Because it wasn’t music! As a junior in high school, I had the notion that I wanted to major in music in college. That notion was quickly quashed by the man who was offering to foot the bill for school – but “only if I studied something that would let me earn a living.” As a rebellious teen, I did what any good hard-headed kid would do – I dropped band after my junior year and decided to take metal shop (after all – what could be easier, right?).
(When I recounted this story to Eric, who had initially decided that he wanted to study Music Education at WKU, he looked at me and said “Are you going to tell me that I can’t study Music?” I told him that I was not, but, like his brothers, he only gets one shot at the education.)
It was in metal shop that I learned to weld – good old 7024 electrodes made it seem easy. My dad, who at the time was the salaried hiring manager for Newport News Shipbuilding, suggested that perhaps I ought to study Welding Engineering. He was constantly looking for welding engineers, there were only three schools in the US teaching it, and the pay was very good. And so it started.
And now for the rest of the story (H/T to Paul Harvey).
Career Overview and Accomplishments
In June, 1982, Phillip D. Thomas received a Bachelor of Science degree in Welding Engineering from Millikin University and embarked upon his career in the welding industry.
From 1982 until 1991, Mr. Thomas was employed as Welding Engineer with Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), advancing from Engineer I to Engineer IV in just nine years. Mr. Thomas’ career at NNS provided him exposure to nearly every weldable metal and welding process. Before beginning an engineering assignment, he was required to be qualified as welder and perform structural welding on Navy ships for 3 months. The department manager insisted that all engineers who would write procedures understand what the conditions were like for those who had to do the work.
In his initial engineering assignment, he instructed 11 technicians in performing over 50 process, consumable or equipment evaluations and procedure qualifications to continuously reduce welding costs and improve weld quality. Each of these projects required controlling schedule and cost as well as preparing a formal technical report. During this period, Mr. Thomas directed four externally funded welding research and development programs ($250K) to develop and implement welding process improvements with all programs completed on-time and under budget. The results of one of these programs were published in Mr. Thomas’ article “Automatic Submerged Arc Welding with Metal Powder Additions to Increase Productivity and Maintain Quality” in the Society of Naval Architect and Marine Engineers JOURNAL OF SHIP PRODUCTION in February, 1988.
Later, Mr. Thomas moved to providing full-spectrum welding engineering support to several different manufacturing areas — sheet metal, piping, foundry, machine shop and structural assembly. In other assignments during his tenure at NNS, he reviewed structural assembly drawings, optimizing joint design for assembly sequence and weld process, and he taught process selection, preheat/interpass and magnetism control classes to welding department supervisors.
While working at NNS, Mr. Thomas received a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management from Old Dominion University in 1989. He also received his first direct exposure to the quality assurance field by serving as subject matter expert and audit team member in the subcontracting of eight major hull valves from pre-award survey through receipt inspection.
During his last two years at NNS, Mr. Thomas was an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University, teaching an undergraduate course in “Fundamentals of Welding Technology” in Civil and Construction Engineering.
In 1991, Mr. Thomas joined Stoody Company as the Manager of Product Evaluation. His original assignment was to oversee the welding laboratory. In 1993, he was promoted to Quality Assurance Manager, responsible for the quality assurance and product evaluation functions with emphasis on quality planning and ensuring customer satisfaction. Mr. Thomas was responsible for tracking all customer complaints and warranty returns – evaluation, disposition and communicating results to Sales.
Mr. Thomas led an effort to completely redesign a new quality management system that met the requirements of ISO 9001 along with a new process instruction-based manufacturing system. He also designed and implemented a new inspection structure — eliminating the “QA as inspector” approach and replaced it with operators doing their own inspections. Mr. Thomas created and implemented a custom desktop application — the Stoody Quality Data Management System — encompassing certification, product property, corrective action, supplier quality, measuring and test equipment, nonconforming material and document control modules. He later added a continual improvement module to track improvements to manufacturing processes, quality processes, infrastructure, safety and employee suggestions.
In 1997, Stoody was the first welding consumable manufacturer registered to ISO 9001 (which included design, inspection and testing — vs. the ISO 9002 standard the competitors followed which covered only inspection and testing). During Mr. Thomas’ leadership over a 20 year period of ISO registration the company has never had a major nonconformance.
Later, Mr. Thomas led, or acted as subject matter expert for, several large IT software conversion projects. As a result of his leadership in these projects and his expertise in computing, email, online conferencing/collaboration and programming, he was given the added responsibility for the Bowling Green IT department from 2004–2006 until that function was absorbed by the corporate services group.
In 2007, he was assigned to also lead the chemical analysis laboratory which required him to quickly become knowledgeable in chemical analysis methods and equipment. In 2009, he was promoted to Quality/Manufacturing Engineering Manager and assumed the additional responsibility of overseeing the process, electrical and industrial engineers.
Mr. Thomas continues to provide leadership to Stoody in controlling manufacturing costs, reducing manufacturing cycle time, reducing scrap costs, reducing product returns, achieving reduction in receipt inspection man-hours as well as slashing product certification cycle times.
In all, Mr. Thomas’ 35 years experience in manufacturing, welded metals fabrication and departmental management has given him solid welding industry knowledge — manufacturing methodologies, processes and procedures. He has an impressive background as a welding products consumer prior to joining Stoody as a manufacturer. He has expert-level knowledge of all conventional welding/cutting processes, specialist-level knowledge of chemical analysis, particle size analysis, industry specifications, mechanical testing, nondestructive examination, ISO 9001 and is well versed in rolling, wire drawing, annealing, extrusion, packaging, and transportation.
Throughout his career, Mr. Thomas has demonstrated strong performance as a self-directed team leader. He is a high energy, analytical, organized leader with a track record of quality, process, productivity and cost improvements. He has proven hands-on leadership in project management, effective quality management systems, lean manufacturing, cost control, capital expenditures and customer service.
Mr. Thomas has experience leading in both union and non-union environments and has led teams comprised of hourly, salaried non-exempt and salaried exempt employees. Mr. Thomas has strong knowledge of contemporary HR principles and practices; policy-writing expertise, team building and conflict resolution skills and has excellent analytical, written and interpersonal skills. He can communicate effectively with all levels of an organization — from machine operator to CEO.
Mr. Thomas is a Senior Member of the American Society for Quality, and a Life Member of the American Welding Society.