Skip Jones / 2°OFF.LLC

Skip I believe that you are quite unique in that you went from West Coast Manager of Bodycote overseeing a number of plants to a manufacturers rep selling heat treating equipment. How did this come about?

“It is really not much different. As you know today’s Corporate Manager must always be justifying and selling operations ideas, investments and expansion plans. The manufacturer rep is selling the same, just at a different level. Our approach to selling is a bit different, in that we use our 25+ years experience and the manufacturer’s technical expertise to provide solutions for the customer’s material and thermal processing challenges.”

Having been a rep for my entire working life I have to ask you-what do you think of the life of being a rep? Is it the road to riches?

“I have to say I have not seen any lotto sales come our way. The manufacturer rep life is difficult because the capital gestation period for the sales may take as long 12 months to 24 months. It is very important to have a mix of products and consumables to provide sustaining cash flow. As you know to help 2OFF with cash flow our consulting engineering business has provided this base. We have retainer clients where 2 is the client’s metallurgical engineering resource and assisted several companies with business plans and accreditations. Also the affiliation with an International Consulting Group has provided in-roads to new business.”

Continuing in the same vein you saw the heat treating industry from the standpoint of being a buyer and now you are on the other side of the fence selling to heat treaters. Has your viewpoint changed with your transition?

“I do not think my viewpoint has changed… but is enhanced. One frustration I have had as a heat treat-plating equipment buyer; I have found the sales people have not always been process savvy and therefore not providing all the information necessary to meet the processing criteria. With processing knowledge expertise, I assure our customers with the right equipment technology to satisfy their needs and the process.”

Feel free to enlighten our readers about your territory and your product lines.

“The west coast (CA,OR,WA )heat treat dollar value of all metal treated (commercial & captive) is estimated at approximately $1.4 billon. The metal treating market is 55% aerospace; 14% commercial; 10% fastener; 8% tooling; 6% semi-conductor;4% medical; & 3% miscellaneous. It should be noted in aerospace the metal usage has shifted in the last 10 years with aluminum down 6%; steel down 5%; high-strength alloys up 4%; titanium up 6%; and composites up 8%. This market shift has impacted the thermal processing equipment requirements and moved the heat treat process to the metal producers. 2OFF has aligned with key manufacturers to provide atmosphere equipment (batch and continuous), vacuum furnaces, LPC vacuums, aluminum drop bottom furnaces, age ovens, plating equipment, environmental recovery systems, specialty induction systems, instrumentation and analyzers, oil-water separators, air-liquid cooling and used equipment. These product lines provides 2the capability to canvas the west coast markets.”

The California market is very different from most other areas of North America. I would very much appreciate your comments about the market. For instance what are the main heat treating markets? Do commercials hold a large or small percentage of the heat treating market? Do you see mainly vacuum furnaces, continuous, batch IQ’s drop bottoms? Do the furnaces tend to be as large as in other areas?

“Commercial heat treaters have approximately 15% to 20% of the west coast metal treating markets. There are 60 commercial heat treats on the west coast. The top 12 heat treat companies have approximately 65% of the commercial heat treat sales. Aerospace manufacturing mainly is small lot and there are limited automotive- commercial manufacturers. The majority of the automotive business is focus on high performance racing products. The majority of the furnaces on the west coast are batch type. The west coast fastener market predominantly uses shaker tray (atmosphere & vacuum) furnaces, batch IQ furnaces, and vacuum furnaces in their operations. Looking at the 2 frequency of inquiries for furnaces: age furnaces 26%, aluminum drop quench 11%; atmosphere IQ 6%, braze belt 3%, continuous atmosphere quench 1%, hydrogen retort 1%, LPC systems 2%, nitride furnaces 11%, open fire 6%, ovens 14% and vacuums 19%.”

I have to say that California is one of my favorite areas of North America but I know from experience that the state does not appear to be especially business friendly. How would you respond to this? What barriers do you see that are not seen in other areas?

“I can say it was a learning experience for me when I moved to California from North Carolina. Everything is different from labor laws to OSHA to environmental impact regulations. I have had several projects fail due to regulatory obstacles that put non-value added costs resulting in diminishing returns on investment. One of our clients in 2012 had planned to expand into the California market; however after the changes in labor practices from their Midwest operation, more OSHA requirements, AQMD requirements, and the increase taxes, they decided to cancel the relocation plan and moved to Mexico.”

As far as manufacturing and consequently heat treating goes are you optimistic or pessimistic about heat treating in your territory?

“I can only describe my crystal ball as “June Gloom”, and I am not sure when the marine layer will burn off. I am seeing some companies making investments and bringing on new product lines. However, I am seeing more relocating product lines to Midwest, Southeast, Europe, Mexico and Asia. I believe there is a core entrenched business base here in California; the underlying concern is that many of the companies have been purchased by large divested corporations with the key decision makers located out of state or even out of the country.”

Would you care to share with us the main players in your area when it comes to new furnaces, alloy and controls?

“In general the California industries that have made large investments in the last 18 months in new equipment are: aerospace forgings, aerospace fasteners, and commercial heat treating.”

About Skip Jones and his company. “2°OFF.LLC provides the necessary functional and operating expertise to provide your company the resources to navigate through material and thermal processing solutions. Our dedicated professionals use state of the art equipment and product suppliers to provide cost effective and timely results. We furnish the necessary guidance to meet today’s industry’s challenges, while rendering the most pragmatic solutions.
2°OFF.LLC is the west coast resource for ALD-Holcroft Vacuum Furnaces; AFC-Holcroft Atmosphere Furnace, Bogh Aluminum Furnaces, DK Ovens, GH Induction Atmospheres, Super Systems Instrumentation and Analyzers, RK Fabrication Plating Lines, Tanks and Environmental Systems, Universal Smartskim & Machine Coolant Recovery Systems, Qual-Fab High Alloy Fabrication for fixturing and 2OFF,LP consulting.”