In this episode, we speak to Industrial Heater’s owner and CEO, Tom McGwire, and Mechanical Drafter, Nikki Coleman.
Industrial Heater is in its 102nd year of business after it was started in 1921 by his grandfather.
In 1954 his grandfather patented the very first ceramic band heater. These heaters were used extensively in the textile industry and remain a staple within the business. Since then things have grown and developed and they are now based in Cheshire, Connecticut so join me as we find out more about the company and its people.
Welcome to Meet the Manufacturer's podcast, brought to you by Manufacture CT and sponsored by Cohn Resnick who are dedicated to helping manufacturers and distributors to enhance their competitive position and succeed in high-pressure trade environments. Visit them email@example.com. Meet the Manufacturers is available on all of the world's biggest podcast platforms.
Including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Spotify. Never miss an episode again and subscribe today wherever you get your podcast From. On every episode, we take the opportunity to learn more about a local manufacturing business. Welcome along to the latest episode of Meet the Manufacturers in association with Manufacturer ct.
It is my great pleasure to introduce Tom McGuire. Tom is the owner and c e o of industrial heater and high-tech fabricating based in Cheshire, Connecticut. We're also joined by Nikki Coleman. She is one of their mechanical drafters, so it's gonna be exciting to find out a little more from her perspective as well.
So let's find out more about the business. Welcome, Tom and Nikki. Thanks for having us. Claire. Happy to be here. Thank you. Oh, it's great to have you here. Thank you so much for finding the time to join us and be a part of this popular podcast series. So let's kick it off. Tom, tell me a little bit about the business, how you've got to this position of c e o and the owner of course, and a little bit about the history of industrial heater, please.
Sure. Industrial Heater is in its 102nd year of business. My great-grandfather started it in 1921. Wow. He started making heaters for the textile industry in southern Manhattan. Back then, it was quite a big industry, so we started on Canal Street. He was more of a tinkerer and inventor. In 1954, he patented the very first ceramic band heater, which is used in mostly injection molding and extrusion processes.
So that's kind of our bread and butter. That's what we've built our business on for the last hun, 50 years or so. In 2012, we purchased a sheet metal fabrication, house, high tech fabricating, and incorporated all of their equipment and employees into our business here. Uh, we also brought over all their customers, so it was a good opportunity for us to upgrade our production capabilities and bring on some new business.
So today we're essentially two companies under the same roof, industrial heater making process heaters. And high-tech fabricating, meaning custom sheet metal fabrications for a variety of industries. When did you relocate to Cheshire In Connecticut. We moved from the Bronx to Stratford in the early nineties.
I'm gonna say 93, and then we moved up to Cheshire, I'm gonna say in 1997. Fabulous. Nikki's nodding her head. She knows the company history. She's got it down Tom. So tell me a little bit about the customer or the end user. Of the products that you make there. So our customers are end users, original equipment manufacturers and distributors in the plastics industry, for the most part, that includes injection, molars and extrusion makers.
So our heaters go on the barrel and essentially melt the plastic from a solid into a liquid so that the manufacturing process can do whatever, make whatever it is that they're gonna make. So it's a critical component in the process. And, uh, it certainly keeps you busy, that's for sure. Absolutely. That's what it's about.
So Tom, it's a company, it's a family business. Was it always the plan to go into the company business? No, it wasn't. I actually studied finance and investment banking when I was in college. I thought that's what I wanted to do. I also studied Chinese and I lived in China for a year. Wow. And then, I ended up working in an industry that made soft goods for HP and Dell and I, I got to travel around the world doing that.
I got to visit manufacturers in China and India and Peru and Columbia, and that was all very interesting. But it was a lot of work and I thought maybe I can take what I've learned and bring it back to the, the company, the, the family business. So I started doing that about 12 years ago. And haven't looked back ever since.
That's wild. I hear that quite often when I do these podcasts. You know, particularly with, you know, businesses that are multiple generations in the making, if you like, that a lot of people didn't choose. Initially to be working for the family company and they went away and had their own adventures and things, and then that's like an umbilical cord.
It pulled them back to the company business. And it's great because you can obviously look at things with a fresh pair of eyes, and like you said, with the skills and the knowledge that you had picked up around the world and bring it back to the company. That's kind of cool. I like that. I think I felt very fortunate that I had the opportunity to learn from my dad at a high level to see what it was like to run a business.
