P&Q Profile: Superior Industries’ Doug Lambert

By |  September 28, 2017

With a career spanning four decades, Doug Lambert, sales and applications engineer at Superior Industries, has experienced the aggregate industry from the standpoints of a producer, a manufacturer and a dealer. Family ties brought Lambert into the industry, and his various experiences have provided him with a unique perspective that’s served him well – in addition to the customers he’s served – over a period of nearly 40 years.

Lambert

P&Q: What can you tell us about your family’s history as an aggregate producer?

Lambert: My grandfather and several of his brothers started back in the mid-1930s, and at some point in the 1940s they formed Lambert Brothers Crushed Stone. As far as I know, they were the largest crushed stone company in the United States in the early 1950s. They were mainly in Tennessee and Virginia and did a lot of Gypsy camp kind of crushing for dams and road projects.

In 1956, talks with Vulcan [Materials Co.] started with my great uncles. They organized a very complicated merger with several other crushed stone companies in the Southeast. That led to the Vulcan we know today, or the construction aggregate part of it at least.

P&Q: How did your start at Vulcan come about?

Lambert: Through family history, because my dad worked for Vulcan from the time the company was officially Vulcan. He worked for Lambert Brothers, and he worked at Vulcan from the beginning. That’s all we ever knew. We were born with limestone in our blood.

I started working there fresh out of college in 1980. I worked in engineering. The way I tell people about my start is that I held the dummy end of the tape with the survey crew. I held the prism or the rod while others did the math.

Doug Lambert poses in 1978 during the NCAA swimming preseason. Photos courtesy of Doug Lambert

Between 1980 and early 1995, I did quality control, plant operations, ready-mix concrete, stone sales. The one thing I never actually did was run an asphalt plant. I did go to the Asphalt Institute for training. That’s where I got a lot of experience with different products, including concrete and asphalt.

P&Q: What did you get into after your tenure at Vulcan?

Lambert: I worked with my dad who had retired, and we developed a high-frequency screen. He developed it, and I helped move it forward for a few years. I worked in a dealership afterward, selling aggregate equipment.

I look at this industry as the three-legged stool of producers, dealers and manufacturers. I have developed empathy for all three legs of that stool. I understand when shipments are late or equipment goes down. I’ve gained unique insights on what is really important to the producer.

P&Q: What stands out when you look at the aggregate industry then versus now?

Lambert: The innovation of processing equipment is simplifying things for producers. Also, at the time I was a plant manager, [plant managers] didn’t have profit-and-loss responsibilities. Now, plant managers have a lot more financial responsibilities, as well as permitting responsibilities, rather than simply making little rocks out of big ones.

P&Q: You’re in a unique position, too, in that your wife, Denise, works in the office of a U.S. congressman: Rep. John Duncan Jr. of Tennessee. What has her experience shown you about the lobbying process?

Photo courtesy of Doug Lambert

Doug Lambert’s grandfather George Lambert (hand on the pick, center).

Lambert: She is the congressman’s scheduler, and she has given me advice on how to make an appointment – especially with NSSGA (National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association) fly-ins. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know our congressman very well, to sit down and have an open, frank conversation with him. That has given me insight into what goes on in his world. It’s pretty fast-paced. You need to have your facts ready, know you’re going to get 15 to 20 minutes at the most, hit your high points and don’t waste their time because it is very limited.

We recently featured KPI-JCI & Astec Mobile Screens’ Bill Royce, a College Football Hall of Famer, in this space. After his story published, it came to our attention that you were quite the athlete back in the day, as well.

I was fortunate to swim at the University of Tennessee for four years right out of high school. We never finished out of the top four in the country. In 1978, we won the NCAA swimming championship. I was a four-time All-American, an SEC champion and a gold medalist in the 1977 World University Games in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was a great experience to say the least.

P&Q: How did your experience of being on a championship team prepare you for a career in our industry?

Lambert: I learned teamwork. Swimming is a lot like tennis or golf in that you’re swimming as an individual yet supporting a team. Also, a college athlete in any sport is typically not afraid to work hard. In swimming, you’re working out four hours a day and covering 15,000 to 20,000 yd. per day. You get a lot of repetition and opportunities to do it right. In our industry, you unfortunately don’t have that many opportunities to get it right.

P&Q: What has your latest work experience at Superior Industries been like?

Photo courtesy of Doug Lambert

Doug Lambert’s grandfather George (pictured at center, facing with hat, hand on hip) talks to his crew while setting up a plant. They used the existing trees as supports for the plant.

Lambert: It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a company led by some fairly young people. I enjoy working around these young guys because it gives me a little jolt of energy. They’re always running and gunning. I’ve been in the industry almost as long as some of these guys have been on the planet.

I really love the industry. I was very fortunate to work with Terex Cedarapids, and I had a lot of good experiences there as well.

P&Q: Finish this sentence: The future for the aggregate industry is…

Lambert: Ongoing. Unending. One thing I’ve always thought about the aggregate industry is it is literally the foundation of our nation. The challenge is going to be regulation and how our industry is regulated, whether it is with water, emissions or other things. But I do think our industry is ongoing.

The future is bright for the aggregate industry. Funding is always an issue. We’ve got a decent road bill right now, but I’d like the funding to always fundamentally be there. Still, I do think the industry is healthy.


Five things

First jobs – Baling hay during the summer on a relative’s farm, mowing the lawn at Vulcan Materials Midsouth Division office.
Travel spot – Almost any mountain cabin and Hilton Head Island
Hobbies – Photography and hiking
Sports teams – University of Tennessee swimming, football…
Book – Military history or biographies; “Phantom Warrior,” by Forrest Bryant Johnson; “The Red Circle,” by Brandon Webb; and “Unbroken,” by Laura Hillenbrand

Photos: Doug Lambert

Comments are closed