In our series “Consultants tell their stories”, today we want to introduce you to Jan Mertens, Project Manager with Pauwels Consulting. Jan joined Pauwels Consulting in 2012.

Nearly 40 years ago I graduated as an industrial engineer. At first I wanted to start my career as representative or technical manager. These were the two most obvious career options for new engineers.

When I look around me now, I notice that young engineers are often still thinking along the same lines. This is not bad, but it should not limit your ambitions since there are so much more opportunities for engineers!

Engineering is a wonderful job!

Jan Mertens - Senior Engineer - Pauwels Consulting

Through the years I have worked in various sectors on a variety of projects. For example, I have worked as a Site Manager, Senior Project Manager and Project Manager Global Operations.

My projects have taken me to the U.S., Canada, Australia, India, South America, New Caledonia, Egypt, Cameroon and several countries in Europe. Currently I am working as a Project Manager Signaling on a large project with a large Belgian railway company.

The added value of engineers

When I was in college I thought of an engineer as a theoretical person. Now I think of an engineer as someone who is flexible enough to solve new challenges with knowledge and experience from previous projects.

Over the years, my broad background has helped me tremendously in solving new challenges. Knowledge and experience allow you to see causal relationships that others might not see. And these insights can have a great impact!

Engineers are the inventors of creative solutions

For example, a while ago I heard that many of our containers with expensive equipment (these containers are placed along railways) showed damage on the seams and joints. The cause of this damage was unclear. It was first considered a manufacturing defect.

Thanks to my experience with cranes I could quickly determine that the way of transporting and the applied lifting procedures were non-compliant. As a result the containers bent. We soon arranged a meeting with all parties involved to discuss a proper lifting method.

We studied the mechanical specifications of the containers and we discussed the different phases in the transport, the cross-section of the support profiles, the strength and location of the lifting eyes, and the materials used.

Then we had a look at how the containers were manipulated. We made instant adjustments. The railway company employed a quality manager to deal with this specific problem.

Engineering jobs can have great impact and social relevance!

The impact and social relevance of the solution described above is quite substantial! Bended containers often suffer from water seepage and corrosion. If this is the case, they have to be repaired or replaced … with tax money.

If you know that a single container costs on average between 270,000 and 400,000 Euros and that we have almost 1,000 boxes positioned along our railways, we have avoided quite some costs.

Cross-fertilization and flexibility are worth gold

This incident shows that flexibility and cross-fertilization of knowledge are important assets in engineering. Your strength as an engineer is in the practical solution of problems using existing knowledge and expertise. You can never gain enough experience for this.

Without my experience with cranes I would never have found the connection between the incorrect lifting techniques and the bended containers. The solution we came up with has saved us all a lot of money.

Looking back at my career, I am glad I have gained extensive experience in very different projects. I invite you to do the same!

What do you think?

What does the word “Engineer” mean to you? Is it a degree? A trait? An evolution? I would love to read your reactions via the response form underneath this page.


Jan Mertens has been working with Pauwels Consulting since 2012. He has 40 years of experience as a Site Manager, Senior Project Manager and Project Manager Global Operations on various projects in the U.S., Canada, South America, Africa, India, Australia, New Caledonia and Europe.

Jan currently works as a Project Manager Signaling on a large project for a major Belgian railway company. He is responsible for managing the main contractors who are modernizing signaling devices and associated railway infrastructure throughout Belgium.

For more information about our consulting services, our engineering projects and your possibilities at Pauwels Consulting, please contact us at 09-324 70 80 or via jobs@pconsulting.net


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