Nagendra Rao

A story of supply chain innovation


Nagendra Rao

Did you know that every 1.8 seconds, a 25 Kg bag of plastic pellets pops out of one of 5 machines in a small city called Mont Belvieu, Texas? Or that 52 million such bags would be produced in the near future from this one facility per year?

I can attest to both, because my team was responsible for the design of the process that moves these tiny shapes of plastic from a storage silo to the marketplace.

At the Mont Belvieu Plastics Plant, we have started up a huge expansion that will nearly double the facility’s polyethylene production to 1.30 million tons a year. The products from these plastics will be lighter and take less energy to create, which means they’ll produce fewer emissions in the process. It’s been an exciting project to be a part of because it creates a new level of manufacturing and material handling integration not yet tried anywhere.

I was born and raised in India and joined ExxonMobil 27 years ago in Belgium as an experienced hire. I started as a project engineer where I was introduced to solid handling and packaging. After the successful start of our first SAP project in Europe, I moved to Singapore to work on the chemical complex on Jurong Island. Following completion of the North American Growth project at Mont Belvieu, I have moved on to other capital projects being developed. Having done both engineering and supply chain projects, I have been able to integrate the two worlds in some exciting innovations that I feel proud of.

That’s because I have taken my job beyond the traditional scope of supply chain into the world of manufacturing, a world I came from. While performing both jobs in one role, I make sure the engineering hardware in the manufacturing process integrates seamlessly with supply chain processes and systems.

Like in all interfaces, before you hand off your material and data to the next person in the chain, the two of you must be on the same page; otherwise the flow stops.

Therefore, one of the most rewarding moments for me is when several standalone systems / technologies supplied by different parties communicate successfully in an end-to-end process that is error-free and efficient, and I get positive feedback from everyone involved.

This happened when I worked on the Singapore parallel train project, where I managed an engineering / supply chain design innovation. Not just ExxonMobil, but several third parties collaborated by providing different parts of the long chain using cutting-edge technologies like RFID, laser-guided platforms and IT integration tools. The end-to-end process worked and was considered a huge success—one of my proudest accomplishments. Now that the North American Growth project in Mont Belvieu is live, the operations team continues to optimize and troubleshoot in pursuit of a similar result.

I am fortunate to have a job that teaches me something I don’t know daily. This shows me there is much to learn and lots of ways to improve myself in all areas. As design lead, I like to think of myself as a servant leader, serving the needs of the users of my design team’s efforts.