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Alan Levy is 2013 Young Engineer of the Year

12/17/12
The 2013 Young Engineer of the Year (YEOY) is Alan Levy, Project Manager for Javan Engineering and Executive Board Secretary for the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers, Delaware Valley Chapter.

Originally from Hannibal, Missouri, Alan Levy grew up around Chemistry and Engineering. He determined early he wanted to be a Chemical Engineer, which he pursued at the University of Missouri’s Rolla campus; now Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Prior to graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering in May 2000, Mr. Levy was a Process Engineering Co-op for American Cyanamid, a subsidiary of BASF. His primary project required modeling a complex azeotropic distillation process used for solvent recovery, with the goal of increasing solvent throughput while achieving higher solvent purity. After spending months developing a process model sophisticated enough to handle the spent-solvent mixture, Levy concluded it was too expensive to implement. Not being easily discouraged, he started looking at the problem holistically and asked why distillation was being used at all, given its poor results. The answer, “Because that’s how it’s always been done.” After convincing his manager to let him investigate other separation methods, he found that mixing the spent-solvent with sulfuric acid extracted all the impurities, leaving very pure solvent that was readily separated from the dirty acid. This solution also made it simple to increase throughput, while removing an energy-intensive unit operation. Levy subsequently designed the new unit operation, the instrumentation required for production-scale automation, and drew his first P&ID; all as a 20 year old co-op.

In addition to technical experience, Levy learned that engineers frequently get so invested in solving a problem that they forget to assess the problem itself. This realization served him well throughout his professional career, as it enables an innovative approach to problem solving that others do not provide.

After graduating, earning his EIT, and getting married, Levy and his wife relocated to Philadelphia where he accepted a Production Engineering position at Johnson-Matthey. Making catalytic converters was a very hands-on job that gained Levy experience in troubleshooting equipment, and keeping lines operating while meeting/optimizing production and safety goals. Levy was also involved in debugging a new facility to make the next generation of catalytic converters.

By mid-2002, Mr. Levy decided to leave Johnson-Matthey and return to engineering design. This brought him to Javan & Walter, now Javan Engineering. Here Levy entered the pharmaceutical industry by sizing/specifying pressure relief devices for pharmaceutical applications. When an onsite engineering position opened at Merck, Levy began a multi-year assignment in maintenance and reliability engineering and utilities engineering that matured his understanding of the industry.

The highlight of his time in maintenance and reliability engineering was developing an equipment lifecycle cost model that enabled analysis of historical data to optimize maintenance frequencies. With this model, it became apparent the cost of routine maintenance did not offset repair costs for certain types of equipment, which led to significant cost saving by removing unnecessary maintenance activities across the site. Levy published a technical article on this work through the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers, Delaware Valley Chapter (ISPE-DVC). Levy also worked with a utilities engineering group, where he developed a standardized set of GMP HVAC system drawings and implemented the standard across 500+ impacted air systems. Leading a team of drafters and junior engineers, he was responsible for completing his portion of a larger compliance project a year ahead of schedule. This launched the next phase of his career: project management.

In 2006, Levy returned to Javan Engineering’s office and became the youngest project manager in the company’s history. Successful completion of smaller projects rapidly led to larger, more challenging, multi-discipline engineering projects. During this time, Levy found his niche in pharmaceutical laboratory renovation projects. To date, Levy has renovated virtually every type of lab in the industry: vivarium, DNA sequencing, process development, cell culture, bioreactor, etc. Levy also changed a library into a global call center, managed a multi-million dollar HVAC modernization for a university, and completed dozens of utility/infrastructure projects. Most recently, Levy managed the design of a $4.5M lab renovation covering 20 labs between 4 buildings and 3 departments, and he managed a $10M off-campus building renovation/start-up in tandem with a $12M site-wide steam distribution replacement.

Levy’s rapid growth and successes earned him Javan’s ”Employee of the Year” award in 2008. In 2009, Mr. Levy earned his Master’s Certificate in Applied Project Management from Villanova. He is currently working with McNeil Pharmaceutical’s rebuilt facility to get Children’s Tylenol, Zyrtec, etc. back on the market.

The other aspect of Mr. Levy’s career is ISPE. He joined the Delaware Valley Chapter in 2004 for professional growth. Within a year, he was active in the Membership Committee and Levy led the committee as Vice President of Membership and joined the Board of Directors in 2008. As committee chair, Levy developed new formats for membership drives and metrics that the committee still utilizes. In 2009, Levy was asked to chair and revamp the Education Committee. His new methodology proved very successful, and it was submitted to ISPE International as a new Best Practice that is now being replicated internationally. This year, Levy was asked to join the chapter’s Executive Board as the Secretary, which puts him in line for President in 2014.

Levy also gives back to the community by supporting student and young professional initiatives as well as Habitat for Humanity. He has been involved in several Student Leadership Forums, and judges the annual ISPE student poster competition and the Future City Philadelphia Regional competition. In ISPE, he developed and executed a program bringing students and young professionals to a trade show in New York City to learn what engineers do within the pharmaceutical industry.

Mr. Levy is currently spearheading an initiative advocating a paradigm shift among the local professional societies. Many organizations’ demographics overlap, forcing competition over a common membership pool. Changing to a model of cooperation, cross-promotion, and member-sharing enhances the members’ experience while boosting event attendance. The results are strong to-date, and through the Engineers’ Club of Philadelphia, Levy would like to extend this concept beyond ISPE’s demographic.