Jeff McLaughlin, McLaughlin Furnace Group

We are very pleased to have an interview with Mr. Jeff McLaughlin, founder and President of McLaughlin Furnace Group of Avilla, Indiana, USA. What makes this interview particularly interesting is that we interviewed Jeff back in 2018, so it is interesting to see what has changed.

Jeff we always like to start off each of our interviews with a bit of background. How did you get started in the heat-treating industry?

“I Graduated Hobart Welding School in 1992. I started at Advanced Thermal Technologies Inc. (ATTI) in 1993 as a maintenance man/welder. Working my way up the ladder, I became a maintenance manager/ purchasing manager.  Dean and Dave VanderKaay, the owners, were two great mentors to me over the course of my career.  They taught me the hands-on operation and maintenance of a heat treat company. ATTI was sold to a company known as MP Steel and eventually became Advantage Thermal Services.

Over the course of my career I met a lot of good people that told me I was way more than a heat treat maintenance guy. Well I guess them guys were right, huh! To name a few of them, Randy Simmons of RMA, and John Hansen of Met-Pro, who you know. I thought to myself, if all these guys, with years of experience, are telling me this, then what do I have to lose? In April of 2007, I formed McLaughlin Services LLC with $10,000 dollars. I primarily grew my company on nights, weekends, vacation days, holidays, etc., -whatever it took.  Moving forward to April 2010, I left ATS to focus on McLaughlin Services LLC full time. My experience as an in-house maintenance manager is reflected today in the core principles of McLaughlin Service, LLC. Timely service when production is down and reliability and ease of maintenance on new equipment are a few examples. All the hard work I’ve put in the heat treat industry sure has paid off!”

McLaughlin Furnace Group. When did you start the company? When did Vesco become part of the group? To sum up please tell us all about the company, background and what products you offer.

“McLaughlin Services was founded in 2007 as a service company. Over the course of the next few years, McLaughlin Services began to rebuild heat treating equipment and continually grow its customer base across the United States. In short time, McLaughlin Services began to build new equipment. In 2017 McLaughlin Services purchased Vacuum Engineering Services Company (Vesco) in East Windsor, Connecticut. Vesco has been around since 1983 servicing the vacuum processing industries including rebuilding vacuum pumps, vacuum furnaces, and hot zones. It has been a great addition to the company, enabling McLaughlin to provide a more complete approach to our customers with abilities ranging from equipment manufacturing to field service. In 2018, with the addition of Vesco, and McLaughlin becoming more of a recognized OEM in the industry, we formed McLaughlin Furnace Group. McLaughlin Furnace Group is able to offer both new and rebuilt atmosphere and vacuum heat treat equipment as well as complete service of heat treat facilities across the world.”

You’ve shared with us that you are involved with vacuum heat treating, that you have a growing installed base of car bottom furnaces, endothermic generators and that you are just finishing installation of a pusher furnace (more on this later)-where do you see future growth at McLaughlin Furnace Group coming from? More of the same or are you planning on adding other products such as nitriders or batch IQ furnaces?

McLaughlin Furnace Group is planning to continue increasing its field service capabilities, aftermarket parts support, and new equipment offerings. We are continuing to expand all of our product lines including the new major additions of horizontal nitriding furnaces and a complete batch IQ line. McLaughlin Furnace Group will be releasing it’s Tru-Carb batch IQ line to production in the first quarter. The Tru-Carb is very exciting for us as we continue to release more technologically advanced equipment to the heat treat industry. We feel that these releases will continue our expansion into additional markets. Our equipment continues to provide maintenance friendly and robust designs time and time again.”

Can you share with us sales figures for the company?

“With sales of over $15 Million, 2019 was another record-breaking year for McLaughlin Furnace Group. We anticipate another record-breaking year to follow this year with continued industry growth.

You have seen a lot of growth in your company over the past couple of years. Do you expect to continue to grow at the same rate? Tying into this question we would ask, what do you expect of the North American heat-treating industry in the next 2 years-continued growth? Stagnant or even negative growth?

“We do anticipate continuing to grow at a very fast pace in the coming years. We have quite a few large projects on the horizon and new releases that we anticipate will expand our markets across the industry. I expect the North-American heat treat market to continue to grow across both commercial and captive heat treat shops. The advances in the aerospace industry have substantially grown the North American heat treat industry, and I expect it will continue to grow in the coming years.”

Our understanding is that currently you have almost finished installation of a 2-row pusher furnace in the US. Keeping in mind that this is the first pusher you have ever built, how has this project gone?

It would be a lie to say that this pusher furnace project with a highly expedited timeline hasn’t tested our team, but we have grown greatly from it into a better company. We have executed the project very efficiently, and have had the opportunity to complete this work for a fantastic automotive manufacturer. We have been able to provide some highly impressive technology to enable this manufacturer the ability to grow and improve their process.

To date I believe all of your equipment has been installed in the USA-feel free to correct me if I am wrong. Have any plans on expanding outside of the USA?

“As a matter of fact, we actually already have some temper furnaces and a Tru-Mix generator installed in Vietnam. We are currently in the process of building fifteen radiant tube box furnaces and two more Tru-Mix generators for the same customer. As we continue to expand our product lines and markets, we anticipate more international equipment including Tru-Carb batch IQs in the near future.”

You have come a long way in a relatively short period of time and made it look easy. However, success generally comes with challenges, what has been your greatest challenge in growing the business?

“Our greatest challenge as McLaughlin Furnace Group continues to grow is finding the right people for the exponential growth we are experiencing. Growth without the right people magnifies issues. We have made great strides in hiring people to step in and fill big roles, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been bumps in the road. As McLaughlin continues to grow and hire experienced industry professionals, we anticipate our company to only become more of a threat to our competitors.”

A good friend in the industry, Mr. Bernie Parry who unfortunately passed away quite recently always used to say that nothing is new in the heat treat industry, meaning that most of the technologies we are using today were developed some time ago. Do you agree or disagree?

“I would have to agree that a lot of OEMs in the industry are using outdated technology, but at McLaughlin Furnace Group we always strive to provide the best, well tested technology to our customers. We are continuing to use new materials in place of standard alloy and refractory on our different product lines that enable customers to reduce maintenance downtime, minimize distortion, and ensure long life of wear items. We also strive to use new electrical technologies for diagnostics, burner firing, communication, and automation. Although technology is not cheap, there are many savings that can be passed down to the end customer through using new technology.”

Since we are speaking about technologies Jeff what do you see in the future? One which always fascinates us at “The Monty” is additive manufacturing-do you personally see this changing heat treatment?

“In the technological era that we are in, state of the art equipment will continue to be developed and become the expected standard in the industry. The expansion of aerospace through space exploration and other ventures across the globe will continue to bring technology to the heat treat industry as well. New processes will continue to be developed to meet the needs throughout the world, and whether it be additive manufacturing, or other technologies, I think we can expect a lot of exciting technology to make its way into our industry in the near future.

Jeff, we appreciate your time and your very candid answers. Sincerely, Gord

For more information on McLaughlin Furnace Group please see the link below.