Christel van Grunsven: a route through various countries to process engineering

Christel van Grunsven (CHGR)

Our young professional Christel van Grunsven from the Netherlands started this year off as a new employee in VMEngineering, part of the NIRAS Group. Christel is putting all her prior experience into practice in her role as a Process Engineer and she is already involved in several interesting projects and developments.

Christel has completed a bachelor and master study in food technology. For her master’s degree, she was selected for the programme “European Master in Food Studies”, which is an internationally themed specialization.

During her master, she studied and lived in no less than four different countries, namely The Netherlands, Ireland, France, and Sweden. Furthermore, she completed her industrial thesis at two companies in both Denmark and the Netherlands. Thanks to this wide-reaching international learning curve, she has already gathered a lot of expertise preparing her for her current role within the food industry and as part of an international company like VMEngineering.

What attracted you to the role of a process engineer?

During my studies, I had the opportunity to execute multiple internships, which gave me a good idea of what I would like to find in a job. I always enjoyed being close to a process and understanding the “how” and “why” of things. Because the process - and especially the details - triggered my enthusiasm, I wanted to do something with engineering within the food industry.

Since my interest for technology is particularly broad and I do not wish to specialize in one field, I searched for an engineering role, which would cover multiple industries and product categories. VMEngineering, which is a part of the international NIRAS Group, enables me to work on multiple projects with different companies, industries, and subjects. I have already come to enjoy this level of diversity in my work, even though I just started the job!

What are you currently working on and what makes these projects interesting?

At the moment, I am active in three projects. One of these projects is carried out for Lely, which is a company that produces milking robots amongst other agricultural automation solutions. Together with VMEngineering, Lely developed a small-scale milk factory called “Lely Orbiter”, which can be located directly at the farm. This creates a short chain for the milk and gives the farmer the opportunity to create more value for the product.

One particular wish of the farmers who own a Lely Orbiter, is to produce milk with excellent foaming properties for cappuccino. In this project, I focus on the composition of the milk and the process parameters to create this type of milk. My background in food science proves to be very useful and makes the project extra exciting and fun for me.

Another project is for a company that produces ingredients for infant food. At their production plant, a part of the process installation needs to be removed. I use piping and instrumentation diagrams to determine, which parts need to be removed and which should stay. By taking pictures, I create an image booklet for the demolition workers. In this project I am learning how to read, use, and adjust piping and instrumentation diagrams, and I get the chance to see a totally different production plant on the inside.

The third project I am working on is for a producer of natural coloring ingredients. Their company and production has grown during the last few years, and the duration of cleaning has become too long. This has resulted a decreased amount of available production time. They wish to expand their cleaning installation to create more available production hours.

At the moment, I am examining the current situation in the field and on paper. A good and efficient cleaning system is the basis of creating good and safe food in my opinion. I am happy to be part of a project on this subject since I would like to learn more about it, and it is super fun to see this kind of industry in practice.

What are your goals when it comes to learning and development?

Since my study background is more focused on food science and technology, I still have a lot to learn within technical knowledge and engineering skills. My primary learning goal is to understand what the differences and similarities are between the processes of different types of products.

Additionally, I hope to become part of a long term project from start to finish to experience all the different phases of a project, and to understand the different steps, which need to be taken for such a project to succeed. Overall, there is so much to learn, and I will continue to take learning opportunities when they come my way.