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Month: April 2017

Inspiring the youth!

Inspiring the youth!

Dear blog readers, as you already know the young graduate group has a yearly assignment which this time is about raising the awareness about engineering among adolescents and inspire more to choose similar educations and career paths as ourselves. As a part of this project, me, Niclas and David (who is temporarily back home in Sweden) today met a large part of Trollhättans eight graders at the town’s own Innovatum Science Center. Together with people from completely different backgrounds and businesses, such as firefighters, chefs and hotel personnel, we told stories about the different routes and opportunities that awaits the youths after the approaching high school. It was not the easiest task to summarize the work of a whole profession society in five minutes and also explaining the path to get where we are today. What is it actually that our profession is all about? Answering e-mails, attending meetings and having coffee breaks where the common tasks we identified. I hope we succeeded in encouraging the students to challenge themselves and to test out new and exciting fields of working!

David, Andreas and Niclas representing GKN and engineering at the inspiration day at Innovatum Science Center. (Yesterday Joel & Emelie represented us, and next Tuesday it is time for Malin & Joakim.)

Visit to GKN Driveline Köping (KOP)

Visit to GKN Driveline Köping (KOP)

The departure to Shanghai is approaching! Visa problems and changes in the Chinese foreign employee policy have made the departure delayed compared to what was originally intended. I should actually have left last Saturday. Now, I estimate that it is approximately a month to go before I can start my next placement. In the moment of writing this blog post, I’m sitting in the waiting room at the hospital in Trollhättan, NÄL, after just having undergone a chest X-ray for the sake of the work visa application process. The documents and the check-ups needed to work in China are many, but the thought of how cool and interesting it will be to work in the automotive industry in Shanghai makes me endure all of it with joy! Given that it is my first work experience in the automotive industry, I have a lot to learn. I have recently found out that I will be working together with the procurement team from GKN Driveline Köping (KOP) when I’m at the IPO office (International Purchasing Office) in Shanghai. My future boss in China thought it a good idea to send me on a study visit to KOP to learn about GKN Driveline in general and KOP and their products in particular.

GKN Driveline can be divided into two product divisions. In one of the product divisions CVJs (constant velocity joints), prop shafts and drive shafts are being manufactured. Within GKN this is done eg in Birmingham, UK. A CVJ enables the drive shaft to transmit power through a variable angle at a constant rotational speed without significant increases in friction.

In the second product division AWD (all wheel drive) is manufactured. Within GKN this is done Köping, SE and in Newington, US. The PTU (the lump in the back) and FDU (the lump up front) is what constitutes the four-wheel drive. If the car from the beginning is a rear wheel drive the power needs to be transferred to the front wheels via a gearbox. In that case a third lump is needed on the prop shaft.

KOP manufactures and assembles all-wheel drive systems. The parts needed for the four-wheel drive that are not manufactured on site are purchased before assembly. At KOP aluminum housings, pinions, crown wheels and shafts are being machined. The expertise lies in the production of hypoid gears. The cogs of the hypoid gears are helically shaped (see picture) and the hypoid gears can transfer force at almost any angle and are useful in torque-demanding applications.

One thing that is really hot on the market right now is growing fast is the AWD Disconnect system. AWD Disconnect is an intelligent system which means that the all-wheel drive can be switched off when it is not needed, which, during normal driving, is the case most of the time. The intelligent AWD system reacts to the driving conditions by disconnecting the major, rotating drive line components, which reduces fuel consumption. When the AWD system is needed the disconnected parts are activated in under 300 milliseconds.

The site in Köping, with around 1,000 employees, impressed me. First of all it looked really nice! They’re making a major facelift at the factory. The head office was renovated inside and out, built new offices are being built in the workshop and many machines are being upgraded and/or replaced. It really is a site that inspires and the huge investments being made bring a feeling of a bright future.

As always, when I visit a driveline site, I am struck by the huge differences compared to the aviation industry. Everything is moving so much faster! Products flow past in huge volumes and high speeds and the automated robotic arms move constantly. Small, unmanned robots that you give way to transfer goods around in the factory. KOP has an annual capacity of hypoid gears of just over one million. At GKN Aerospace in Trollhättan, we have one product with a lead time of about 10 months. It is natural that there is a big difference in the speed between the production of the aerospace and automotive industries! In order to deliver the large volumes of products that the automotive industry does a LEAN mindset that is fully incorporated into the business is required. This is also noticed in Köping where the entire plant is built according to how products flow.

KOP is clearly an impressive place and I look forward to working with them in the future!



With large ear protections and in shining reflection vests, we slowly walked over the airfield, surrounded by a shining sun and a clear blue sky. The weather gave us a liberating sensation, a much appreciated feeling that can only be experienced on a hot summer day, or at the best, an early spring day like this. Sounds from far distant aircraft engines could be heard, and the wind blew cold across the airfield.

F7 in Såtenäs is a vast and magnificent airfield situated right at the feet of Vänern. Guided by two veteran pilots, Håkan Brandt and Dag Kjellberg who have had several flight hours with airplanes such as the legendary Viggen airplane, we waited for three incoming JAS-aircrafts.
F7 is one of four remaining Swedish Air Force squadrons (F7 Skaraborg, F17 Blekinge, F21 Norrbotten and LSS Air Combat School). Air force military units today focus on both national and international operations, and should therefore be prepared to participate in military operations abroad with UN consensus. The Air force is divided into several ground management units and air units, and one does not work without the other. Operators and flight engineers play an equally important part as the pilots themselves.

