Careers, cars & chocolates

Published on May 11th, 2012
Careers, cars & chocolates

When Marc Husselmann studied Industrial Engineering in PE, he had no idea that he’d end up working with chocolates, cars and fancy, James Bond-style eye scanners. But that’s exactly what happened…

Marc Husselmann’s official title is Market Segment Leader at 3M South Africa… but that doesn’t really tell you much about all the cool stuff he does. Basically, this guy is in charge of providing safety, security and protection services to South Africa’s entire transportation sector – and that’s everything from cars, buses and trains to ships and even airplanes. We chatted to him about his career …

So, what exactly do you do at 3M?
I make sure that transport companies have the state-of-the-art equipment they need… like rust protection for cars and trains, protective equipment for factory employees (so they don’t get injured while welding, for example), and even retina recognition scanners and fingerprint scanners for airports.

It’s important to note that I’m not a salesman. I have a portfolio of clients in the transport sector, and my role is to educate them about the technology that’s available, and to do the research for them. So, if they have a problem or a concern, they can come to me for a solution.

Yesterday, for example, I had a meeting with the National Ports Authority at the Cape Town harbour. They’re concerned with noise induced hearing loss – where employees gradually lose their hearing because of noise in their working environment. I introduced them to our active hearing system, which involves earmuffs with built-in microphones and amplifiers. These smart devices protect your ears from harmful sounds without blocking out the safe sounds. So if you and I were wearing them, we could stand right near a very loud tug boat engine and have a normal conversation… even if we were standing 10m apart!

You used to work at Cadbury’s… that must have been a cool job!
It was! I did my internship there when I finished studying Industrial Engineering. I was responsible for quality control and waste reduction initiatives. When a chocolate is being manufactured, it gets thrown away if it’s not 100% perfect – after all, you can’t separate out all the ingredients and start again. Even if the chocolate is perfect but the wrapper isn’t put on correctly, it’s cheaper to throw it away than to unwrap it and put it back into the system. I had to analyse the entire process and find ways to avoid wasted chocolates… I also got to eat a whole lot of chocolate (I ate about 500g of Whispers every day)!

Tell us about Industrial Engineering…
As an Industrial Engineer, you have to understand the whole process of an industry, right from the factory to the final product on the shelf. You have work in the process and interact with all the different employees so you can understand the big picture better than anyone else. Why? Because you belong to the product and it’s your job to give it the best life possible. It’s your job to improve the quality of the product and the efficiency with which it’s manufactured, to reduce the time it takes for the product to be made and delivered, and to understand the costs so you can calculate savings. At the end of the day, the product is there because there’s a demand for it, and you need to come up with ways to make more, better, faster and cheaper so that people make more money sooner.

Any advice for high school learners?
Whatever you end up doing, make sure that you get the big picture. Understand the entire process you’re in, not just the part you’re responsible for. That way, you’ll be far more likely to identify new opportunities and come up with smart solutions.