Adel A. Zakaria
Senior Vice President, Engineering and Manufacturing
Worldwide Agricultural Equipment Division Deere & Company
MSIE '70, PhD '73
For his technical expertise and innovative leadership within the world's largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment, the Schools of Engineering are proud to present the Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award to Adel A. Zakaria.
On choosing engineeringWhen I was young, my dad was an engineer, a plant manager, and he had quite an influence on me. Also, growing up in a developing country [Egypt], I couldn't help but see that engineering was a hands-on way to improve things. Civilizations are known for their know-how and the technology they use in daily life, and for what they leave behind.
On his memories of PurdueWhen I came to Purdue, I focused on getting through the coursework and research, but I still have memories of outside activities. I remember fondly the football games and the great performances in the Elliott Hall of Music on football weekends. There was a community of Egyptian foreign students at Purdue, and we used to play volleyball and squash. I also remember the outstanding ice cream that you could get in Smith Hall through the dairy department. Purdue was more than an education: It was my transition into the West. It was an immersion into the American experience. At Purdue I began to acquire the knowledge and skills that prepared me to function well and be a successful engineer, manager, corporate executive, and, ultimately, citizen. I also met my wife at Purdue, and we got married there.
On career challengesI am extremely proud of my experiences at John Deere. I had the good fortune to be an individual contributor early in my career. I was fortunate to lead the development of technology that helped us create an analytical system-the John Deere Group Technology System-that we used to reorganize our manufacturing units from a functional orientation to a cellular one. That's a wave that swept through American industry later, and John Deere had the first large-scale application. In the last seven years at John Deere, we've introduced the most extensive round of new products in the history of the company. More than 250 new agricultural products have been launched. In addition, we've reorganized our engineering resources and processes. We used to design these products regionally, for North America, South America, and Europe. Now we have a worldwide engineering organization, which gives us the ability to source and manufacture around the world. We've developed a new product-development process based on concurrent engineering, with multidisciplinary teams. Our suppliers and customers are part of those teams. I also represented manufacturing within Deere over a six-year period in a very challenging set of negotiations with our major unions. We were able to achieve a breakthrough in an agreement with the United Auto Workers that aligned the interests of the company and the union by providing a new work environment and a team-based compensation system. I cannot think of a job I've held that involved maintaining the status quo. Every job involved significant change. That makes life challenging and rewarding at the same time. My current position, being responsible for the engineering, manufacturing, and production activities of a 162-year-old American icon with an extremely loyal customer following-John Deere's agricultural equipment operations-is an awesome responsibility, but at the same time a gratifying experience.
On the futureI'm extremely optimistic about the future. We're living in a golden age, considering the level of peace and prosperity that exists in the world and the expansion of democracy and freedom that is going on amid an explosion of knowledge. There has never before been this kind of opportunity for mankind. If you have the right combination of attitude, skills, and education education, the sky's the limit. The issue that concerns me is the polarization that may develop as one segment of the population is able to perceive the opportunity and equip themselves with skills and the right attitude, and another is not. The second group is going to fall behind. That's the paradox of our times: for all the brilliant and motivated people you see doing well, there are some who, for one reason or another, aren't taking advantage of the opportunities.
- Deere & Company named among the 100 best-managed companies worldwide by Industry Week.
- Outstanding Industrial Engineer, Purdue.
- Helped achieve a historic labor settlement between Deere and the UAW.
- Appointed Senior Vice President, Engineering and Manufacturing, for Worldwide Agricultural Equipment Division. Worldwide agricultural equipment sales double to more than $7 billion, more than 250 new products are launched, and employee productivity more than doubles. Introduced the industry's first integrated precision-farming system.
- Appointed Vice President, Agricultural Equipment Manufacturing, U.S. and Canada.
- General Manager, Waterloo Works. Oversaw the introduction of Deere's largest line of new tractors. Launched a total quality management program.
- General Manager, Engine Works. Positioned the group for growth in OEM engine business.
- Director, Engineering, Diesel Engines. Developed a worldwide engineering group and adopted a common design across North America and Europe.
- Manager, Manufacturing Engineering, Dubuque Works. Launched the implementation of a new manufacturing strategy based on focused factory and reduced vertical integration.
- Manager Project Management and Planning. Oversaw the expansion of Deere facilities worldwide.
- Manager Manufacturing Engineering Systems. Established Deere's first CAD/CAM corporate function.
- Staff engineer, Deere & Company. One of a three-person team that developed software for managing parts, machine-tool utilization, and computer-aided process planning.
- Joined State University College of New York; taught undergraduate engineering.
BSME '67, Ain Shams University; MSIE '70, PhD '73, Purdue.