From southeast, in something called an “echelon formation” three JAS-aircrafts come flying in towards the airfield. One after another, at a safe distance from each other, they started a circular movement in towards the runway. A few hundred meters down, a Hercules aircraft was about to lift, which together with the JAS-aircrafts and the wonderful weather composed a magnificent scenery. When the aircrafts had landed and docked with their different ground-stations, we followed along the personnel performing the routine inspections. The smell of hot RM12, oil and kerosene was imminent.

The tour of the area continued and after a well-placed lunch we tested the flight-simulators. As for us trainees, we will soon have about half an hour each in different JAS-simulators, both from the ones at Linköping Air Force Museum and at SAAB, and to be fairly honest, we will soon be able to fly a JAS gripen ourselves. The tour ended with a brief introduction to the Swedish Air Force history, and we had the pleasure to take a closer look on airplanes such as Viggen, Draken and Tunnan. Both Håkan and Dag shared some of their memories and highlights from their careers, which was amusing I tell you. For those of you who are interested, in the image below is brief summary of the Swedish Air Force history.

Swedish Air Force history!


My grandfather’s brother, Jan Ingemar Holmquist was a fighter pilot in the 50s, at the brink of the Cold War. The story goes that he during a flight training session with a Vampire J28 in 1952, December 11, 21 years old, collided with another airplane. As a result, both planes involved crashed. Thanks to Hans Brandt, I received access to the report from the commission of inquiry. So, in the next post you’ll find out more about what really happened on that cold winter day in 1952, and what happened to the two pilots. See you later! 🙂

Graduate Assessment days

Graduate Assessment days

Hello again

First of all, don’t miss the addition of another one of our American colleagues’ presentations, namely Josh Bruggeman. You can find his presentation via the following link

During the last week, the assessment days for the new graduates took place on Wednesday and Thursday. We had two full days when the new candidates were allowed to visit us at the company, meet one another and undergo some different tests and exercises. It will be incredibly exciting to see who will be the new colleagues and also be a member of the next year’s set up of graduates. On Wednesday we received eminent visit when David came to participate in the assessment. Some say that it was his boundless interest in the new candidates that drove him to fly home for the day to participate in this event, while others say that it was due to a skiing holiday with the family, we will probably never know.

Another event that have shaped a lot of the last two weeks are the Training Days, and regular readers are probably familiar with the concept that this is an event where the employees of the company are able to join exciting courses to develop and learn new things. I have personally tried to go to several of the courses, mostly focused on my interest areas of quality and continuous improvement. A highlight in my opinion was a robustness course where my former tutor and mentor Peter Hammersberg participated and lectured. Personally, I thought Peter’s thoughts were very interesting and particularly one example brightened up a little extra. Peter explained a lot about the difference between symptoms and root causes when analyzing problems in our processes. One idea that is worth to revisit was the example where you can have fantastic follow up on a process, and excellent accuracy to monitor the outcome of the process for critical parameters. However, this can be completely separated from the understanding of the process underlying variation, that is, just because you have a good monitoring of a process does not necessary mean that the process is stable. In conclusion, it is the understanding of the process underlying variation and behavior that is the key to successful improvement.

This was all for this time!

Neil Irwin – Lessons learned in Sweden.

Neil Irwin – Lessons learned in Sweden.

Hello readers,

This will probably be my last blog post of this placement here in Sweden, and so in this post I want to reflect a little on my placement here. What have my greatest challenges been in this placement, and what have I learnt?

My greatest challenge here has been to learn a large amount of technical information in a very short period of time. During this placement I’ve had to learn:

    • How to write (or at least read and understand) scripts written in Python, Matlab, Perl, Batch and Bash programming languages
    • The fundamentals of CFD and how to use CFX to analyse turbines
    • Automating design analysis using multi objective design optimization software like ModeFrontier and OptiSLang
    • Some fundamental physics and aerodynamics relating to turbines

with little to no training and by learning on the job. This has felt overwhelming at times but I think that the ability to remain calm and learn quickly in unfamiliar territory is a very useful skill to develop. I have learnt that the way to overcome these challenges is to remain calm and to believe in your ability, even when the knowledge gap seems huge. It is also important to identify when to seek help, and who the key people are that can provide that help.

Another challenge in this placement has been to define and truly understand the scope of some of my objectives. A previous manager and mentor once told me:

The hardest part of solving any problem in engineering, is in defining the problem accurately.”

Constantly ask yourself: what are we trying to achieve? Is this project or objective defined in a way that has a clear goal? It’s amazing how often we find ourselves half way through a project only to reflect that the way that we initially defined the problem was too vague, or was incorrect, or was based on the wrong information, or was misunderstood by some of the people involved.

I have learnt that the solution to this problem is communication. I am still working on improving in this area, but I have made good progress by constantly listening and responding to my project customer. If you (or even they) have not accurately defined the problem, you will never be able to find a satisfactory solution. Don’t be afraid to redefine a problem in a better way even halfway through a project – it is not “going back to the start”, its real progress that will lead to a better outcome.

I hope that my experience with these challenges and the learning that has come from them is useful to you. I am looking forward to a whole host of new challenges in my next placement, and trying to figure out how to overcome those too!

As a final note, I want to say thank you to everyone here in Trollhättan that has made me feel so welcome over the last 6 months. It has been a great pleasure for me to work with you all and I will truly be sad to leave.

Neil Irwin