I always knew that, that I wanted to do that, and what better way to do it than with your family. So I figured give it a shot. See how it goes, and I've really enjoyed the ride. Oh, that's awesome. Before I move on to the lovely, Nicki, can you tell me a little bit about what an a regular day looks like for you?
Obviously not just role and responsibilities as such, but what does the average day look like for, for Tom McGuire, I. Well, like many people that work in small businesses, I wear a lot of hats and so do a lot of the people that work here. What I try to spend the most of my time doing is leading our team, making sure that we're focused on our vision and our long term goals, that we're holding each other accountable, that I'm exhibiting our core values and making sure that our employees are too, and then helping people accomplish the things that they need to accomplish.
And. As you know, we've implemented EOS for the last year and that's been tremendously successful for us. So most of my time is spent. Reinforcing EEO S principles leading L 10 s and and making sure that we're hitting our goals. If you're just tuning into this podcast and dunno what we're talking about, do have a little look back through the podcast history, there is a fabulous episode with Tom on e o s and it is an absolutely riveting listen, do check it out on your usual podcast platform.
So Nikki. Tell me a little bit about what you do for the company and where have, where were you before? Life before Industrial heater. My life before industrial heater. Well, my grandma started working here, industrial heater in 1997 when they all moved over to Cheshire, and that's the year I was born. So my grandma worked here, my mother also worked here.
I had a couple uncles and my brother here. So there's a lot of generations on my side who also been. Here at the company, I think when I was about 16 years old, I came to help out in the summer or in the fall during inventory and do like some minor filing and stuff like that. And then I went to go to college and everything else, and I studied political science.
And then the year I had my son, I came back and I just stayed. I went from just being a regular engineer coordinator. Dealing with like materials and making the traveler for the guys on the shop floor to actually designing the masters and working with the actual parts on how to build a heater and everything else.
So I kind of did a little 360 with my life as well and having a permanent position here at the company. So, um, yeah. I use SolidWorks, AutoCAD to design our heaters and everything else. A customer would bring in samples. So I'm learning how to do reverse engineering to actually make what we have to so the shop can have a good design of a heater.
It's very, that's fabulous. That's fabulous. That's so cool. And it's great the way you come from, obviously a family that has been a part of this company for many years, and not only did you. Come you tried it and you've then come back for more, which is fabulous. So looking at the skills required to work in manufacturing, you know, Connecticut has a rich history in manufacturing.
You know, we struggle to get good people to work for our manufacturing companies in this state. You know, it can be really challenging. What kind of skills or attributes do you think that you picked up in college or through school that have served you well in the role that you're in now? Nikki? I love math.
That always been a good strong point for me. I took calculus and high school and everything else. It just came pretty easy doing the calculations and formulas and everything else. I like, do I work well with my hands? I'm a little bit of a tomboy at that. So growing up I was able to fix bikes, chains, even mess with computers and stuff like that growing up.
So it's, it came natural. It was easy. It wasn't too hard for me to. Pick up what they was teaching me and everything else. And then the people here are really good teachers. I worked with Helen, I sat with Tom, my mentor. He took the time out to just show me what he was doing. It's like, this is easy. The guys on the shop floor, they just took their time and it was easy.
It came natural, almost like I was destined to be here. I think you probably were Nick, in all honesty. Tom, a question for you. When you are doing some serious recruiting of any sort, what are you looking for when that resume hits your desk? Most importantly, we wanna make sure that candidates align with our core values.
For us, that's consistency, adaptability, precision, teamwork, and commitment to the customer. So we ask questions that. Help us identify whether or not the person can, most importantly, fit into those core values. Then obviously they have to get it, want it, and have the capacity to do it. So they have to be qualified for the roles that we're looking for, and I be enthusiastic about joining our team.
Y you make it sound really easy, but it's really hard. It's supposed to sound easy in practice. Yes, of course. There's those challenges. A little bit more difficult. Talking a little bit about the culture of the company, you know, that's something you, I know worked super hard at and you've really reaped the rewards from putting in that effort and that that hard work, if you like to define your culture and your purpose and how do you.
Successfully implement it throughout your team. Cause I think that sometimes can happen. You can have a great mind or a, a great leader at the top of the tree in a business, but actually does it filter down to every member of staff and are they fully on board with it? How do you do that? How do you get people on the, the Tom McGuire industrial heater train?
It's such a great question and I've, I'm learning as I go and I've struggled to try to, to figure out how to implement a culture, and I think a lot of business owners can identify with it at one point and I thought, okay, it's not j it's gotta be more than just a pizza party or it's gotta be more than just rewarding for lunch.
