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Inspiring Everyday:  Finding innovative ways to create real value

It only takes a few minutes of talking shop with Brian Clancy-Jundt to be impressed. He's humble and soft-spoken as he gives a brief overview of his engineering career, but the accomplishments are impossible to miss. He has authored multiple patents, designed capital projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and collaborated on projects and papers with world-renowned distillation expert Henry Kister.  

You would immediately assume that Brian, a principal production engineer at Ascend’s site in Pensacola, Florida, is one of those brilliant minds who’s been at the head of the class his entire life. But that’s not the case.  

"If you were to see me in eighth grade, you’d have found someone who had almost completely failing grades,” Brian says. “I barely passed ninth grade, but then things started clicking.” 

He discovered a talent for swimming, which bolstered his confidence in the classroom. His grades tracked with his success in the sport as he rose to become a varsity swimming star. College swimming was an option, but Brian chose to chase academics instead, and studied chemical engineering at Texas Tech University. That move was the start of a widely respected career.  

“Brian is a very strong technical engineer who is recognized as a distillation expert in our industry,” says Mike Thompson, senior production engineering manager. “He’s dynamic in finding solutions, quick on his feet, and very good at executing ideas to drive performance.” 

In just three years with Ascend, Brian has already made his mark by improving performance in several key processes, including Pensacola’s low-pressure diamine unit. For years, the site had relied on a manual process to stabilize heat transfer in the unit. Brian led an effort to design automation that not only produced the best heat transfer results in unit history, but also extended outage intervals. The improvements are expected to save more than $1 million annually.  

“When there are many millions of dollars on the line and you're responsible for the project, that can be stressful,” Brian says. “But I just enjoy finding solutions that work. Sometimes it doesn't matter how big the challenge is, just how interesting it is.” 

When tackling challenges big or small, he is known for his steady approach. 

“Brian has a calm demeanor and takes a practical approach to problem solving that encourages team contribution,” says Ray Fogle, director of production engineering. This approach has earned him a reputation as a “technical anchor” and a mentor for younger engineers.  

“As a principal engineer, Brian's role is often to make the final decision, but he is very good about making it a two-way conversation,” says production engineer Jonathan Whitley. “He recognizes that while he has the highest technical expertise, everyone else has valuable input to offer as well.” 

For someone at the top of their field, what is the secret to Brian’s ability to solve problems and create huge value? He says he follows advice he received from a respected engineer early in his career: to stay intellectually curious about the physical world.

“As a manufacturing engineer, it’s easy to get busy, but you always need to spend some time learning how things work, how they're put together. And from that learning, you're able to start putting pieces together.” 

"I'm not smarter than a lot of people,” Brian says. “I might be a little bit more creative or innovative, but a lot of times people stop learning. I just never stopped.” 

He may have gotten a late start on being innovative, but he’s making up for it now. When working with his fellow engineers to find creative solutions for better manufacturing, Brian Clancy-Jundt is inspiring everyday.