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Engel a pro at balancing supply and demand

September 1, 2012

As a supply chain manager, St. Marys native Matt Engel utilizes his chemical engineering background as an employee of Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., based in Allentown. Photo submitted.

Matt Engel's natural curiosity for technologies and business combined with his background as a chemical engineer has provided him with the ideal characteristics required in his career as a supply chain manager.
Engel acquired his position with Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., an international corporation headquartered in Allentown, less than a year ago. He is responsible for managing a team of approximately 25 supply chain professionals who plan and execute the supply of materials from the company's vendors, through their plants, to their warehouses and customers for the Performance Materials Division.
"We have to balance supply and demand to ensure our customers are supplied in a cost-effective way. We also lead the introduction of new product into the supply chain," Engel explained. "I like those challenges and the challenge of making my function a complimentary competitive advantage to our business and technology.  I also like working with broad cross-functional teams that we deal with in supply chain. Air Products does a great job of hiring really good people, and people make all the difference about how much you enjoy spending the many hours at work."
According to Engel, managing a supply chain is challenging due to it being very dynamic, as despite professionals' best efforts, sales forecasts are typically incorrect, whether they are too high, too low, wrong timing or due to some other issue. He added supply plans do not always unfold as planned. This may be a result of plants not running well, a delay in the delivery of raw materials, botched customer service deliveries or dealing with Mother Nature impacting all of the above-mentioned factors.
Prior to Engel's current position, he worked as a market manager for the company's epoxy business responsible for serving the Americas' construction market.
"One of my favorite projects in marketing was growing one of our new product lines," he said. "I led the introduction of several new products to the Americas and worked with our sales and technology teams to promote them. We traveled around the U.S. and Canada promoting the product through seminars we had in each city. We had a seminar in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which was an interesting experience where I spoke to a large audience via a translator in their ears."
Following graduation from Elk County Christian High School in 1991, Engel pursued a degree in chemical engineering from Bucknell University, graduating in 1995. He continued his education, earning a masters degree in business administration from Lehigh University in 2005.
He currently resides in Emmaus, a suburb of Allentown, with his wife Mary (Edwards) Engel and their two children, Claire, 9, and Jack, 7. He is the son of Tom and Mary Lee Engel of St. Marys and is the middle sibling of Greg and Marty Engel. Throughout his educational career, Engel said he had an affinity for math and chemistry, which led to him obtaining his chemical engineering degree and participating in the inaugural class of Bucknell’s Institute for Leadership in Technology and Management, a summer program.
"I’ve been fortunate that my career has evolved with my interests," Engel said.
His career began as a chemical engineer in the Air Products Career Development Program, where he discovered he enjoyed working as a process engineer in the company's plants. 
From there he moved to Pensacola, Fla., to work in one of the company's chemical plants for a few years. This is where he also met his wife, a native of New Jersey. Engel's next move was to the company's Allentown headquarters, where he worked with the plants to optimize and de-bottleneck processes, as well as introduce new products and technologies to their plants. 
"I spent a lot of time at our Wichita, Kansas plant. Through the several years in this process engineering role, I did a lot of financial analysis of new products, new technology, and process improvements which led me to get my MBA," Engel said.
Engel added while obtaining his MBA, he had the opportunity to 'switch to the dark side' and work in the business area, where he managed the supply chain for the Wichita plant. He explained the "the dark side" is what engineers refer to as the business area.
"From here, I moved further to the dark side and became a market manager for our epoxy business. After five years in this role, I was asked to manage our Americas Supply Chain team," Engel said.
Engel credits the values and work ethic instilled by his parents as contributing to his career success.
"I can still hear my mom reminding me to obey the ‘Golden Rule’ and my dad teaching me that ‘There is a way, and there is a right way’ -- he still says that when he helps me with a project. They have always been supportive and encouraging, telling me I could do anything I set my mind to," Engel said. "Also, being a student athlete in high school and college helped me learn to manage multiple competing priorities. I had great teachers and coaches at both ECCHS and Bucknell."
Engel said growing up in a small town is part of who he is and that background brings a diversity of thought to everything he has done in his career.
"I still share stories about my first job in St. Marys-- a paperboy for The Daily Press. Surprisingly, it taught me a little bit about business, customer service, and supply chain," Engel said.
As for those interested in pursuing a career in the supply chain field, Engel advises there are various routes whether it is through formal training in supply chain/logistics or through an operational path. 
"Both paths have their advantages. I’m happy with the path I took, but I wouldn’t call it a road map to a career in supply chain. On the other hand, I would advise a chemical engineering degree can lead to many different career paths," he said.
As for the future, Engel enjoys working in the Performance Materials Division at Air Products.
"I suspect my future will continue at the interface of technology and management. Who knows, maybe my hobby will blossom into a business some day," Engel said.
When he's not in the office, Engel enjoys spending time with his family, attending his children's activities, running and making his own handcrafted beers.

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