific requirements and ways of working. Our challenge here is to be able to offer the most effective solution in the most efficient way.
Are you able to share any details of current projects you are working on?
My current area of focus is on the SEALINE range, ensuring that Trelleborg is offering a complete, efficient solution for crude oil transfer.
And finally, when you’re not working hard at Trelleborg, what do you do to relax?
I am a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast! I love all things related to it, especially motorsports. Most recently, I have fallen in love with cycling, because I was looking for a way to exercise. My garage is always full of motorcycles, tools, parts, tyres and now also bicycles. I can live without an engine now, as long as I have two wheels.