After relocating from India to England, Inderjeet Singh has shifted his focus from seals with complex designs to seals made of innovative materials. But he says the principles of product management are the same the world over. - By Donna Guinivan
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.
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.”
Filling an empty shop floor
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.
Product management is key
“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.”
The same principles
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.
Isolast® materials are the gold standard among elastomers. Differing from other rubber compounds, they are chemically resistant to virtually all media while demonstrating outstanding performance.
The benefits of perfluoroelastomers (FFKMs) can outweigh their often seemingly higher cost as they can operate at temperatures up to +320 °C / +608 °F for long periods in the harshest of process media. These include the aggressive chemicals employed in the cleaning and sterilization regimes used in food production that can potentially destroy a standard seal in hours.
In many cases, FFKMs are the only option in critical aerospace or oil and gas applications. And with the ability to manufacture and pack in class 100 and class 10000 cleanroom environments, seals can be supplied to meet super-clean requirements, such as for semiconductors, where the slightest contamination can destroy an electronic product.
“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 can also be 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 and Engineered Molded Parts business in the aerospace, CPI and oil & gas markets. Now we’re set for the next big step to drive the business forward into other demanding markets such as semiconductors.”
Not just O-Rings
“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 injectionmolded 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.”
Inderjeet Singh is product manager for the sealing solutions produced at Trelleborg's manufacturing facility in Tewkesbury, England, where he recently relocated from Bengaluru, India. He did his mechanical engineering degree and MBA in India and has spent over 14 years in the sealing industry. He is married, with an eight-year-old daughter and a five-month-old son. He and his wife have lived in England and Germany, so he does not see the transition as too difficult for the family. Inderjeet likes cooking, although sourcing vegetables for some of the dishes he cooked at home in India may mean trips to specialized supermarkets or adapting recipes to local produce. He also follows cricket and plays badminton, and he plans to join a badminton club in the Tewkesbury area.