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Month: March 2017

Update from England

Update from England

It`s about time for me to post something… So here I go!

What have happened since last then? I`m up and running with my project. I have great support from my mangers and the organisation. It`s a thrill going to work in the morning. Did I describe my project? Well here is a short summary;

As described from the study-visit post by the rest of the graduates we make wings and parts related to the wing structure here in Filton. This business was bought from Airbus in 2009 which makes the connection to Airbus very strong. We are still on the same premises and shares lunch canteen and parking. As many of the programs at Airbus (A320, A330, A380) starting to get more mature it requires more service and repairs. As a result there is a need for Spare parts going to Airbus (Hamburg and Broughton). My project is then to find these parts and evaluate GKNs possibilities to better and more sufficient supply them. So my placement requires a good connection with Airbus as well as internal with our Value Streams, Procurement, Finance etc.

Even if I`m not starting my next placement until September I have already started to look for options. It still surprises me how well received the graduates are within the organisation. In the same way as the Graduates in Sweden are meeting Mike McCann at Engine System the Structures management team here are very supportive for me here. Hopefully it also allows me to point out my next step/placement. The last days I have started thinking more and more about going to Asia. A good experience even if I don`t see myself living in Asia for any longer time in life. But I will try to summarize my graduate time, or more how to handle it, in a couple of steps following this post.

Reflections from England during the last week:

  • Article 50 is trigged and the Brexit process are up and running.
  • Sadly London is (once again) the target for a terror attack.
  • Spring has started and the number of days with rain has now been reduced a bit.
  • Zara Larsson is the only artist capable of competing with Ed Sheeran’s 16 tracks on BBC Radio 1. Go Sweden!!



GKN Filton & GKN Western Appoach

GKN Filton & GKN Western Appoach

Trainees outside GKN Western Approach!

Here is a brief summary of our visit to GKN Filton and GKN Western Approach. Filton is located not far from Bristol, and is also David’s nest during his current rotation abroad.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, GKN Filton’s main focus is on the moounting of wing structures for a number of customers such as Airbus, Dassault and Lockheed Martin. There is also a center for additive manufacturing with a focus on powder-bed technology, an emerging technology in which fine metal powder is sprinkled over a surface, layer upon layer, and melted using a laser or electron beam energy source. GKN Filton employs around 2000 of GKN Aerospace’s 17,000 employees. There, the mounting of the leading edge of the wing near the fuselage for aircrafts such as the Airbus A350 XWB is performed, as well as for the trailing edge near the tip of the wings for the Airbus A320. Worth noting is that the Airbus A350 is the first Airbus aircraft with both the fuselage and wing structures made of composite materials.
Something that I found really hard to believe until I saw it is that the airplane wing closest to the fuselage is so thick that one could almost stand upright and still be able to fit inside the wing. This is at least true for the bigger aircrafts such as the Airbus A350 XWB.

The wing spar of modern aircrafts is made of composite materials, and for those of you who are not quite familiar with what composite material actually is, I will briefly update you. Composite materials are basically materials formed by combining different materials with different properties, such as thermoplastics and carbon fiber. This combination leads to very high strength to weight ratio, and is today done by automated processes such as Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) and the Automated Tape Laying (ATL).

To close the productions cycle, we went from Filton to Western Approach in the afternoon the same day. There the spar of the two wing parts is manufactured in several advanced manufacturing stages. The filament winding machines in Western Approach weaved together, like a giant spider, the different parts of the wing structure from small skeins of threads, which certainly was an impressive sight. The manufacturing environment in Western Approach is extremely clean, and air filters is used to filter out particles in order not to jeopardize the quality. We almost looked like a bunch of medical students when we walked around in our white coats and hairnets. The site also hosted some gigantic vacuum ovens and washing machines, large enough to fit one or more student apartments.

In short, a very interesting visit both to the GKN site in Filton, and to Western Approach. It feels good knowing that GKN is in the process of develop and manufacture future products made of high-performance lightweight materials for more efficient, more reliable and more environmentally friendly aircrafts.


Commercial department!

Commercial department!

Greetings readers!

This week is the third week of our third departments as trainees. I am now stationed at the commercial military department. When I mention this to friends it is common for them to think I’m working with commercials, which is not the case. At the commercial department we work with business, customer relations, contracts, strategy and so on.

The assignment I have been given is a piece of the puzzle for ground work of the long term strategy of the company. So far it’s been very interesting. It took me a while before I understood what it was I was actually supposed to do. Then it took me a while more before I received the necessary materials to start working on it. Now I’ve started, and I already have some (very) preliminary results to show, which the management found very interesting. So even if I can’t tell you much more at the moment it feels like I’m on the right track and it feels good to have gotten started in this new department.

