Craig M. McLaughlin
For his outstanding contributions as a researcher, technical executive, and business leader in the development and exploitation of environmentally friendly technology, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Craig M. McLaughlin.
Vice President and Manager, Licensing
BSChE '68, MSChE '70, PhD '72
On his school days
As a student I was very serious, very focused. I did join a fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and I enjoyed the social activities quite a bit. In the summers I was an unofficial co-op student for Monsanto, a chemical company. That gave me an opportunity to spend time in a research lab, at a chemical plant, and in Monsanto's central engineering office. The experience solidified my thoughts that I wanted to do engineering design.
On people who have influenced him
|My major professor, J. Henry Rushton, had a tremendous influence on me. He was a leader in his field [mixing], and I was his last graduate student. He accepted nothing but excellence. He let me know if I gave him something else. In addition to Professor Rushton, my father was a great influence: he taught me my work ethic. And certainly my wife has had a positive influence on me. We were married during my final years at Purdue, and after she finished her degree, she unselfishly worked for the last three years so that we could afford to stay.
On the value of his Purdue education
My education was outstanding. It was an excellent exposure to a very broad range of expertise. What has really been important to me in my career, and I can't overemphasize it, is that the education I received at Purdue was practical. It put me in a position where I could join a company and immediately start contributing, whereas some of my friends-certainly brilliant people-who had gone to other universities that were much more theoretical were not able to contribute quite as quickly.
The other thing I should mention is that Purdue was probably ahead of its time in that I did a tremendous amount of work on the computer during the late '60s and early '70s. In fact, my master's thesis was computer-based. I'm one of the more senior people in this company who has been dealing with computers since before graduation, for some 30 years.
Purdue can continue to contribute as an educator of engineers by producing graduates who, as in the past, have a fundamental understanding of technology or the ability to learn new technology. I couldn't possibly be successful in my business internationally unless first of all I understood the product, which, in my case, is technology.
On career highlights and challenges
I think that the main challenge of my career has been in the field of international licensing of refining technology. To be effective in this area, one needs to be knowledgeable about the technology itself, the project being considered, the customer, the customer's industry, and the competitive situation. My years in engineering design and project management helped me with the basic technical skills required, and the rest depended on my ability to listen to the customer and understand what is important to him or her.
I recall negotiating deals for the same technology (gasification) in Italy, the United States, China and Japan. Even though the fundamental science was the same, we were dealing with completely different industries and very different negotiation environments. The only way to be successful under such diverse conditions was to imagine yourself in the customer's position on all major issues, and look for the common denominator.
One of the highlights of my career was in making state-of-the-art gasification technology available to China. Over a period of 18 years we licensed 14 gasification plants in China. The reward came from the fact that the environmental performance of this new technology was significantly better than the older technology then in use. We helped modernize the Chinese petrochemical industry while significantly reducing emissions at the same time. And the main products of the plants, ammonia and urea fertilizers, were used to help feed the Chinese population without the necessity of food imports.
The reason I came to Bechtel last year represents both a challenge and a reward in my career. For approximately 100 years, Bechtel did not take an ownership position in refining or chemical technologies. It concentrated on being expert in the engineering, procurement and construction of these facilities, without necessarily being expert in the chemical process itself. Now we have determined that the best way to add value for the customer is to become expert in the process technology as well, so that we have an even better understanding of where and how money can be saved during the engineering and construction of new facilities. That is a very basic change for Bechtel, and it underscores how today's global marketplace requires us to be continually changing.
- Vice President and Manager, Licensing, Bechtel Corp. Responsible for establishing a profitable and growing technology licensing business.
- President, Texaco Development Corp. Directed all commercial, technical, and legal aspects of licensing Texaco technology to the petrochemical and utility industries. Reengineered the licensing business. Marketed seven technology packages in addition to a research lab.
- Executive Vice President. Significantly increased gasification business in China and Japan.
- Vice President. Sponsored effort to reduce number of suppliers.
- Superintendent, Operations, Texaco Port Arthur Refinery.
- Chief Process Engineer. Supervised process engineers at Texaco's then-largest refinery during downsizing.
- Staff Engineer, Computer Control, Texaco Central Engineering Dept. Initiated benchmarking study that established state-of-the-art technology for advanced computer control of an entire refinery. Used the results to design and implement Texaco's most advanced computer control network at the Convent, La., refinery.
- Assistant to Texaco Management Offices of J. W. Kinnear and A. C. DeCrane Jr. (both eventual Texaco CEOs).
- Senior Project Engineer. Managed process design of highly successful Cool Water Coal Gasification Program.
- Senior Process Engineer, Pembroke Cracking Co. (Texaco affiliate), San Donato, Italy. Supervised design of hydrogen generation and HF alkylation units for joint venture in Pembroke, Wales.
Senior Engineer, Texaco Corp. BSChE '68, MSChE '70, PhD '72, Purdue; Executive Development Program '88, Cornell