And it is, it's so much more than that. We really have worked hard on identifying our core values and, and reinforcing them as much as we can repeat. Repeat, repeat. And I, I view that as one of my critical jobs is constantly talking about our core values, constantly reminding everybody what they are, making sure that we're living up to them.
That's really what's important. But I, I think people also really appreciate having a mission or a goal that they can identify with. People want to know that when they come in to work that day, what it is that they're, what they're doing is contributing to something more important and, When they go home, at the end of the day, they should be able to look back and say, I did a good job today.
I was productive and I contributed to that vision. If you don't have that, it's hard to tie things down. So those are a couple of my observations in my quest to figure out and how to implement a culture here. Yeah, that makes sense. I'll let, I'll let you know as I, as I learn more down the road. Well, let's see how you're doing so far, Nikki.
When Tom talks about his core values and, and the culture within the business and. It sounds to me like it's absolutely a, a case of communication, of knowing what the objective is, where you fit into that bigger picture, and why whatever it is that you are doing is so important to the grand scheme of things.
How do you receive the guidance of what the vision is for the company? Is that something you feel you're, you're getting and you're able to deliver on? Yes. Something I can say about the company. They are honest. So if I come up and ask time a question or Helen a question, they will just lay it out how it is.
We have meetings, they keep everybody on board and the vision is on the e o s site. So we see exactly what the goal is for one year, the three year to 10 years, nothing is hidden. They show a lot of great skills that. The employees know, okay, this is where they expect us to try to reach for the goals and even myself, so I know what I'm working towards to help the company get better to what they need to work towards.
Yeah, so it's just like everything is just out there. There's nothing hidden. They tell us what they need from us, even the customers is they coming back for more for us cuz how much we are improving and it's great. Like I tell. The girls in the, in the shop, four in the office. It's like what we do, we started off.
So if the quicker we able to start something off, the quicker it's going to the customers, because the shop four, that turnaround is like a week, three days, depending on how many quantities or pieces they make. And it's great. It's great to see from where my grandma started off in 97 to where I am, it's like, it's a, it's a change.
It's like a really big change. It's like, Like I try to tell her like, what's going on in the company? I'm like, yeah, we doing this, we doing this. And then she's like, Ooh, I wanna come back. I gotta see it. And it's like, I was like, alright, relax, relax. You get your turn. It's my turn now like, but you're gonna have to do a family day, Tom.
Invite them back. We have multiple families in this family business. Meet the manufacturer's podcast on behalf of Manufacturer. CT is created and produced by Red Rock Branding, red rock branding.com. If you are enjoying this episode, please subscribe to and share this podcast today. Wow, it's fabulous. You know?
And that's testament to you, to be fair, you know, the, this is obviously a culture that was, what's the word, cultivated well before EOS was on the scene. So that's a credit to you and obviously to your father as well. So I always admire that when I see that when you have multiple families working at the same company, generationally, you're doing something right.
You're doing something right. So, We have in the past talked to obviously about the pandemic and we talked about supply chain issues and things like that. But what I'm really interested in is, is not how you handled that, which you did exceptionally well. It's the resurgence of like the reshoring effort, the Bio American initiative.
Have you seen that in practice? Is it happening? You know, are you finding more and more people who are looking towards American manufacturers at home opposed to shopping overseas? I think so, and I, I think what we realized most importantly throughout the pandemic was that we certainly can't rely on other countries to supply us with critical things like p p E and medicine.
I think it was a huge wake up call for our country to bring manufacturing back and, and we have seen, you know, our customers make. Parts that save lives. Plastics gets a, a hard wrap because of its effect on the environment. And I could go o on and off about this, but the reality is plastic is one of the most important materials there are when it comes to making healthcare products, making the cars and, and airplanes that fuel our worlds, our phones, our computers, everything plastic is incorporated into all this stuff.
So plastics, I think is really, Made a huge effort to bring things back into the country. By the way, all the p p e that we were short on, including masks made from plastic plaing processes, so we stayed open during the pandemic. Our, our customers all sent us letters as soon as everything started to shut down and say, you know, we need industrial heaters to stay open.
They're mission critical. And a lot of our customers went on to make critical hand sanitizer bottles to make, you know, respirators, to make, you know, PPE that, that we needed so desperately and, and we tried to do our part too. We made the nose clips that went on to the N 95 masks. We made about 30,000 of those that ended up going to local Wow.
