Meet our Technical Director Gerhard Kopplin
Developing a company in an industry driven by innovation and security is no easy task. Gerhard Kopplin knows. The challenges in the role of Technical Director at one of the world’s leading companies for industrial connections are exceptional. But when nothing is left to chance, success is also a given.
An engineer with technology in his blood
Kopplin grew up in Hamburg, Germany and knew early on that his future was technology. He started with advanced Lego construction and went on to repair everything from bicycles to tape recorders. Eventually it became computer programming. All through “learning by doing”. Friends and books were the only knowledge banks available.
After a few years at university, Gerhard worked for a few years with aircraft design and aerodynamics at Airbus in Hamburg, among other places. He was also a salesman for a construction company in the aerospace industry for a number of years. When he got a job with Roman Seliger at the age of 30 and came in contact with MannTek for the first time, he could hardly have imagined that his career would take a completely different turn. The company where Gerhard started in 1992 was one of three that later invested in MannTek in the middle of an ongoing financial crisis. The company had been plagued by a number of problems for a long time and now they were working hard to solve them. Everything from communication to technology and finances had to be dealt with. German co-owners sent Gerhard to identify the source of the worst problems. When Gerhard went to Mariestad in Sweden he met a fairly well-functioning unit in terms of production. It turned out that there were no technical problems. Rather, it was about miscommunications, where the various parties were talking past each other. Sometimes it is a long way between Germany and Sweden.
After four or five trips, it was clear to Gerhard that Sweden had good control and that he had gained a good overview of what needed to be done. Management in Mariestad soon realised what a great benefit Gerhard’s actions had produced. The relationship deepened in the coming years and he could look forward to a position whenever he wished. When the timing was right to change scenery, and in 2006, Gerhard moved to Sweden with his family. At that time, MannTek was still a fairly small company, with only 12 employees. That soon changed. And so, his MannTek career took off.
Technical quality assurance
Gerhard Kopplin is responsible for MannTek’s technical product development. He ensures that there is a solid modular system within the product family, which means that the same standard can be maintained for all solutions that leave the factory in Mariestad. Together with a dedicated team, he develops innovative solutions that are at the forefront of the entire industry. How?
Gerhard says: “Our way of working is very straightforward. We always start from current standards when we develop new solutions and products. We are extremely transparent in our approach and put safety and efficiency high on the agenda. We develop based on the customer’s needs and specifications. What we do not have the competence to develop, we let go. We would never pretend to have experience in areas that are new to us. But we can always learn, and we are constantly challenged by new knowledge and new rules in our field.”
Gerhard enjoys the breadth as well as the depth in his role. Today it is more about getting others to do what he himself has done before. But the job is still a great source of fun.
Product development – top of the line
Product development often means that there are no documented rules and standards to adhere to, because similar products do not exist. Then Gerhard’s job becomes finding and identifying equivalent solutions, which is not always easy. There is also a close dialogue with decision-making bodies and third-party organisations to let them set parameters for what will apply in the future. This means that the company is completely transparent to authorities and decision-making bodies, in order to identify an optimal solution. One example is LNG. There were no guidelines in the beginning, but as solutions emerged and in dialogue with other parties, we now see demands for ship bunkering and refuelling of LNG-powered vehicles, among other things.
The motivation to constantly think fresh and find balanced solutions for the future lies, of course, in knowledge that is both deep and broad. Plus being part of an in-depth process when it comes to completely new product development. Right now, the future is about hydrogen. Something that really requires expertise.
At the forefront with the future in sight
“When we were first asked about hydrogen, we did the job properly,” says Gerhard. “Today we are at the forefront of a whole new area once again. And it does not end there. Of course, as new fuels see the light of day, they need to be studied and analysed in order to be able to offer the right solutions when they are here. Today, a lot involves global transport, and the challenge of the future is to create solutions and products that meet requirements for sustainability and efficiency.”
In addition to continuously improving the existing product range with regard to durability, higher pressure requirements, and ergonomics, we are involved in developing self-closing couplings for refuelling trucks and for bunkering vessels with liquid hydrogen gas. We are also involved in projects for refuelling rockets with LNG or liquid hydrogen. The low temperature of -253 degrees and the low density of liquid hydrogen place special demands on materials and solutions.
For Gerhard, of course, this means exciting future prospects.