Marty Keylon / Keylon Thermal Consulting

Out in California Marty is a long time heat treater who has seen both sides of the fence-one side being commercial heat treating and the other side being a manufacturers rep selling heat treating products. We had a chance to pose a few questions to Marty and this is the result. August 25/2015 

First off Marty could you share some background with us, the obvious things being how you got into the business and what your experiences have been over the years.

“Long story short, In 1975 I started as a 17 yr old sand blaster for Orange Empire heat treating because it paid $1.65 an hour which was $0.30 more than working at the Shell Gas Station! I also worked as a truck driver, inspector, furnace operator and got into maintenance. Found something I was pretty good at so I stayed there for 15 years. At one time I had 6 maintenance guys under me and 2 plants as a maintenance supervisor.  I moved into the plant superintendent position and eventually plant manager, general manager and was the senior general manager running 2 Bodycote plants. I have been through many changes staying with the same company for 30 years. We were bought and sold many times. In this list I either moved to another facility or it was bought and sold. I started at Orange Empire HT, National HT, Downey HT, HinderTec, Hinderliter and finally Bodycote,  I retired in 2004.  I had a Ebay business my wife was running when I was working and after I retired I went at t full time for a while. It was very profitable for the first few years until the market got saturated with companies selling the same product for little margin and over charging for shipping as the profit center! I have over 7,000 positive feedbacks! After living in Orange County for 47 years we picked up and moved into the high sierras. That was a culture shock for sure! It was fun and exciting but I got restless so I started working at North American Cronite as a senior sales manager traveling 3 weeks out of every month. I started Keylon Thermal Consulting in 2006 after working with a lot of customers in the industry and seeing a need for additional talent and aftermarket support.”

As a manufacturers rep what lines do you rep for?

“SAFE Cronite, South-Tek Systems, JL Becker, Conrad Kacsik, CeraMaterials, Phoenix TM. These vendors I sell through or for Alcon, Qual-Fab, Geo-Corp, Cambridge Wire Products, I.P.S. Stanwood, Super Systems, Roto-Jet of America. I also buy and sell new and used equipment. I have partnered with Champion Furnace Company “Rick Apodaca” installing furnaces. We work closely together. I also sell him Moly and other insulation for his Vacuum Hot Zone rebuilds.” 

On a personal level I am very curious about what you have learned now that you are a rep selling to commercial heat treaters as opposed to being the buyer. Do you have more sympathy for the buyers or more sympathy for the sellers?

“I have a lot more sympathy for the sellers. Doing sales is 99% rejection! I have over 200 customers I try to either see or call at least once every 3 – 6 months Some a lot more depending on what’s going on with the projects I have working with them. You have to find that fine line between missing a sale and being a pest! I travel 11 western states on my dime, eating alone and living in hotels away from your family is tough. I have traveled hundreds of miles to show up to a customer and they either forgot about our appointment and don’t have time for you or are not in that day after making appointments weeks prior to my visit. I know from being on the buyers’ side that things do happen, But I never treated my vendors that way. Working for Bodycote I had my preferred area Rep and vendors and always gave them a shot at any of my needs. BUT I would give the other guy’s a chance to quote just to make sure I was still getting a competitive price. Sometimes I would pay a little more because of the quality and relationships I had with the rep or company.”

Hear is a loaded question-which job is more lucrative and less stressful? Working for a large company with a guaranteed salary or working for yourself which is never entirely stable?

“I loved working for Bodycote! BUT when things changed that were not working for me I had to go. It was a very difficult decision but with a supportive wife “she’s a nurse” making good money it was the best thing for my entire family. We up and moved over 500 miles away within 4 months! I will say having a steady income was great, But now I do OK and work when I want too, travel only when needed and find the stress level is self imposed. I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I have never looked back and wanted that life again.”

You have been at this a long time, over the course of your career what changes have you seen in commercial heat treating in general and in California in particular.

“Companies have been losing the depth of talented people. Seems like us older guys are leaving the industry and not much new talent is being cultivated to replace the void? General Managers are being replaced by Senior G.M.’s running multiple facilities. Quality requirement for surveys are becoming unrealistic and sometimes un-achievable by what is required by some of the primes. To meet the requirements furnace loads are much smaller and lighter in larger furnaces that have a lot of load area that is now not being utilized. This has caused prices to go up and profits to stay the same or less!”

Is the California market a growing market or a shrinking one and what industries drive heat treating?

“From my perspective I can only judge it on what people are purchasing and what I see as parts on the floor. As I walk through the different shops I see parts I ran 30 years ago. I ask how’s business doing? Some are telling me it’s been great! Others, not so good. With the introduction of alternate power sources with electric cars, wind and solar electric generation there is some new cutting edge processes and the ones that have changed with the technology seems to be doing well. As with anything else I judge it on what being purchased and it looks pretty good to me.”

The debate has raged for years about whether commercial heat treating is taking a larger slice of the pie with captive heat treating gradually shrinking to the benefit of the commercials. What is your opinion?

“I think as the NADCAP / Boeing requirements are getting more stringent the captives are getting out of the heat treating side. This keeps me busy on the consulting side of my business helping customers keep up with these changing requirements. If it’s any indicator I have sold more equipment OUT of captive shops than in.”

You have met a lot of people in the industry, if I were to ask you who you really respect what names would pop into your head?

“First and foremost would be John Hubbard! I worked for John for over 25 years and have been friends for much longer. He gave me chances to excel and the support I needed to do so. He’s always been straight and fair with me. He did say though he always gave me enough rope to hang myself!  Back in the day it was much easier to ask for forgiveness than it was for permission! Rich Penrose is another one. Great boss and good friend. He also has been very instrumental in my success in supporting me in those Bodycote days. Bill Jones @ Solar. I don’t need to say much about him you already know! Good friend and mentor.”

Many would have you believe that there are substantial changes going on in the industry and we will not recognize it in just a few short years. On the other side of the coin one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever known, Mr. Bernie Parry formerly of AFC-Holcroft always use to say there is nothing new in the industry-what are your thoughts?

“The industry is always changing. You either go with it or get out! There is new cutting edge technology out there and you either embrace it or stand by and watch others profit from it. There is no status quo anymore. There are faster quenching vacuum furnaces, Vacuum carburizing been around for years but now it been used a lot more for gears in the wind power industry. Everything is computerized and paperless! I rep Phoenix TM. There is now cutting edge survey software and hot box technology that saves you time and a lot of money using it. Computers have taken the guess work out and the extra time sitting down at a desk figuring out correction factors after the survey is done. You know as its being run in real time if it going to pass or not.”

What does the future hold for you? Can you see yourself doing this 10 or 20 years from now?

“At 58 I love what I’m doing now. I’m a hand’s on kind of guy still in pretty good shape and expect to keep going at it for at least another 10 years. I tried retirement once and it was not what I expected. Susan and I are pretty busy with kids, grandkids and the Corvette club. I’m sure there is a day when it’s time to pass the torch? Maybe a son in law or grandkid? I don’t have anyone ready to step up to the plate. But you never know..”

Keylon Thermal Consulting, 5125 Debron Court, Pollock Pines, California, 95726-9500, [email protected], 530 788-8566 Phone, 530 644-2601 Fax.