Connecticut first responders. So was proud to. To help. Ah, fabulous. Is there anything at the moment that you are working on from the manufacturing side of things? Is there any big investments coming up, any new pieces of equipment? What are you working on right now? And also what have you got an eye on for the future?
What toys do you need in your workshop? I guess our big initiative right now is pursuing our AS 9,100 certification. So that's taking a lot of time and money to fill the gap between our current ISO 9,001 2015 to get to the a s 9,100. We're pursuing that so that we can service the aerospace industry more directly.
With that, there'll be, of course, some equipment that that comes down the line and we'll, we'll make those decisions when we get there. Awesome. Well, Nick, tell me. What pieces of equipment do you most enjoy using? Obviously you use a lot of software, obviously you've got a great familiarity with the shop floor.
What's your favorite part to, to play with SolidWorks and DriveWorks? Why? Tell me why SolidWorks is 3d. So everything is easy for me to manipulate change. I can see it in any direction I can with Driver express. Something new that we using this year. It's. It's standardized everything, and it's quicker for me to make a, a master for the shop floor.
So the time, the amount of time it used to take me to make something is like almost cut in half or even a third, depending on how expensive the heater is. So that's awesome. Awesome. Okey dokey guys. So little bit about. Careers guidance, I guess you'd call it. So imagine we've got a bunch of young people or a bunch of people looking to return to the workforce.
Perhaps they're, you know, looking to retrain. First you Tom, why a career in manufacturing? What should they be looking for in a company? What skills should they have? And more importantly, if the of SIL in an educational setting, what training programs potentially are you aware of that you would be able to sort of recommend?
I think if you like. Working with your hands or, or you like engineering you, you're interested in how things are made, you want to help make something a product. If they don't feel like the service industry is for you, I would highly recommend looking into manufacturing and the, and the, the local education system in Connecticut is so great.
There's opportunities for high school students to learn more. There's opportunities for post high school students to learn more at all of the great. Local vocational schools, Goodwin Three Rivers. These are just a couple that come to mind, but you can avoid going off and getting a four year degree and spending crazy amounts of money on degree that you're gonna have to pay back over time.
Mm-hmm. Burden yourself with student debt when there's plenty of manufacturers, especially in Connecticut, who will hire you right outta high school and train you right inside their own four walls, and you can start making money right off the bat instead of having to pay down student debt for a good portion of your life.
So yes, I think if you're interested in any of the stuff that I mentioned earlier, the resources are plentiful and Connecticut is a great state for manufacturing as well. I'll say this, you know, to whoever wants to listen, you know, with our chief manufacturing officer, Paul LaVoy con, step C B I A C A, the backing from our governor, Ned Lamont is, is really impressive and, and I think that Connecticut is one of the best states in the country to be a manufacturer in, and that includes people that are interested in joining our workforce.
So, Please, by all means we, we'd love to have you and there's lots of people hiring right now, including us. Absolutely. Nikki, have you got anything to add for people who are looking for work or considering a career in manufacturing? I'm gonna have to agree with Tom. Everything he said was actually correct.
You have to be able to work with your hands, like in your hands dirty, and you have to have the mindset for it as well. Have to understand exactly what they're telling you. It's not rocket science, it's not difficult, it's just a matter of wanting, getting it. And just have the capacity for it. It comes easy to look at a drawing with a master, and I barely had any training besides from Helen or Paul or Tom just telling me, this is what I'm looking at.
And then when I was able to start getting it, they started putting all the steps behind me so I could actually fully embrace what they wanted me to do. So they, it's a good career. It's a really good choice that I've made for myself. So many jobs out there that don't involve getting your hands dirty. We need programmers.
We need people who are working on high tech equipment that need to understand how. The, the computer function works. We need designers, engineering people like Nikki who know how to use solid works and engineer parts. So the climate has changed from what our grandfathers were doing. It's not as darky and dangerous, it's clean, meaning green.
Certainly some of the, the facilities in Connecticut are clinical grade clean. And super high tech. You know, some of the, the biggest brains are moving into manufacturing and actually creating some pretty spectacular things and harnessing all that technology has to offer. But I think it's more the hard work ethic Nicki meant getting stuck in and, uh, that's always gonna be a useful skill no matter where you are.
So more of a, I guess, personal question. No, I'm not gonna ask you too personal, but what do you like to do to unwind? You know, you work really hard. You know, Tom, especially yourself, he knows a huge responsibility on your shoulders when you're not in your EOS mindset, company culture, company culture. What do you do to relax and unwind?
