Jeff McLaughlin / McLaughlin Services
We are pleased today to be speaking with Mr. Jeff McLaughlin, founder and owner of McLaughlin Services in Avilla, Indiana which is soon to be part of McLaughlin Furnace Group LLC.
Jeff, I think if we talk about your background to begin with it will give us a good insight into how McLaughlin Services came into being. Where and how did you get started in the heat-treating industry?
“I Graduated Hobart Welding School in Troy Ohio in 1992. My first job was a welder/ ironworker, building gas station canopies. That was not for me. So I got into a maintenances position in a mobile home factory. I married a lady whose grandfather was Dean Ramer. Dean and I talked for sometime about me coming to work at Advanced Thermal Technologies Inc (ATTI). I started there 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 at (ATTI). They taught me the hands on operation and maintenance of a heat treat company. ATTI was sold to a company known as MP Steel, where I stayed on as maintenance manager. MP Steel had several plants throughout the Midwest, and had a fire at plant #1, where everything was lost. MP Steel was sold to Advantage Thermal Services. I stayed working at Plant #2, where I built and installed many furnaces through the years.
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!”
When you first started your working career was the idea of starting and running your own business a focus for you or something which just happened.
“For years, as I worked at the heat treat, I wanted to be the guy that changed the furnace industry. My goal in life is to make a difference with my unique designs of furnace building. I saw many things on the equipment that weren’t quite right and never understood why they were always the same. Nothing seemed to change. Now, I’m changing up the industry.”
On a very personal note you and I had a very good mutual friend, Randy Simmons who also started his own furnace business. It turned out to be a real success but unfortunately Randy passed away a number of years ago at a young age. Did you regard him as a mentor?
“Yes, Randy was one of the people that pushed me to where I am today. He told me that I was going to change the furnace industry with all the ideas I had. I helped Randy with his furnace company in Thailand off and on over the years until his passing. I truly miss working with him. I really wish he was here to see the growth and development of McLaughlin Services LLC and my expansions.”
McLaughlin Services. When I first met you, I considered McLaughlin to be more of a service business but that is probably not a fair statement anymore. How would you describe the company and what you do?
“Gord, that’s right. McLaughlin Services LLC started out as just furnace services. I’m the type of guy that if there’s a will, there a way! That’s what helped get McLaughlin Services LLC where it is today in designing and manufacturing heat treat equipment. McLaughlin Services LLC has just obtained the rights to McLaughlin Furnace Group LLC where McLaughlin Services LLC and Vacuum Engineering Services Company (VESCO) will be operating within. McLaughlin Furnace Group LLC will be building new furnaces such as IQ furnaces, Tru-Mix endothermic gas generators, tempering furnaces , large car bottoms, furnace rebuilds as well as other custom furnaces. We plan to have more service locations by the end of 2018 to mid 2019. McLaughlin Services LLC and VESCO will support the furnace services side of the business.”
Can you share with us an idea about the size of the company in terms of sales, employees or number of customers?
“Our sales are approximately 7 to 10 million per year. Now, as we formed McLaughlin Furnace Group LLC, we have slightly over 30 employees.”
Where are you going with this? You do service work, you do rebuilds and repairs, you do installs, and you build new equipment also-which area do you see becoming predominant in let’s say 10 years?
“I plan to go to the top with this! My plan is to have service centers all over the US By 2021. I feel offering a turnkey solution with cutting edge technology to the industry make’s McLaughlin Furnace Group LLC the solution for the Heat-Treating Industry like no other.”
You seem to be going in a lot of different directions these days. What I mean by that is you started a branch on the West Coast of the US and shortly thereafter bought VESCO on the East Coast which specializes in vacuum furnaces. What is the connection between these and how does it help your customers?
” I felt McLaughlin Services LLC. needed the presence on the West Coast which is working quite well. The West Coast office is primarily a service center and helps support our new equipment. We have installed a number of furnaces, generators and large car bottoms over the last several years. VESCO has been in business for 35 plus years with a great reputation in the Vacuum Furnace Services side of the business. Acquiring VESCO, with all the vacuum furnace experience, helps us offer are customers a single source solution for both vacuum and atmosphere heat treating equipment service.”
There are some big international players out there and generally they all are very good companies. With all due respect to you McLaughlin is a relatively small player-is this a plus or a minus? Does it worry you competing with companies which have very deep pockets?
“The bigger question is what do customers get from the deep pockets? I started McLaughlin Services LLC by doing whatever it took to get the job done. My vision has been to change the heat treating industry with new designs and incorporating new technologies. Large companies are more inclined to squeeze customers into their established products and services instead of adapting to the customers’ needs. They may indeed have deep pockets but also travel down the road made by their deep pockets. I feel bigger is not always better. Hard work pays off!”
I must ask you this, do you think you have caught the attention of the “big guys”?
“I believe I have their attention and if I don’t, I should soon enough! I have a passion for satisfying my customers, not my competitors. McLaughlin Furnace Group LLC is offing the best solution for companies in the Heat Treat Industry.”
I have made an assumption that your customers are only in the US, but I don’t know whether this is true or not-do you do any business outside of the US?
“We are mostly US driven. However we will work outside of the US. We are currently installing equipment in Vietnam. We plan to support the heat treat industry world wide.”
Whenever I see your booth at the Heat Treat trade shows you are generally featuring your own design of Endothermic generator-what differentiates you from your competitors?
“The McLaughlin Tru-Mix took us bout 2 years to design, as well as lots of R&D hours. The performance is top notch. Its 30% more efficient on the heating side and the turn down is as smooth as it gets. It will run at 4200 cfh down to 500cfh with very little swing on the dewpoint. I’ve worked on all of them over the years and I told myself McLaughlin Services LLC is going to build the best generator in the industry and that’s what we have done.”
What are your goals for the company? I don’t see you selling out and retiring to Florida in the near future so if that is not happening what do you see in the future?
“My plan has always been the same with McLaughlin Services LLC. is to keep growing it. Now that we have key employees in place, things are moving full steam ahead.”
I appreciate your time Jeff.