Bill Reeves, BSE/MSE IOE ‘00
Bill Reeves is a Michigan man. He grew up in Kalamazoo and after high school headed to Ann Arbor where he graduated magna cum laud with a Bachelor of Science in engineering from the University of Michigan. He then earned a Master of Science in Industrial and Operations Engineering in 2000 as a Tauber Fellow and wound up back in Michigan working for the iconic Dow Chemical Company in Midland in 2008.
In between, he managed to attend Harvard Business School where he received his MBA (a fact that his Michigan compatriots don’t seem to hold this against him), gain experience as a supply chain manager with Dell Inc. in Austin, Texas, and even spent a year working for Dell in Malaysia.
But his biggest move to date was the one he made in 2010 when he was named Global Director, Product & Asset Management at Dow’s Wolff Cellulosics in Horgen, Switzerland. He and his young family of five are living in Europe where Reeves is currently leading operations across five Dow business units, setting the strategic direction for six product lines and enabling over $1B in revenue.
“Coming out of Michigan -- 12 years ago now – I hadn’t thought too seriously about international locations, but over the last five years, it has been the focus for me. Early in my career with Dell, I spent a year in Malaysia gaining experience. That gave me the drive to find something overseas. It has been a fantastic experience for me and my family,” said Reeves.
His family consists of his wife of eight years, Laura, and his children, Lindsay, 7, Kate, 4, and Alex, 1. Though they attend International School where English is the primary language, Reeves said his kids are picking up German faster and better than he is.
Tauber Combined Two Key Elements
Looking back, fate played a role in him even finding the Tauber Institute for Global Operations, which led to his position at Dell and launched his career. He had decided to pursue engineering at UM, but was teetering between engineering and business because he was sure that he wanted to be in a position to run a business in the longer term. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to make engineering and business overlap. Early in my sophomore year I scheduled a meeting with my counselor, but because he was out sick, someone from Tauber sat in. As I told him my dilemma, his eyes widened and he went on to describe the EGL program, how Tauber integrates business and engineering applications, and the rest is history,” Reeves said.
The scope and relevance of the Tauber Summer Projects also appealed to Reeves, who said that the access to business school professors and MBA students enriched his experience. “I had strong teammates and meaty opportunities – most students don’t get this experience,” he said.
He recalls that Professors Yavuz Bozer and Roman Kapuscinski were more than simply advisors to his team, but were truly interested in what they were doing. “They engaged with us, gave critical assessment and contributed to our project and what we learned. If we ran into stumbling block, we could call on their experience and start heading in the right direction,” he said.
Reeves’ first summer project was with Steelcase in Grand Rapids where he was involved with a lean transformation of one of their plants. His second project was at Dell where he dove into inventory management across the supply chain.
“We were involved with crucial moments in each company’s existence. Both companies were interested, involved and supportive of the projects, and I think the UM reputation played a role in their confidence. They knew they were getting particularly talented kids,” he said.
Dell Inc. recognized that talent, and offered Reeves a position after his graduation. “Coming in where I came in – gaining the experience with the summer project – allowed me to move through Dell faster, I believe, because I had that understanding of how engineering and business meld together. That put me on a better trajectory.”
“Today I am still sitting at that edge of engineering and the business worlds running operations for Dow’s Cellulosics business unit. We continue to leverage industrial engineering expertise, translating it into long term competitive advantage,” he said. “My appreciation for looking at the business as a whole has been key in my career.”
Written by Nancy Davis