Glenn L. Beall has taught nearly 30,000 people at more than 770 seminars, but here's a news flash: Beall is shy!
Beall, one of the most-recognized people in the plastics industry, said he still gets nervous before speaking in front of a crowd.
``I have to push myself into these things,'' he said.
Beall, 63, first learned public speaking at Abbott Laboratories, where he worked from 1958-68 before starting the design firm that carried his name. Abbott signed him up for Toastmasters. Part of his job was to orient new hires into a design team that took the medical industry from reusable devices into disposable ones, such as plastic syringes and PVC tubing and blood bags. Beall gave many of the designers a basic grounding in plastics.
Beall's actual entry into plastics was a year earlier, in 1957, at General Electric Co., developing plastic parts for equipment to test heavy electrical switches. He didn't like it.
``I discovered in that first job that I did not want to be a machine-design engineer, or a mold-design engineer. What I wanted to be was a product engineer.''
He got his wish at Abbott's Research Division in North Chicago, Ill. Abbott had serious money to spend.
``We had our own little injection molding machine, our own mold shop, our own extruders. It was just a wonderful place to learn, or play, depending on your point of view. My career objective at that point was to learn,'' he said.
After a decade at Abbott, he started Glenn Beall/Engineering Inc. in Gurnee, Ill., specializing in designing products and making prototypes. He sold the firm in 1993 to his longtime partner, Robert L. Giles, and focused solely on consulting and seminars at Glenn Beall Plastics Ltd. in Libertyville, Ill.
Beall decided early on as a designer to concentrate on just plastics, but he wanted to learn everything there was to know about the industry. He hasn't been bored.
``I never limited myself to any single process or material,'' said Beall, whose current area of interest is gas-assisted injection molding.
Beall has 35 patents, 12 at Abbott and 23 while running his own company. He also is a prolific writer whose resumé lists more than 35 articles, many of them in plastics trade publications. He wrote a widely read column for a now-defunct magazine, Plastics Design Forum.
But Beall has become renowned through his technical seminars. The plastics industry will always need short courses, he said.
``We have more educational institutions teaching plastics than ever before. This is great. But in spite of that, I would say the majority of engineers come out of college without having been through a plastics training program.''
Short-course teachers get right to the point.
``The majority of the best seminars focus on practical things that you can use tomorrow,'' he said.
The courses, he said, ``are a quick fix. There are all kinds of seminars and the majority of them, you have a very limited amount of time to cover a lot of material.''
Beall learned the basics at Abbott, but his teaching career really took off when he met Lawrence Broutman, who runs a Chicago testing laboratory, L.J. Broutman & Associates Ltd.
Beall's first official seminar was in 1972. At the time, Broutman was helping Hammond Organ with training.
Here's how Broutman recalls it: ``They asked if I would be willing to give their engineers an in-house seminar on plastics, and I said I'd be happy to do that. I did the portion on materials. I knew Glenn through the Chicago Section of [the Society of Plastics Engineers]. I asked Glenn if he would be interested in doing a portion of the Hammond seminars on processing. He covered molding and processing.''
Shortly after, SPE approached Beall to conduct seminars at its events. The rest is history.
Now, some 770 seminars later, Beall admits he gets butterflies.
Broutman believes it: ``It's like some of these movie actors that have to gear up for what they do. When you meet him one-on-one, he is very reserved.''