Robert D. Hall

For his outstanding leadership in integrating technology, manufacturing, and operations in the world's largest major home appliance company, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Robert D. Hall.

Corporate Vice President, Global Procurement Operations
Whirlpool Corporation
BSIE '70

On life as a student

I'd been interested in engineering all through high school, and I started at Purdue in electrical engineering-I liked electronics. Halfway through my sophomore year, though, I changed to industrial engineering. As a scholarship winner for Whirlpool, I'd had a summer experience in a Whirlpool factory doing plant layout work, and I found out that I enjoyed working with people and applying engineering with people.

At Purdue I worked like crazy, but life was not real complicated. I lived in Owens Hall my first year and, eventually, in Married Student Housing. Late-night studying, good friends, challenging classes, Kappa Sigma fraternity, and special events at the Hall of Music are just a few of the memories I have. A trip to the Rose Bowl and watching players like Bob Griese, Mike Phipps, Leroy Keyes, Rick Mount, Bill Keller, and Herman Gilliam were real events. Fundamentally, my time at Purdue was a real growth period, where I made the transition to being out on my own, being responsible, managing my own time, and growing socially.

On his Purdue education

My Purdue education has served me well. Over the years I've drawn on the breadth and practicality of my education. Almost every class I had in the IE program I ended up using in my career.

Professor Moody covered the materials management side of things-I drew on those courses in my master's program and at work. Professor Mann covered the operations research side-I drew on those courses within my first year on the job. Professor Kirkpatrick did statistical quality control. When that became more in vogue in the late '60s, with W. Edwards Deming, it wasn't foreign to me.

On his career

In the mid-'80s I was responsible for managing the changeover of our washer factory to an entirely new design, installing all-new state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and nearly doubling production output, all at the same time. It was a real challenge, but it was extremely rewarding to work with some very talented people who grew as much as I did from the experience.

In the late 1980s I was assigned to head the manufacturing and product engineering areas for our North American refrigeration business. At the time, the business was not in good shape. This assignment marked my first direct responsibility for product design. In leading a team of marketing, manufacturing, and product engineering people, we were able to turn the business around and significantly improve some major cross-functional business processes. The energy consumption of our products achieved industry-leading performance levels and eventually enabled us to win the Super Efficient Refrigerator Product competition.

My current assignment is exciting. We are actively integrating our suppliers into our design activities, business processes, and quality-improvement activities on a global basis. The opportunities are enormous. Breaking paradigms of what can and cannot be done is fascinating.

On education

In my global travels, I've observed what strides other countries are making in technology, innovations, and markets. A world-class system of education in America is absolutely crucial for competing in today's global environment. The competition is intense, and only those who are well prepared can compete. We cannot be satisfied with good schools-we must deliver the best if we are to succeed in the future. In addition, we must realize that a good college degree is the ante, but lifelong learning is required to prosper.
Corporate vice president, global procurement operations, of Whirlpool, world's leading manufacturer of major home appliances. Responsible for all component, material, and finished-product purchasing for global operations.
Vice president, manufacturing and technology, refrigeration. Responsible for all product development and manufacturing for Whirlpool's refrigeration business in North America. Technologies developed during 1989-91 reduced energy consumption of refrigeration products by more than 30% and helped Whirlpool win the 1993 Super Efficient Refrigerator contest.
Vice president, technology, Kenmore Appliance Group.
Chaired successful drive to establish Big Brother/Big Sister chapter in Sandusky County, Ohio.
Named vice president, Clyde (Ohio) Division, becoming one of youngest division vice presidents in Whirlpool's history. Oversaw productivity-per-employee increase of 35% and product-quality improvement of 40%.
Director, manufacturing and material control.
Director, manufacturing engineering and material control.
Manager, business planning. Developed business plan justifying conversion of automatic washer product to radically new design that is now the industry standard.
Manager, industrial engineering and material control.
Industrial engineer, Whirlpool.

BSIE '70, Purdue; MBA '75, Michigan State.