As a relatively new employee at this company I feel it’s hard to determine what I’m allowed to speak about, especially when working in the military parts of the organization. This is why the answers to questions about what I do at work (and this blog post) sometimes becomes quite cryptic. I hope this gets better with time and that I will have a better understanding about what I’m allowed to say and not. For now I’ll have to just use cryptic answers or not answer at all. The main thing to take away is anyway that the new department feels good and it feels like I’m doing something useful with my time here so far.

Over and out,

Joakim Åhman

Ps Today we trainees has been on a visit to Skaraborgs Flygflottilj (Swedish air force base), F7. Very exciting! Extra exciting for me I think, as my home department is within the military organization here at GKN. There will be a blog entry about this tomorrow or early next week. ds

Inspiration from above!

Inspiration from above!

Just as Niclas briefly mentioned in the previous post, we have recently met Mike McCann for an exciting conversation that certainly can be said to have given us some inspiration from above!

Mike McCann is our CEO of GKN Aerospace Engine Systems, i.e. the twelve sites within GKN Aerospace engaged in aircraft engine components and for which Trollhättan hosts the headquarters. Mike is a very much experienced professional within in the aerospace business, and after having graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, he has worked in the industry for over 30 years. In 2009 Mike joined GKN Aerospace, and in November 2012, after the acquisition of Volvo Aero, he began the work in his current position. Mike is a native of Dallas, USA where he commutes between his private home and the many the sites under his authority. Periodically, he works at the site here in Trollhättan, and during these visits he has made it plenty of time to meet us young graduates.

The meeting this Monday was in fact not the first time we conversed with Mike McCann. Already at Mike’s last visit to Trollhättan in late February a one and-a-half-hour meeting was scheduled with the well-spoken American. Even though he at this occasion went over the planned time with more than one full hour, and that the enthusiastic stories only was stopped by his secretary, patiently reminding him of subsequent meetings, both sides felt that the time was not sufficient. Mike had a lot more to tell us about, and we were eager to continue to listen to his countless experiences and reflections. Therefore a follow up meeting was immediately booked, and thus on this Monday we had the chance to once again listen to the inspiring leader. At both meetings, Mike has naturally spoken to us about our company’s strategies and the plans for the future, but the by far most interesting part still has been the personal reflections on leadership and individual development. Mike is a very unpretentious and likeable leader, who had a lot of wisdom to share with us and many good advices to bring along the paths of our continuing careers. It has been a great pleasure to meet with Mike, and I will sum up our impressions with a quote from my fellow graduate engineer Neil who stated it as “I could listen to that man forever!”

A selection out of the life as a graduate

A selection out of the life as a graduate

Hello again!

One of the projects that we graduates have been involved with in the last few weeks is to support young students with their homework, in collaboration with Intize. Intize is a nonprofit organization engaged in mentoring young students in mathematics. As a part of our year project to stimulate the interest of technology and science among young students, it feels like mathematics is a given cornerstone to encourage that interest. Are you interested in joining, or do you know anyone who might be? Then all you need is to show up, everyone is welcome.

But perhaps more interesting to many of you readers, as you know it will soon be time for the assessment days for the next set of graduates. I thereby thought I should spend most of this post to tell you more about what it means to be a graduate, what you can expect and what you can experience. Those of you who follow the blog perhaps know by now that the program is consistent with different 10 weeks rotations between different departments. As the graduate program currently is 30 years old within the company, there is a lot of internal experience to handle new graduates that enters different departments. And combined with the individual responsibilities and freedom for the graduate to influence the scheme to choose their next placements, the opportunities becomes limitless. Speaking of my own experience, I was with ease able to divide my current period into two five-week periods to broaden my knowledge and internal network as much as possible

But the company’s experience of operating the graduate program also shows when you see how open and interested various managers are to meet with the graduates over interviews where they can share their experience and stories. On that subject, we recently had our second meeting with Mike McCann (CEO GKN Aerospace Engine Systems) to learn more about his experiences and viewpoints on leadership, the business, the industry etc. Or to mention another example, it took us less than two days to book 4 senior managers within manufacturing to conduct interviews. This privilege that senior managers are open to share their time in order to share their experiences and lessons learned with us is incredibly valuable. And it feels like a shortcut to valuable information that otherwise would take tremendous amount of time to obtain.

Being a graduate also opens a lot of doors externally, which implies that we have not yet received a single no when we have contacted other companies and asked them to meet for a study visit or something similar. Many times, it feels like the opportunities to create ones external network is just as good as the possibilities to create ones internal network. And with the level of advanced technology that operates within out industry, you can imagine that there are numerous actors that operates all types of different technology, which creates opportunities to learn from each other that are virtually limitless.

