Mr. Dave Farmery

President of Vac Aero

The Monty Heat Teat News” is very pleased to offer this interview with Mr. Dave Farmery, President of vacuum furnace builder and commercial heat treater Vac Aero. Dave’s background includes almost 30 years in the aerospace industry and in this interview he brings up some very interesting points about heat treatment and the aerospace industry.

Dave first off congratulations on the new position, to be appointed as President of one of the larger vacuum furnace builders in North America is very impressive. How did this come about-I suppose what I am asking is what is your background and what road took you to where you now are?

Over the past 28 years I have been in the aerospace industry. Whether it was working for and OEM, repairing engines or landing gear or cutting chips and processing parts engaging the people to delight the customer has always been my vision. To be asked to take the leadership role in a company that has always been at the forefront of these values was one that came as an ideal fit.

It has always appeared to me that Vac Aero is 2 separate businesses, the commercial heat treating side and the furnace manufacturing division. Let’s start with the heat treating side of the equation, when did this start, how large is it and what do you specialize in?

We have been in the heat treating business for many decades. Over this time we have specialized in several discrete markets. Vacuum Oil quench where we operate 3 of the worlds largest furnaces in support of our landing gear customers. Additionally, our capabilities at the two heat treatment service units include, vacuum heat treatment, Vacuum Brazing including Honeycomb, aluminum aging, nitriding and pack aluminide coatings.

I should at this point, point out that you have a third core competency also, that of coating. Lest it be forgotten perhaps you could share with us what Vac Aero has to offer.

Vac Aero has a true Center of Excellence for surface coatings in Boucherville, Quebec. This facility has the full spectrum of coating capabilities. These range from air plasma, HVOF, HVAF, combustion spray, post coating grinding and peening as well as developing cold spray. The team delivers best in class lead time with a customer service.

The other main part of your business is the Vac Aero Furnace Manufacturing Division which builds vacuum furnaces. I am sure our readers are very interested in the history of this division, what types of furnaces you offer and the number you have built and installed over the years.

In 1971 we started to supply to a wide range and diverse range of industries and capabilities. We focussed on Vacuum furnace vs air furnaces. This continues to allow us to focus on higher technological needs as well as enabling material solutions for our end customers.

Vac Aero is part of a very small, select group of furnace builders who also heat treats. I have always thought this must offer you a tremendous advantage in that you operate the furnaces you design and build-is this the case?

Without question I feel that by running on our own equipment we have a competitive advantage. Our internal learnings ensure real time refinement of the complete vacuum furnace ecosystem, which subsequently facilitates building robust and capable furnaces in support of all industries.

You shared something with me the other day during a phone call about how you have some very ambitious plans for the furnace building division. How much can you share with us today?

As we discussed the plans for growth of this division in terms of manufacturing new furnaces, hot zone replacements and spares are significant. We are on pace to have the best year in the company’s history with significant new orders secured for 2024 as well. Our custom furnace philosophy in conjunction with some planned technological innovations will continue this trajectory going forward.

Any plans on adding new technologies to your product mix? LPC? Vacuum Nitriding? Or even something radically different from what you are now offering?

Our R&D Materials and Processes Team have just presented a long list of potential technologies and applications where we may move into. Given I am 4 months into the journey, the decisions to move ahead is a quarter or two ahead of us.

Correct me if I am wrong but a major focus in your career has been the aerospace industry. Are you seeing changes in the way aerospace companies heat treat?

There are a few subtle changes taking place in this space. I see the larger OEM’s and Top Tier Sippliers going less vertically integrated with a preference to partner with service providers via near site support or a shop in shop. This enables the niche skill of thermal and coating treatment to be done with little to no lead time impact without muddying the core business capabilities of machining or fabricating aerospace components.

Does your response indicate a move globally to support the OEM/Top Tier Suppliers.

Very simply yes that is our vision. We look to put the “International” back into Vac Aero International. These are early days but there is real time interest in providing services in several global locations. More to come as they discussions move to completion.

Lets switch gears a bit and take advantage of your very extensive experience. While you started your career in Canada you have worked all around the world, most recently in Europe for quite a number of years. What differences if any do you see between heat treating in Europe, vs; North America or Asia for that matter? Do some areas embrace new technology more than others?

Europe and more specifically the European Union have formed a multitude of committees with solid funding to enable a greener and more technologically advanced aerospace and defense industry that benefits all partner nations. This is the one differentiator I see and one that Canada is starting to move on per some recent announcements.

Vacuum vs; Atmosphere? The “vacuum guys” will tell you vacuum is the only way to go, the “atmosphere guys” will tell atmosphere is far more cost effective in most applications. Care to wade in on this debate?

My experience says the customers specifications in the majority of the instances drive the equipment selection and as such there is little to no debate in the end.

It’s challenging out there these Dave-I am sure you don’t need me to point that out. Labour shortages? Inflation? Long deliveries? Globalization or the potential switch away from it? What would you say the biggest challenge for you is?

There is no question that what feels like generational inflationary costs in conjunction with material delivery constraints remain the largest challenges. How to try and mitigate these costs to the largest extent while dealing with sub-optimal demand flow is at the forefront of our actions and discussions with our customers and partners. Additionally, given the geo-political landscape we see a new trend of some additional near shoring albeit this is in its early stages.

Many thanks for your time. We are excited to keep delighting our customers moving ahead. I look forward to our follow on call in the fall where we can look back at the progress. Cheers Dave

Dave I very much appreciate your time and look forward to speaking with you in about a year to see how your very ambitious plans are coming along. Thank you, Gord

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