Personally, I love to travel. It's a passion of mine. I just got back from a great trip to South Africa, which was Wow. An incredible country, great people, landscape. The animals were amazing, had had an incredible trip. I highly recommend South Africa, but when I can't travel all the time, I enjoy golfing. Oh, there it is.
Oh, hang on you. I've just remembered. Yes. The annual manufacture CT golf event. If you are listening to this and you're a manufacturing and you're a keen golfer, you need to join the organization manufacture ct cuz they have an annual golf event, don't they Tom? Yes. And I will certainly be there signed up on the first day that it was open.
Yep. If I'm not doing any of those things then I'm usually hang out with my wonderful and beautiful fiance, Caroline. Ah, you gotta get that in just in case he listens. I understand. Tom. It's cool. Your secret's safe with me. He said the off mic as well. Nicki, what about your good self? To spend time with my son, try to do as much as I can as a mother for him, so it's nice weather now.
So we do park rides, walks. His new thing is frappuccinos, so depending on how he is, I might get him there. Just enjoy him. Fabulous. How old is he? He'd be five in July. Oh my goodness. You give me hope. I've got a two year old and I think he's trying to kill me. There is hope that he might actually sleep.
I'll say, what are some of the things, Nikki, that you are most proud of? So when you look back over your career and your life to date, what are some of the things that you are most proud of? I'm proud of my growth at ico. I went from, you know, filing masters back and doing busy work to actually, you know, becoming a supervisor.
Being involved in a lot of the meetings and decisions and doing, being an engineer and working with the parts and seeing like the company grow. It's like, it's, it's, it's a lot like, I, what, six years I believe, maybe seven years I've been, you know, working here on and off and everything else, and it's like, wow, I'm really still here.
Like, it's, it's really crazy just to sit back and think about, like, I really came from just, you know, just a little girl, a little high school girl just coming in to do some quick filing to actually having a permanent spot and position and seeing all the emails from customers, and I'm just involved.
Fabulous. Better responsibility and and great appreciation, I'm sure. Yes. Tom, what about yourself? What are you most, most proud of? What are your biggest successes? You know, at the end of the day, we're just a bunch of people that come in and show up for work, and I'm just so proud that people are behind our mission.
They come here and they wanna be a part of our team. That they're interested in servicing our customers, solving problems and, and helping our industry flourish. It's really refreshing to be out of the office for two weeks to come back and see that everything's working just fine, and, and people are, are happy to be here.
So, wonderful. I appreciate the people most of all. Nicki, well done for holding down the fort whilst he's off sunning himself in South Africa. Man, I get it. If people want to carry on this conversation, Tom, they wanna find out more about you, your company, the, the, the products that you manufacture, and also those career opportunities that you talked about.
What's the best way of them getting in touch with you? Website, social media, LinkedIn. We have two websites, www.industrialheater.com. The other one is www dot high tech, that's h I T E C H, fab fab.com. Wonderful. And I guess there's a contact form on there and they can get in touch and find out more about what you guys are doing and particularly obviously that recruitment side of things.
Absolutely. We're, we're also on Facebook and LinkedIn. Look at that. You're everywhere. Tom Nikki, it's such a pleasure to speak to you and to learn a little bit more about your success story. I guess it is generational. Employment with the company Nikki, which is just wild. I love the fact that your grandma still asks about the company.
I just think that's fabulous. I've just got this image of you having a real gossip over some cup of tea or something. I dunno. I love that. I love that. And it's testament to you, Tom, that you've created an environment where people wanna work for you, which is where it's at, at the end of the day. So thank you so much for being a part of Meet the Manufacturers, the podcast, and we'll have to check back in, in a year or so's time and see how things are going.
Thanks, Claire. Thanks. I really appreciate the opportunity and happy to share. Thank you. Thanks for your time guys. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode of Meet the Manufacturers, brought to you by Manufacture ct. If you would like to find out more about manufacture ct. Or you would like to join the organization, visit the website, manufacture ct.org.
This podcast is sponsored by Cohen Resnick. Advisory, Assurance, Tax. Visit their website, cone resnick.com. If you have enjoyed listening to this episode and want to find out more about the vibrant and thriving manufacturing community in Connecticut, subscribe to and share this podcast today. Meet the Manufacturers is available on all podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Spotify.
This podcast was created and produced by Red Rock Branding. www.redrockbranding.com