Surjit Bawa/ Metex Heat Treating
We are pleased to have an interview with Surjit Bawa founder of Metex Heat Treating in Brampton, Ontario, Canada-arguably one of the most successful commercial fastener heat treaters in North America.
How did you get started working in the heat treat industry?
“My background is as a Metallurgist and my first position in the industry was with Budd Heat Treat in Windsor, Ontario, Canada where I started as a furnace operator. While I was a furnace operator I occasionally had to change into a suit and put my metallurgist hat on when a customer visited-I ended up as General Manager.”
Raman – “I decided sometime in high school that I wanted to spend my life working on computers. That somehow transcended into a degree into Electrical Engineering. From there, I worked at BlackBerry working on software security & privacy. When things started going south over there, I decided I needed something fresh and more hands on. Obviously growing up around Metex, it seemed like a logical choice. It combined a passion for engineering with the hands on nature I was looking for.”
Tell us about starting Metex.
“I started Metex in Brampton in 1983 partly because I wanted to live in Toronto (editor’s note; Brampton is a suburb of Toronto). The name comes from “Metal Experts” and I started with 1 rotary retort furnace, 1 batch furnace and 1 brazing furnace. From there we expanded to 4 brazing furnaces and got rid of the batch furnace. In 1985 we added our first mesh belt line with a capacity of 1,000 pounds per hour and then a 3,000 pound line and then a 6,000 pound line.”
Please tell us something about Metex, the size of the company, number of employees, processes offered etc.
“Metex now has 4 buildings, mesh belt capacity of 21,000 pounds per hour, 4 batch IQ lines and 10 Induction systems with a new, automated, very large induction system arriving shortly.”
You have been very successful in processing fasteners, so much so that you have little competition in the Canadian market-what has been the secret?
“We are able to offer our customers not only heat treating but heat treating, plating, sorting, packaging and shipping as a boxed product. No longer do our customers have to unload their trucks 6 times between production and final shipping.”
Is there anyone in the heat treating industry that you’ve learned a lot from, and what was the most valuable thing they taught you?
“My first boss Budd Decker of Budd Heat Treating taught me an enormous amount about heat treating, business and how to treat your customers.”
What’s your favorite part of your current job?
“Innovation. Controls and robotics have changed the industry and this is what I most enjoy, coming up with innovative solutions.”
Raman – “With a large part of our business being in Automotive. It is an amazing feeling to know the products we work on every day are being used in vehicles all over the world.”
Obviously you’ve been quite successful so I don’t mind asking this question, what was the biggest mistake you’ve made when it comes to Metex?
“In 2007 very shortly before the Great Recession I bought a 7,000 pound per hour cast link belt line. Business slowed down so much that we never actually ran it and ended up scrapping it.”
What still motivates you to work as hard as you do?
“I am still having fun and my son Raman is doing a very good job of running the business on a day to day basis.”
Raman – “With heat treating being somewhat of a niche industry, the knowledge base we have here is tremendous. I feel it is my duty to nurture and grow it to ensure we can be a company that industries can rely on.”
What does the future hold for Metex and the heat treating industry in general?
“2018 is going to be a good year for us. The NAFTA negotiations (North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico) is certainly a concern for us. We will continue to make new investments, businesses that don’t continue to invest will not survive. Robotics and controls become more and more important each day. We are also looking at a very exciting new technology which we are not ready to talk about. Predictions about the demise of heat treating due to plastics replacing metal a number of years ago proved to be false.”
Raman – “The concept of lighter and stronger seems to be paramount today more than ever. I believe this puts us, heat treaters, at an advantage. Every new project we work on seems to have some form of this and with the tools of metallurgy we can aid the transition to the new evolution of manufacturing.”
I thank you for your time today Surjit.