Working across disciplines to deliver plant-wide process automation solutions

It was a coincidence that Søren Bredkjær Fransen first became part the NNE family, but it was a deliberate choice to stick around. After almost twenty years – and a couple of “disruptions” to work on the customer’s side – he is a specialist in NNE’s Process Automation engineering department. Read on to learn what drives him.

How did you end up as process automation specialist? 

I have a degree in process engineering and started my career as process engineer at Novo Nordisk. But I found myself looking over the shoulders of the programmers and thinking that it looked really interesting. I was fortunate to become part of a large project, where I got the chance to try my hands at programming.

During the project, I was seconded to NNE’s automation department and got a taste for the consulting engineering world. Thus, when the project was finalised, I joined NNE as an internal consultant and a year after, I was offered a permanent contract as automation engineer.

From there, it’s been a quite natural progression into a lead engineer role and now the specialist role. I joined NNE’s AIT (automation and IT) consulting department for a few years, but missed “the real world” and the hands-on work as automation engineer. Twice, I also left NNE for a brief period to work for one of our customers. It really gives you great insight and perspective to sit at the other side of the table.

 

What makes process automation so exciting?

We deliver plant-wide solutions that are based on interdisciplinary integration, and I think that is really cool. In process automation, it is our job to make sure that the solution works for what the process engineers has intended, for what the mechanical engineers have intended, and so on. We’re the ones who ensure that everything forms a synthesis and that everything works, when you press “start”.

I am generally really inspired by the cross-disciplinary cooperation that is inherent in a process automation department. My colleagues are a motley crowd of people with different engineering backgrounds and expertise in different unit operations (e.g. filtration or fermentation) – all combined with automation competences – so collectively we are experts in the entire process.

The most fun part – and also the most challenging – is the small ad-hoc assignments that come in between the large projects. The customer comes to you with a concrete problem in their process facility and you have to deliver a robust solution very fast.

NNE is a large company and we solve many, very different tasks. We’re typically at the top of the food chain, when our customer’s need a solution to a problem. We define the assignment and are often the first choice for solving it. That makes it a really interesting place to work.

 

What does it take to be a process automation specialist?

Specialists ”rise above” the technique and focus on concept development and implementation methods. There is a lot a variation in the job – and I have a lot of freedom to identify, plan and execute projects and assignments.

As a process automation specialist, I am still down on the shop floor and close to the production, which is what drives me. I have the chance to walk around a facility and see that the solutions I helped develop and integrate twenty years ago is still running and working. That makes me really proud.