Karen Stanton / Heat Treatment Australia

Karen it is a sign of the times that while you and I have actually done some business together and have exchanged e-mails many times over the years I have yet to meet you in person or even speak with you for that matter. So while I know of your company Heat Treatment Australia I really know almost nothing about your background. How did you happen to get started in the heat treating field?

“Heat Treatment Australia is a family company started by my father in the early 70s.  My brother, Norm Tucker,  and I took over ownership approximately 15 years ago.  We are still very much a family oriented business with other family members and partners working in the business.  Since taking ownership Norm and I have gone from one site in Brisbane to three sites across Australia, including additional sites Sydney and Melbourne.”   

My impression is that Heat Treatment Australia is the largest commercial in the country-is this impression correct and what can you tell us about the company in terms of capabilities and size?

“HTA maintains sites in Brisbane, Sydney & Melbourne with a total staff of approximately 60.  We provides services to all geographical areas within Australia as well as Asia & USA.” 

Most people’s impression of Australia was probably shaped by Crocodile Dundee all those years ago (I am dating myself). I realize that this is only a small part of Australia so my question is how much actual heat treating both captive and commercial is there in the country? Do any estimates exist about the size of the market in terms of sales/year? Combined with this how many commercial heat treaters are there in Australia ?   

“Heat treating is a relatively small, and rather undefined market in Australia.  There are a total of approximately 25 commercial heat treatment shops across the country.  No research or studies have been undertaken that capture the size of the market or the extent of captive shops.  Essentially we fly blind and need to justify all new investment via our own research and market knowledge.”

I know your company is Nadcap accredited and I believe the only commercial in the country that can say this. So Heat Treatment Australia services the aerospace industry but what other industries do you work with? 

“We hold ISO 9001,AS9100 and Nadcap accreditation.  We are the only heat treat business within the Australian market to hold the Nadcap accreditation. As well as aerospace we provide services to the majority of manufacturing based sectors including mining, agriculture, automotive, aviation, general tooling and engineering.” 

Because of the relatively small size of the overall market and your distance from most heat treat suppliers you must face challenges unique to Australia. As an example I have sold several used temper furnaces to companies in Australia and I have always been surprised that it makes sense when the shipping costs are more than the actual pieces of equipment. What challenges do you face that heat treaters in other areas are not likely to experience? Finding good people comes to mind as we have discussed this in the past. 

“We face numerous challenges due to the nature and characteristics of our market.  Heat treatment equipment is difficult to source in Australia and most of our purchases in this area are from either the US or Europe and therefore we face additional freight and import duties.  Skilled staff is another issue, we have limited options for accessing additional skilled staff to support business growth.  Currently are choices are to grow staff from within (in-house training) or to bring staff from overseas.  At last count we have brought in 8 staff from the UK to work in our Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne plants.  Other issues revolve around consumables, in order to have Nadcap compliant consumables (eg. thermocouples) we have to purchase from the US and import.  The issues here are the significant lead time and the additional costs.”

Going back a few months we had an interesting news item about Heat Treatment Australia which included a photo of the owner of Shanghai Heat Treatment Mr. Kent Zuo and yourself in Australia. While it was an interesting little news item it really didn’t tell us too much. Can we spread some rumors about your company entering the Chinese market or Shanghai Heat Treatment entered the Australian market? You know how we like rumors .  

“We have had a number of conversations with Mr Kent Zuo from Shanghai Heat Treatment over the last 6 months.  We are very interested in the exploring the opportunities in the Chinese market, however no commitments have been made to date.  Norm has a visit to China scheduled for August, perhaps this accelerate the discussions! “

One of our favorite questions always is where is the industry going? Over the years I have made a number of predictions including salt processing disappearing (not my finest moment) and going back a few years we were hearing about how vacuum carburizing would account for almost half of the carburizing market (another one that didn’t prove to be correct). With this fine track record on my part and others would you care to take a stab at where you think heat treating is going?

“Our business is definitely heading down the line of clean, highly efficient, low maintenance, high consistency equipment and processes, such as vacuum furnaces and advanced nitriding processes.”  

You have seen a number of heat treats around the world, personally my feeling is that heat treating is heat treating whether it be in Nigeria or Germany but perhaps you have noticed differences that I have not.  

“Generally speaking you are correct about heat treat shops across the world.  However, I think given our geographical location we have been forced to approach the industry from a different aspect.  HTA is highly IT oriented – from our process controls, customer service, equipment, etc.  if you have some time take a look at our website, even our customers are able to access online systems that allow them to track jobs through our plant.  So, I think that we might have a different model to the standard heat treat shop where we look to value adding and customer involvement in the service delivery.” 

Where do you see Heat Treatment Australia in a few years? 

“We will continue on our current line, focusing on our points of differentiation and gaining a greater profile in international markets.” 

Thanks for your time Karen one of these days I hope to meet you in Australia.