To spice this up a little extra, the graduates also have a yearly project which I briefly mentioned at the beginning of the post, were we interact with at least to say unexpected tasks to solve as an engineer. We also undergo leadership training, experience visits from other graduates and schools, go on business trips and external educations and much much more. So to summarize this post, the greatest challenge as a graduate is to get time to suffice, because there is always new things to do and experience. It’s thereby lucky to have driven graduate colleagues who constantly collaborate to get the calendar to get together in order to take advantage of every opportunity given to us


See you later



After our amazing week in England, we have once again changed departments. I have been working at a quality department for almost a week now. This department supports the whole of GKN in Trollhättan within a number of different areas. One of these areas is making sure that all requirements from customers, standards and governments are met throughout our business. Another area is to develop and update the operation management system we use. The system describes all processes, standards and responsibilities.

However, during my ten weeks at the department I will mostly work with preemptive production development. This is done by monitoring the manufacturing processes in order to discover trends in the measured product characteristics to be able to solve problems before the product characteristics end up outside the tolerances. One tool that is used are control charts (se picture below).

Control Chart

The upper line illustrates the upper tolerance limit and the lower line illustrates the lower tolerance limit. Once a product has been processed in a machine, the characteristic that was processed is measured and the value is plotted in the control chart. Trends will gradually appear as more products are processed and measured. Is the trend showing that the characteristics are moving towards one of the tolerance limits? If so, the manufacturing process should be investigated to understand why this happens and to rectify the issue. The characteristic is continually measured and hopefully the measured values move towards the middle of the control charts, where they should be.

I find this area very exciting and interesting and I look forward to learn a lot more about it and how it can be used! As I mentioned previously I will mostly work with the production development but I will get the chance to understand what the department is doing in regards to the other areas as well. I am convinced that, no matter what work I will do in the future, I will always be able to benefit from what I am learning at this department!

A period at Materials Engineering

A period at Materials Engineering

After returning from England, I have just started on my new department, namely Materials Engineering. The main focus here has been to participate in the sub-division of metallurgy, but I have had excellent opportunities to interact with the other departments as well.

My level of pre-knowledge within material science could have been better, but it has been incredible interesting to enter as a novice and have the possibility to meet all the talented specialist, try advanced equipment’s and create my own understanding over some of the analysis we conduct in-house. For every day that passes, I begin to understand more and more how important material science is within our industry, our products and our processes. This insight feels like an important contribution to broaden my perspective from the previously focus on quality and continues improvement.

In my opinion, there are many benefits of doing the rotations in the graduate scheme but I would like to highlight two of them. Firstly, its supports you to create an invaluable internal network, where you can identify different specialist and unique skillsets within the organization, which create a feeling of comfort to approach any task or challenge since you know that expertize knowledge is just a phone call away.Secondly, it allows you to get enough insight in different areas and departments to be able to understand and appreciate the value that they are creating. This was one of the points that several leaders that we have meet have highlighted. To simplify, they advocate that a key to successful leadership is about being able to understand and appreciate the value that different individuals and departments create, and how this value creation interact cross-functionally and which synergies it can create.

Lastly, don’t forget to go in and check out the presentations of the young graduates, where we recently got an additional presentation from out American colleague Nicholas Ninivaggi. You can find the presentation on the following link

Meeting Kevin Cummings & Nigel Stein

Meeting Kevin Cummings & Nigel Stein

Dear blog guests,

In Neil’s latest post you read about two of our visits at GKN sites in England last week. Before these visits though, the first day in Her Royal Highness the Queen’s United Kingdom offered a number of interesting meetings with people from diverse parts of GKN plc. All of these taking place at our elegant office at Pall Mall in central London.

First out in the series of captivating meetings was the one with our fellow graduates at AES North America, Josh Bruggeman, Michael Rorapaugh, Nick Ninvaggi and their program administrator Megan Morgan. We met for just over an hour of meet-and-greet where we finally got to see the colleagues who we up to that point only knew by e-mail. We exchanged experiences from our respective cultures, graduate schemes, and GKN sites while also planning for the upcoming week together. It was truly interesting to get an insight to the daily life at the other side of the Atlantic, and it was a great start of a very enjoyable week together. If you continue to read our blog, you will for sure hear more from our newfound American friends when they all three have moved to Sweden in September for their half year long abroad placement at our site here in Trollhättan.

