It all started when he, as a young boy, spotted the large ships passing by his summerhouse in Stockholm’s archipelago. He was intrigued by the ships’ sizes and as time passed by and he grew bigger, so did the ships. Already at that time he knew the marine interest would become a huge part of his life. Today, Gerard Törneman has been a part of Volvo Penta for over 20 years. In my interview, you can read about what motivates him in his job, how the marine industry has changed over the years and how he looks at the industry’s future.
Hi, Gerard. You have dedicated almost all your professional life to the marine industry, right?
Yes, I sure have. It all started after I graduated from university with a Master of Science in Naval Architecture and an MBA in International Business. During my first professional years, I worked as Project Manager at Kvaerners Ships Equipment and as General Manager at Marine Jet Power. My first contact with Volvo Penta was when I was hired to lead a joint venture with Kamewa (now belonging to Rolls Royce) in developing and manufacturing complete power systems including waterjets and diesel engines. We marketed this range of propulsion systems globally through Volvo Pentas network. I quickly recognised the strength in Volvo Penta’s offer and when the cooperation ended I stayed at Volvo Penta – and I haven’t left since!
What a journey! What is your role at Volvo Penta today?
Today, I work as Sales Project Manager in the offshore industry segment, focusing on offshore wind and renewables. Due to the global development in the marine industry, many Nordic shipyards start cooperations with other yards in different parts of the world. It is not unusual that the end-customer, the designer and the shipyard are located in three different countries. Therefore, we work with many international customers in global sales projects together with our market units in Europe, Asia and America, enabling business opportunities worldwide.
That sounds really interesting. What is your biggest motivation in your job?
You know, ever since I was a little kid I have loved boats and ships. When I grew up, I spent a lot of time in Stockholm’s archipelago during the summers. I remember my favourite thing to do was watching ships that passed by really close to the shore in the narrow fairways leading to Stockholm. I also remember how amazed I was over how big they were! As the years went by and I got older, the ships grew bigger and somehow I felt like I grew up together with the ships. I found it fascinating to follow their development and seeing them rise above the islands that only a few years earlier hid them.
I still find the marine industry just as interesting. To be able to combine that interest with sales and the social part of meeting customers is a strong driving force for me in my job. My favourite part of my job is when a potential customer chooses us instead of a competitor. To turn a customer around by meeting designers, shipyards and operators and showing our support and our service network – that really motivates me! I don’t consider myself as a competitive person but when it comes to business and sales, I do. Everything is possible and we should never give up. I also enjoy seeing our products in action after delivery and shake hands with a satisfied customer, hearing that our products live up to the high standards that we have promised.
It seems like you are the right person for this job. In what way do you think your experiences are beneficial for your customers?
I was active in the business for fifteen years before I started working at Volvo Penta, and I still benefit from that experience today. In addition to my extensive knowledge within marine technology and complete power systems, I am used to working with projects based on a holistic perspective, understanding the importance of networking on a broad base with the different players in the industry. I was lucky enough to surround myself with competent managers and mentors early on in my career. That is something I find very important. They have always had their customers as their main priority, and have been there for them in joy and in sorrow.
To take full responsibility and deliver what you have promised to the customer is an extremely important experience, something that I embraced early on in my career. The engines are really important for the customers. Therefore, it is crucial that the customers receive the service and attention they deserve and need. In addition, with my broad experience and knowledge of the products, I often discuss solutions with both designers and shipyard owners. It is great to take part in discussions related to both technology and business.
How do you think the customers’ needs have changed over the years?
It is clear that more and more customers want complete power systems provided by one supplier that takes full responsibility. Another growing trend with a direct impact on the products is the need for electrically driven propulsion systems. With the Volvo group supporting us, we are confident that we will be successful when it comes to the development of environmental-friendly power solutions. There is also a growing need to incorporate more automation and connectivity in marine power solutions. To meet our customers’ needs, I focus on responding quickly to questions and solve problems. It is just as important to answer a question, as it is to complete an order.
Over the years, Volvo Penta has created a strong network to offer service and support to our customers. We constantly work to improve our network as customers put higher demands on 24-hour service and high uptime. As an engine supplier, it is crucial to adapt to market changes and keep up with the development of new advanced electronics, complex machines and environmentally friendly power systems with low emissions.
So, a lot has happened over the years. How do you think the future will look like for the marine industry?
I believe there is a bright future for the marine industry. After all, about 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water. Aquaculture and renewable energy produced in connection to the sea is increasing which means the need for workboats, passenger boats and security boats will increase too. Also, the tourism is booming in many places, which means more cruise ships and ferries. The challenge will be to continue developing renewable energy and using more electric power to keep the emission levels down.
That sounds promising! So, Gerard, what do you do when you are not working?
When I am not working I enjoy skiing, boating obviously, and playing chess. And, of course, I take care of my family. The house takes up a lot of my time too, but I try to do more fun stuff than just working on my house. At least, as often as I can!
That sounds great, Gerard. Thank you for a nice chat!
Hopefully, you gained some new insights about the marine industry by reading my interview with Gerard Törneman. Feel free to contact me if the article raised any questions. Also, read our blog article “IPS enables safe boat driving in the wind farming industry”. Visit our website to read more about how Volvo Penta work to be a part of a more sustainable future in the marine industry. See you on social media!