June 8, 2017
Syracuse University was an easy decision for Larry Freed ’87 G’91. After visiting the campus, SU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science was an easy first choice, but deciding on a major was a little tougher. Freed gave a lot of thought to the disciplines Syracuse offered and ultimately settled on mechanical engineering.
“I’m a tactile guy. I don’t want to work with anything I can’t see,” said Freed.
As an undergraduate, Freed had an outstanding coach and mentor in Adjunct Professor Ron Mann ’68 G’78. Mann worked for General Electric’s radar division in Syracuse and gave Freed perspective on applying engineering concepts to real world problems.
“He brought us out to his facility and showed us the lab and the radar systems they were running,” said Freed.
Freed was active with engineering groups on campus and became president of the Syracuse chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
“In my senior year, as we were getting closer to graduation, I started thinking about my career and what was next for me,” said Freed.
At a career fair, Freed attended an informational session on manufacturing engineering. The presentation included a slide show with a chart detailing how manufacturing productivity in the United States had fallen in comparison to many other parts of the globe.
“That struck a chord with me,” said Freed.
Freed applied to SU’s graduate manufacturing program and was accepted. As a graduate student, he completed an eight month co-op with IBM at their Burlington, Vermont semi-conductor fabrication facility.
“I worked second shift for four months on the manufacturing floor and for four months with the engineering group supporting the product,” said Freed. “It was a wonderful experience.”
When he came back to Syracuse, he joined a team of graduate students who worked with the plant manager of a large Chrysler facility to improve process efficiency.
Freed finished his thesis while working full-time for U.S. Can Company in Chicago. U.S. Can was founded by Syracuse graduate and former trustee William J. Smith ’50. In his new job, Freed was tackling manufacturing engineering projects for a large-scale metal and plastics packaging company as analog systems were being upgraded to digital. Freed helped develop computer-aided manufacturing solutions for plants in Philadelphia and Green Bay before returning to Chicago to head up the infrastructure and operations side of U.S. Can’s IT department.
“The goal was to apply the fundamentals of process engineering and manufacturing to information technology,” said Freed.
Freed also worked on the business side of IT for a large production home builder in Michigan and as Chief Information Officer (CIO) of a window and door manufacturer in Dallas. In 2011, he joined Overhead Door Corporation as CIO. Overhead Door is one of the leading manufacturers of doors and openers for residential, commercial, industrial and transportation applications. The company has over 3500 employees and 22 manufacturing facilities.
Since he joined, Freed has been working to shift the company from multiple legacy IT systems to one modern, consolidated platform.
“In order to achieve long term goals, the obstacle was legacy technologies,” said Freed.
Three of the company’s five divisions are now on the new integrated system. (More information on Overhead Door’s IT upgrade can be found here.) Bringing the separate divisions together under one optimized supply chain model has not been easy but Freed says it offers the company increased efficiency.
“We have learned a lot about what will work and what will not,” said Freed. “You have to pace yourself and make sure the technology is not outpacing the individual’s ability to understand it and embrace it.”
Freed believes the interdisciplinary approach to engineering he gained at Syracuse prepared him for opportunities he would have never expected. He is also a strong advocate for STEM outreach and mentoring for K-12 students.
“Syracuse taught me to think and approach problems and communicate,” said Freed. “You need that balanced perspective of the world to appreciate what happens on the technical side but also the business and people side. It guides you in how you confront challenges.”