Entrepreneur Finds Success in Industrial Engineering and Side Businesses
Eric Gilbert, Oklahoma State University
Between his entrepreneurial spirit and his brainpower, Eric Gilbert is well positioned to be a very successful guy. He started a thriving ice cream shop in Oklahoma City with four buddies from college, recently purchased two rental properties and has begun selling wall clocks on Amazon, having chosen that product niche after researching the competition and pricing.
But all of that takes a backseat to his main gig as an industrial engineering supervisor at Webco Industries. The company is a leading manufacturer and distributor of steel tubing and provides the rear axles for many trucks and sport utility vehicles. Gilbert supervises the work of one other industrial engineer and stays busy with a variety of projects, including process improvement.
During the spring, he was analyzing data to optimize the factory’s storeroom, leading the procurement and implementation of a $10 million piece of manufacturing equipment and focusing on management’s strategic objectives. Each year, management typically will identify a major project or behavioral change for operations, and Gilbert works to make it happen.
“We help to facilitate, coach and brainstorm to create a behavioral change that wouldn’t happen otherwise because people are busy with their whirlwind day jobs,” Gilbert said.
Prior to being promoted last July, Gilbert spent two years as a business analyst in production planning with Webco, analyzing data and generating reports to inform management’s decision-making. Among his accomplishments was helping a fellow industrial engineer identify a bottleneck in a chemical process for the steel tubes and implementing a change that increased production by 30%.
Gilbert got invaluable experience as an intern with Walmart in 2013, when he and a supervisor ran a pilot project to introduce 50 automated guided vehicles, worth about $4 million in total, into a grocery distribution center in Alabama.
“With about a month left in the six-month project, my boss quit, and it was dropped in my lap,” Gilbert said. “I worked 70-hour weeks that last month. It was pretty rough, but it all worked out well.”
Gilbert credits that experience with helping him earn a scholarship from the Material Handling Education Foundation Inc., which has awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships and grants since its inception in 1976. The MHEFI is an independent charitable organization dedicated to supporting the study of material handling, logistics and supply chain, exposing students to the many opportunities in the industry.