After a tasty lunch, it was time for a meeting with one of the heavyweights of GKN plc., namely Kevin Cummings CEO – GKN Aerospace. To be given the opportunity to meet the Chief Executive of our division for one and a half hour of exclusive contact was an honor and a privilege given to very few employees in our organization. Kevin immediately made an impression on us as he, even though he only had known about our visit since a few hours, was very well-prepared with recorded notes for answers on our long list of sent in questions. Kevin spoke about big topics such as experiences gained as a CEO within a larger corporate group which simultaneously deals with underlying subdivisions and major strategies within our division, as well as personal subjects such as day-to-day assignments and key events and characteristics which has lead him up to the position he holds today. All in all, the meeting was a welcoming dialogue and we are warmly grateful that Kevin gave his valuable time to inspire us who represent the company’s future.

When the meeting with Kevin Cummings had come to an end, we raised your sights even higher and met with Nigel Stein CEO – GKN plc. Nigel fulfilled all our expectations put on a successful British businessman and he possessed both great courtesy and a convincing composure. Nigel has been the CEO for the GKN corporate group since 2012, and he has since then led us on a journey towards greater focus on and growth within the Aerospace and Driveline divisions. This is a great success story, which he promises will continue for years onward. A hearty part of the meeting was when Michael Turner, Chairman of the GKN Board and moreover a huge Manchester United fan, entered the room and interrupted Nigel’s narrations simply because he wanted to thank us Swedes for Zlatan Ibrahimović, who had secured the victory for United in the English Football League Cup the previous day. After this laidback entry, Michael was (just as Kevin and Nigel) very curious to hear more about us graduates, our backgrounds and our future expectations. It was especially encouraging to see that the leaders all put great interest in our views on GKN and potential development areas. We truly felt that we were given a unique chance to influence the company on the highest possible level. Nigel and Michael also explained the company’s ambitious growth strategies and provided us the impression that possible future acquirements would quite probably be made. In summary, the overlying message was that GKN plc. has a continued bright future ahead, which was further underlined when our stock price raised almost 5 % on the day after when the annual statement was released. The day at Pall Mall was undeniably fruitful for everyone involved!

Next guestpost by Neil Irwin

Next guestpost by Neil Irwin

Hello readers

Last week I was part of a study visit week to the U.K. with the AES and some of the IGP graduate trainees. The progress that has been made in lean techniques and automation in some of the sites that we visited was very impressive, and this post will be about this subject. Two sites which impressed me in this way were Luton (Aerospace, Special Products Group), and Erdington, Birmingham (Driveline).

Our colleagues in Luton manufacture cockpit windows, canopies, and de-icing systems. Of particular interest here was the takt time oriented production line. Takt time is the time between the start of production of consecutive units, when the production rate is set to match customer demand. One of the transparencies manufacturing lines was set up as a sequence of workbenches, with the duration at each station set relative to the takt time. The operators were cross trained to operate multiple stations so that there were no single point failures in the line (e.g. if operators are off sick). The visual display area next to the line had a set of vertical plastic tubes below a heading for each product. Coloured plastic balls were used to fill up these tubes on a daily basis with the status of production; red balls were used for scrapped parts, green for completed units, and other colours to denote rework etc. The number of deliveries per day required by the customer were written next to each tube. This visual display system enables the whole manufacturing community to instantly spot quality or delivery issues. Furthermore the takt line itself allows great visualization of the production value stream. Bottlenecks and stations which suffer frequent breakdowns or quality issues become immediately apparent. The eye-catching visual display system and the structure of the line improve productivity and team spirit in the operators.

The second site that captured our interest was the Driveline site in Erdington, Birmingham. Here they manufacture driveshafts, propshafts, and associated components, and assemble them to ship to large customers as diverse as JLR, Bentley and Nissan. The difference in production rates between Erdington and Trollhättan is staggering. Our weekly part production rates vary from several units to far less than one per week. The production rates in Erdington range from hundreds of units to several thousand units a week.

To facilitate flow through such a site, they have made great progress in automation. Examples of the automation employed here are robotic arms to move parts between operations, and in and out of processing operations. Other examples were highly advanced machines both in terms of speed and size. It varied between machines that could perform operations in cycle times of a few seconds, to some of the largest automatic painting machines in the entire country.

All of these systems have decreased cycle times, reduced costs, and improved quality compared to the manual alternatives.

In terms of lean implementation, there are large PVD areas with clear metrics focusing on efficiency, quality and delivery. Practical problem solving and continuous improvement activities are applied on the shop floor, with great buy in at all levels of the organization. Andon screens display delivery progress and quality issues clearly throughput the plant. The shop floor is organized for efficient throughput of the flow units. The key to the creation of this system was twofold. First, true buy-in from senior management. Second, a dedicated time slot set aside for every single worker in the plant every week to focus on CI/lean activities. I think this time dedication to improvement, is what has really facilitated the success of the facility. We were extremely impressed with the level of automation and lean implementation we saw in these sites. Although not everything we saw is applicable to us in AES, I’m sure we can learn a lot from our colleagues in SPG and driveline.

See you soon!