Gord Montgomery / William G Montgomery Limited
What was your first job within the industry?
“My father William started a small rep business in Canada in 1969 concentrating on power transmission products and castings. Shortly after he started the business he was approached by Alloy Engineering and Casting of Berea, Ohio about selling their products to the heat treating industry. Gradually over the years the power transmission business shrunk and the heat treating business grew until roughly 10 years later he was selling only heat treat related products. Back in 1979 when I was 21 he talked me into working for him as a salesman, which I reluctantly agreed to on a temporary basis-I am now 57 and my father Bill is a very healthy 80 and long since retired. So my first job in the industry was as a manufacturers rep which of course is what I still am.”
So where did “The Monty” come from?
“I well remember doing an interview with Michael Korwin, founder of Nitrex a few years back and one of the questions I asked him was why he started Nitrex. His answer would was the same as mine-to feed my family. While the rep business has always provided the Montgomery’s with a respectable income it was obvious to me that with Canada and Upstate NY being small territories for Heat Treating and getting smaller that I would be able to feed my family, keep a roof over the heads and have some luxuries but not much more. “The Monty” was my idea to supplement my income by selling used equipment, the idea of advertising as an example never crossed my mind.”
What do you find to be the most enjoyable part of your career?
“Bill St. Thomas, a well known individual in the industry hit the nail on the head just the other day when he said he loves seeing how things are made. Since heat treating is part of the manufacturing process I have been lucky enough to see how cars are made, guns, jet engines and on and on-I never get tired of that. But the best part is travelling to interesting places and meeting fellow heat treaters around the world-I never cease to be amazed how I can be in a country on the other side of the world and within minutes of meeting a heat treater we realize we have ten or twenty mutual friends.”
Is the heat treating industry growing enough so that there’s room for someone young like me?
“As long as people use steel there will be lots of room for more young people.“
In your opinion are there too few or too many people entering into the heat treating industry?
“Far, far too few people are getting into the heat treating industry which is a real shame as it can be fairly well paying and is a good honest profession. In just about all cases young people getting into the industry do so because a family member is in the business. Universities need to talk about professions such as metallurgy and heat treating as opposed to turning out another 1,000 individuals with Bachelor of Arts degrees-to this day I am still not quite sure what a Bachelor of Arts actually prepares you for except possibly driving a cab.”
Do you see anything on the future horizon that could affect future opportunities?
“There are a million things that can happen that would effect the industry. If a plastic is invented that has all the charecteristics of steel and does not require heat treating we are all out of business. At the end of the day there is only so much that can be forecast with any certainty so I don’t worry about it. It is only a few years since we were told “peak oil” was arriving for the fifth time since the 1800’s. Now they can’t give it away-who would have forecast that?”
In the near future do you see more acquisitions in the commercial heat treat world?
“With the exception of the very large players such as Bodycote, Aalberts Industries, Bluewater, Hightemp in India, Paulo Products and a few others most commercial heat treaters do not have the resources or interest in growing through acquisitions. As always Bodycote is the model to look at here. The company makes acquisitions to either gain market share in an area where they are not strongly represented such as Carolina Commercial in the Southeastern US (a growing market where they had to be represented) or occasionaly they will acquire a company with a very unique technology such as Nitrion in Munich, Germany a number of year back (Plasma Nitriding). If the average commercial shop in North America has sales of $2 ½ to $3 million USD they are generally not of interest to the large players as an acquisition which pretty much guarantees that the smaller “mom and pop” shops will be with us for quite some time.”
How does heat treating differ in different countries?
“It doesn’t. To some extent by product, for instance Taiwan produces a lot of fasteners so you see a great number of mesh belt lines, whereas in the UK you see very few mesh belt lines but at the end of the day furnaces in the US, Germany, Japan or India are pretty much the same.“
What is the size of the heat treating market and do you see it growing or shrinking?
“Bodycote has put a lot of effort over the years into determining the size of the market (their estimates are available somewhere on their website) but at the end of the day I am very skeptical that anybody has a good handle on this. For instance what does heat treating include? Foundries? Steel Making? It is gospel that heat treating in the US is $20 billion/year with commercial heat treating representing 10% of this. However I have yet to find out where this number came from and what it includes so my personal feeling is pick a number, any number through in a margin of error of at least 25% and your guess is as good as anybodies. As a mature industry I see heat treating continuing to grow but at a pace exactly equal to the growth in manufacturing.“
When you look at the commercial heat treating industry do you see it growing or shrinking in the future?
“I believe that in the more developed areas commercial heat treating will slowly grow as a percentage of the overall market for the simple reason that transportation is relatively easy and certainly these days cheap and it removes a process that is generally not a core competency of the manufacturer. However in less developed areas such as India or China I believe that captive heat treating will remain the norm because logistics is an issue. Anybody that has ever seen traffic in New Delhi or Shanghai will know exactly what I mean.“
What technologies are growing in the industry?
“Nitriding and vacuum carburizing. However at the end of the day change happens very slowly in the heat treating world and the most common type of furnace in the world a batch IQ furnace is still pretty much the same as it was 60 years ago.”
Who would you say are the most influential people in the industry today?
“Jord you must have been reading back issues of “The Monty” since we did this a few years back. A few names come to mind but I would as in the past pick the CEO of Bodycote in this case Mr. Steven Harris as the most influential.”