May 21, 2019
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To ensure that we remain innovative to stay competitive, we continue to push the boundaries beyond our current product lines.
Arjen brings to GGB not only his in-depth expertise in tribology, but also a wealth of knowledge and experience. Having worked in the bearing industry with major car and truck manufacturers around the world, Arjen came to GGB in 2007 and is now vice president of technology.
How does the technology department work to develop new ideas?
We have two different streams of inspiration for the generation of ideas in the area of new products, processes or services. The first one aims to capture the market opportunities and customer needs, or what we call the market pull, where activities take place in close collaboration with our commercial and product management teams. The second is the technology push in which our scientists look for new materials, formulations and processing methods to come up with increased performance and new product concepts with added functionality. To ensure that we remain innovative to stay competitive, we continue to push the boundaries beyond our current product lines.
Do you propose innovative ideas, or do you create the technology to support them?
We do both: in our recent Innovation initiative we aim to create the conditions necessary to generate and nurture distinctive or breakthrough ideas to feed our technology push activities. Our next challenge is to expand the Ideation program to the rest of the organization and to ideate with our commercial teams and potentially, with the customer. To ideate with something as simple as a bearing, now that is a challenge.
Is this what you enjoy most? The constant challenges?
It is amazingly interesting how much sleep you can lose over such a simple product! We have thousands of customers, tens of thousands of applications and I have about 30 people in my team. It’s a challenge to fully understand the intricacies of the applications we serve so how do we map the needs and developments, the trends that are not so obvious. Since true innovation is anticipating customer needs, you can’t just ask a customer to explain his unknown needs.
Where does your passion for innovating originate?
There are two things that drive me. The first is to continuously push the boundary of the (bearing) system. Designs get smaller, lighter and more energy efficient: call that incremental development. Secondly, I believe that every 5-10 years you should come up with a new way to process existing products. You can get advantages through material combinations, design or through processing. That’s what challenges us and that’s what I like about this job: supporting the commercial effort with the science of tribology and surface engineering. There’s still a lot of unknown, a lot of uncertainty and that’s something that drives me.
How has working at GGB given you the freedom to keep innovating?
It is a dynamic company, easily accessible and very flexible. There’s a lot of talent and it benefits from the support of the EnPro Group. I don’t sense that there are boundaries, directives or directions that are imposed on us. We want to pursue product leadership in all the markets that we compete in. We have the plan to get there and there are few restrictions, we only need to be successful to achieve it. We are more forwardly looking as a company and more open to change, especially with the EnPro transformation vision of the Dual Bottom Line.
Being in a manager’s position, it can be a challenge to strike that balance between accountability, freedom, personal development and company results, and these are challenging times. My boss has always given me a lot freedom and I feel that I’m mirroring that by giving my own team more and more responsibility. Not only do I learn to take more autonomy but also how to delegate more effectively. There’s a famous saying that goes, “you can’t delegate responsibility”. Well, it’s true!