IMSE alumnus successfully champions, implements ‘lean’ operations through career
David Engelkemeyer grew up in Hermann, Mo., where he was both class president and president of his high school’s student body. The son of factory workers, the 1973 graduate from the Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department said that even as a youngster, he thought about some sort of a career that would make his parents’ way of life better.
Because he had an aptitude for science and math, Engelkemeyer’s school guidance counselor pointed him toward an engineering career. He said he considered going to school in Rolla, but while on the MU campus to take his SATs, he walked around the College of Engineering where then-dean, William R. Kimel, invited him into his office to talk.
“I knew I liked the business side of things. The dean pointed me in the direction of industrial engineering, which turned out to be exactly the right thing for me,” said Engelkemeyer, who currently serves as vice president of operations and supply chain for Welch Foods Inc., headquartered in Concord, Mass.
“My college experience included my summer job selling books [door-to-door] for The Southwestern Company,” Engelkemeyer said.
During the three summers he worked for them, he was one of the top sales producers out of the nearly 8,000 college students they employed. Over time, he picked up increased leadership responsibilities. By his final summer, he was supervising 15 student sales managers and their teams. This direct selling experience helped him hone important skills that have contributed to his successful career.
“In addition to core engineering studies skills, it is every bit as important to find opportunities to build communication, leadership and team-based social skills” Engelkemeyer said. “Students should choose their electives wisely, get involved and pursue meaningful work experiences.”
Engelkemeyer took a job with Procter and Gamble after graduating in 1973, and said the initial management development training he received was worth another college degree. When he left the company in 1994, he had 20 years of increasing responsibility under his belt. For the next six years, climbed the ranks of Avery Dennison Worldwide Office Products, starting as a site manager for the Paper Products Division where he led one of the most challenging and successful turnarounds in the company history. By 2000, he was group director for the company’s office products plant operations and supply chain functions.
His next position was with a Boston-based start-up retail service company where he acquired invaluable exposure to the entrepreneurial and private equity world working as senior and then executive vice president of operations.
From 2004 until he went to work for Welch Foods in 2007, he served as vice president of worldwide operations for Banta Corporation, a printing and supply chain management firm — now part of R.R. Donnelley — where he was responsible for 40 plants across three continents.
Throughout his career, Engelkemeyer has taken an active role in introducing and championing Lean Thinking, an operational philosophy that targets the elimination of practices that do not add value to products for the end user. His strategic plans have annually saved his companies tens of millions of dollars.
“It’s basically just identifying ways to take waste out of the system with a customer focus,” Engelkemeyer said. “The skill set of looking at processes this way and making them more efficient is an important one to develop.”
The work he has accomplished utilizing those skills has been gratifying, based on the satisfaction he has derived from his engineering career, including his past six years with Welch Foods, a national co-op owned by 1,100 grapegrowers.
“We’re the marketing arm for their crop,” Engelkemeyer said. “Being owned by your largest supplier puts a very interesting twist on managing your supply chain,” he added, and said that this job has put all of the skills he has developed in his previous positions into play.
“I have a broad, influential and rewarding role at Welch’s,” Engelkemeyer said. As a member of the senior leadership team, I not only share in helping to develop the company’s vision and strategy to achieve it, but from a functional perspective, I’m continually challenged with finding new opportunities for taking out cost to help drive innovation, growth and customer satisfaction.
Engelkemeyer met his wife, Susan (West) Engelkemeyer, when he was a student at MU and she a student at Stephens College. Susan also has had an exciting and rewarding career. She currently serves as president of Nichols College, a business college in Dudley, Mass.
The couple’s home base is a fully restored, 120-year-old oceanfront Victorian house near Boston. Their two adult children, Jason and Kristy, and their families — including two grandchildren — live nearby. Engelkemeyer said that keeping up with the house has become a weekend hobby.
“I enjoy living on the ocean in the Boston area and spending time here with my family and friends,” he said.