From physics to coffee, paint, toys, tyres, and everything in between (Peter Gibbons, 3M)
We're pleased to welcome Peter Gibbons, Group President of Enterprise Supply Chain in 3M, to JCMB on the 18th September 2023. 3M are a science-based company manufacturing products for a range of industries, including design & construction, transport, electronics, energy, and health care. Peter began his career here in JCMB with a BSc in Physics and now has 25 years of experience leading business transformation across a variety of sectors. His talk will explore how the translational skills gained through a physics degree were essential to his career journey, as well as the challenges faced by a global corporation and their approach to solving them.
Peter Gibbons, Group President of Enterprise Supply Chain at 3M:
I’ve been asked ‘how did you maneuver between Specialty Chemicals, Coffee Retail, Toys, Tire Distribution and finally the company that makes ‘virtually everything’?’
The answer starts here in the James Clerk Maxwell Building (JCMB) and the Physics education that stimulated curiosity, the ability to synthesize knowledge across different fields and problems, a rigorous technical training, the appreciation of a theory, a theorem, and a proof and the wonder of discovering that you can create an Information Function that represents Entropy – and years later appreciating that inventory is actually an information function.
My journey since leaving JCMB for the final time has been one of integrating the scientific education, theoretical and experimental, I received at the University of Edinburgh with the reality that ‘people make things happen’ – not machines or systems.
This journey was possible because I was trained to think, experiment, and synthesize which allowed me to solve difficult problems at work. And while I grew and gained some success, I learned that my success increasingly relied on the ability to build and lead teams and help them do things they didn’t believe were possible.
As these threads developed and combined, I was able to face tough (sometimes brutally tough) situations and show my teams that there is always a way forward.
When faced with the problem of capacity for only one million Starbucks Via packets per week but the need for millions more, I led a team to Colombia with a simple mission ‘The answer to the problem is five million packets per week - and the exam question is what will it take to reach that level of output.’ We solved the problem.
The intense education I received in this hallowed school gave me the confidence to tackle any technical problem. And the journey from the Institute Laue Langevin, Grenoble as a graduate student to ICI in the UK, Brasil, and the United States then Starbucks and beyond built the confidence to lead people to solve whatever business or technical problem we encountered.
We run a series of Entrepreneurship Masterclasses and Start-Up Clinics for staff and postgraduate students. Our workshops link understanding in physics to the functionality of ingredients, formulations and food processes. These are open to the public. .