As the UK experienced the hottest summer on record last year, Inderjeet Singh may not have felt out of place in Tewkesbury, England, after relocating from Bengaluru, India, where the average summer temperature tops 30 °C (86 °F).
Inderjeet now works as product manager for the sealing solutions manufactured at the Trelleborg Sealing Solutions facility not far from Birmingham, England’s second- largest city. In Bengaluru he was involved with the setup of radial oil seal production at the Trelleborg site there.
“In Trelleborg, networks are very important,” he says. “So although I was based in Bengaluru, I also worked within global teams. I already know all the people I am working with here well. Even though I’m somewhere different, it feels like I’m home. Working in Trelleborg is like being part of one big family, so the transition is effortless.”
When he joined Trelleborg six years ago, Inderjeet was charged with supporting the development of radial oil seal production capability in India. Over an 18-month period, an empty shop floor was filled with tooling, machines, technology and know-how. After that, he could concentrate on product management.
“Our team has been so successful that the radial oil seal facility has outgrown its allotted space, and manufacturing has moved to a larger site,” he says.
“In Trelleborg, the role of the product manager is an important one. We are responsible for spearheading new product development that will bring sales and growth for the manufacturing sites we are responsible for. We formulate strategies for segments, regions and even specific customers or applications.”
“Supporting the marketing companies in their outreach is vital. We provide them with material to promote our products, educate them and back them up when tackling issues. That means we have to be flexible, ready to visit a customer in the US, China or elsewhere, as required.”
Although the products Inderjeet is managing are different now, the principles of product management are the same.
“The only thing is I have to be a bit more polite in England than India,” he jokes. “The processes in Tewkesbury are virtually like-for-like compared to those in Bengaluru.”
This may seem a little surprising, as people usually imagine that manufacturing in India, which is thought of as a low-cost manufacturing country, would be manual, while in Europe production would be automated.
“Trelleborg differs from some other manufacturers in that we produce in Asia primarily to meet the needs of international manufacturers who are based there, as well as indigenous companies, rather than using the facilities to produce components cheaply to ship out of Asia,” Inderjeet says.
“If a product can be effectively manufactured manually, we may consider doing that. But as soon as this method hampers quality or consistency, then automation is adopted. It’s about the correct balance in production.”
The one big difference between radial oil seals and the products Inderjeet now manages is that radial oil seals are complex in their design, whereas the seals at Tewkesbury are complex in their material makeup.
“I’ve had to go back to school and dust off my old chemistry books so I can more effectively liaise with the material experts who are supporting me,” he says.
The main product line for Tewkesbury is the proprietary range of Isolast perfluoroelastomer sealing materials, elastomers that are extremely chemically resistant, making them compatible with virtually all process media.
“In Isolast, Trelleborg boasts one of the best ranges of perfluoroelastomers on the market,” Inderjeet says. “We’ve established a very strong O-Ring business to the semiconductor, aerospace, food and beverage markets. Now we’re set for the next big step to drive the business forward.
“For me as a product manager, it’s about breaking misconceptions down with regard to Isolast. As perfluoroelastomers are so chemically resistant, people don’t think that you can bond them to metal or other substrates. In fact you can, and we have perfected the techniques to do this. Also, O-Rings are generally thought to be the only choice. Again this is not true. Perfluoroelastomers can be injection-molded into intricate geometries. Both these manufacturing options extend design possibilities, meaning that we can meet ever more demanding higher volume requirements and offer real benefits in terms of accelerating our customers’ performance.”
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