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Career in Manufacturing Engineering Leads to Success for EKU Grad

Alumni Russ SellsRuss Sells, ’02, went right to work as a manufacturing engineer at a tier 1 automotive company upon graduating with a manufacturing technology degree from EKU. 

“A short time into my career, I transitioned to an advanced manufacturing engineer,” Sells said, where he provided specifications for equipment, acquired equipment, brought in new assembly lines and took on other responsibilities to ensure efficient and effective manufacturing operations for the company.  

From there, he transitioned into sales for S&K Air Power, an industrial equipment and tool supplier. With the market downturn in 2008, he said, “Companies got very lean on their staff.” While working in sales during this time, he noticed that factories needed more than manufacturing equipment – they also needed support to supplement their reduced staffing. 

“I’m always looking for opportunities and quick to react,” he said. When the market started to rebound in 2012, he took advantage of an opportunity to address a need in the manufacturing sector and started Bluegrass Tool & Industrial, based out of Lexington, Kentucky. The company provides automation solutions, industrial cranes, engineering support, safety consulting and industrial tools and supplies for factories throughout the United States and Mexico. 

“We’re a turnkey industrial supplier,” Sells said. “We do everything from fully automated assembly lines, hoists, cranes and custom material handling equipment to pallet racking and supplying parts and supplies required for operations. If a factory uses it, then we probably sell and install it.”  

The unique combination of his experience in manufacturing engineering and sales has led to continued success for his company. Since its start, Bluegrass Tool & Industrial has acquired two companies, including S&K Industrial (formerly S&K Air Power), where Sells previously worked in sales. His innovative business model now employs 50 people in five states and Sells sees opportunity for even more growth. Over the next few years, he plans to add locations and sales teams across several additional states. 

Interested in launching your career in manufacturing engineering? Explore EKU’s new manufacturing engineering degree program

Published on January 24, 2023

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