History of Electric Induction Heating

Electric History

By James Farol Metcalf

Jess Cartlidge

I first met Jessie when Rowan sent him to Beryllium early in 1959 to help us solve a mess of problems we were having with stray induction heating. He had driven up from Delanco, NJ, Inductotherm's factory, and had been at the gate house almost an hour when I arrived to work just before 8 AM.

He brought more than his hands and his tools. At the age of 23 he knew just what had to done to solve our problems. After work he visited my home for a late dinner and some whisky. I learned that evening that he considered Hank Rowan as a father.

Jessie first met Hank when he was working at Ajax Electrothermic. From Rowan's book: The Fire Within copyrighted 1995.

One day I noticed a young boy watching curiously from the edge of the clearing and waved him over.

"What's your name, son?" I asked.

"Mickey," he said, shyly. "Mickey Cartlidge."

"Well, Mickey, I'm Hank Rowan, and I'm the one who's building this house. I suppose we're building it on your former playground?"

He allowed, a little sheepishly, that I was right. I suspected that my young acquaintance was also the one who had torn down the batter boards when we were locating the foundation, but I didn't call him on it, he looked so forlorn.

He looked around the site, as if summoning up his courage before asking, shyly, "Can I help? I need a job."

"Well, maybe you can, I answered him. "How old are you, young man?"

"I'm thirteen," he said, with a determined look on his face, as if he were ready to prove himself old enough to handle any task if he were just given a chance.

After Rowan and Foley established Inductotherm in 1953 Jessie became his first employee and the first to almost receive a pink slip. More from Rowan's book: My sense of imminent failure mounted still further the next day when I walked into our office. "I have some bad news for you, Hank," Paul began. "I've had a chat with Jess and he's gone. I felt that we had no choice but to let him go, at least until we can get some more work."

At these words, I exploded. Here we had been in business barely four months, and we were already cutting back? It hurt, too, on a deeper, personal level. I knew how much Jess looked up to me; I was more than his employer, I'd become his mentor, his advisor. When I told him I was starting up my own company, he'd jumped at the opportunity to be in on the ground floor. How could Inductotherm help but be a smash success? After all, in Jess's young eyes, the company's CEO had succeeded at everything else he'd attempted--he'd flown bombers, graduated with honors from MIT, even built his own house. Well, what must Jess Cartlidge think of his hero now? I wondered.

"How could you do something like that, without even consulting me?" I raged at Paul. "We're partners, aren't we?"

Soon afterwards Rowan split up with his 50/50 partner to fly solo. At the age of 80 in the year 2004 Hank Rowan is still flying his Lear jet solo. He was to have several more partners including Wooding, Huff, Peschel, Metcalf etc., but in the end he found a way to send them away.

Not only did Jessie earn his keep he taught the team of Lona and Metcalf how to shield the chambers from induction heating. This was to save the day for our next task. We sent Jessie home with some orders for Inductotherm. I advised the young man to consider selling as a career. He did not want a sales job he wanted to be the president of Inductotherm someday.

Life's future events turn on small details. If Jessie did not show us how to put shunts in a chamber we would have used resistance heating that management wanted and I would not have been able to sell NASA some four years later.

We did not need Jess Cartlidge again at Beryllium but did see him every year at foundry shows until he took over sales of the West Coast with his office in Long Beach, California.

Jess was instrumental in Cragmet's efforts to obtain an order for a 3000-pound vacuum melting furnace for Certified Alloys in Long Beach in late 1967. He told me that traveling much of the time in sales and service for Inductotherm was taking a toll on his marriage.

Jessie also helped us close an order for a degassing furnace at ESCO in Portland, Oregon. This was when I learned that his divorce would be final soon. He asked me for advice on the best way to divide the assets and how he should protect his profit sharing plan.

Jessie and I were starting up the ESCO furnace in Portland when he told me he had been offered the managing directors position in Australia. I told him: "Go get them tiger".

Jess had to accomplish one task before he left and that was to deliver 007P, Inductotherm's twin engine Apache, back to Rancocas. Gragmet bought this airplane, but that story will be told in another section.

Let The Fire Within tell the story of Jess in Australia.

It took an Australian businessman, Bob Simpson, to propose still another way to tackle the foreign market. Simpson ran a furnace company, Process Plant Construction, Ltd., in Australia; PPC made box furnaces and tunnel heat-treating furnaces similar to those made by Wellman in England. PPC was jointly owned by Simpson himself and the John Holland Group, an engineering construction firm that had diversified into manufacturing. What Simpson proposed for us was a 50-50 joint venture with the Holland Group, financed at $100,000 each, licensed for our technology, and with PPC overseeing the operation.

It sounded like a great arrangement, a license and 5% royalty for our technology combined with 50% ownership, thereby obligating us to put in the effort to ensure success. We reasoned, too, at the time that having an Australian who understood the local markets would accelerate the start-up process and make a huge contribution to the success of the operation.

We were moving so fast, in so many areas, that we didn't have time to study a project to death. Bob's first letter to us was dated April 24, 1968, and, six weeks later, in early June, I met with him and John Holland in Australia to sign the necessary agreements. We needed someone to head up the joint operation and transfer the technology from Rancocas to Australia, and I knew just the man for the job--none other than our former shop hand, Jess Cartlidge. Jess had lived through the start-up of Inductotherm itself, he had continued his education in electrical circuitry and math, and had become an accomplished sales and service representative, responsible for the West Coast territory and handling several million dollars in new sales each year. He was ready for the Australian challenge and I never doubted for a minute that he would jump at the opportunity.

So it was that, on June 13,1968, with the signed papers in hand, I called Roy Ruble from Melbourne. Australia, to give him the news. Then, I asked him to contact Jess. When Roy tracked him down, he was making a service call on the Esco Foundry in Portland, Oregon, where they called him to the phone. Roy got right to the point: "Jess, how would you like to go to Australia to start a new company?"

If Roy thought he'd catch him off guard, he was mistaken. "Great," said Jess, undaunted by the prospect of heading up a manufacturing company on the other side of the world; "My bags are packed."

I had to laugh when Roy told me of Jess's reaction; I knew what he was referring to I'd expected that, by now, Jess was itching to move on to something new. As he'd once told me, he liked his challenges in "five-year bites," and he'd been in the same sales territory for almost five years now. And while he was headed far away, Jess had already come a long way from the raw, unskilled teenager whose early lessons in industrial engineering came via digging root cellars for me. Even after 15 years in the induction melting industry, he retained the enthusiasm for his work that he'd had as a teenager. He spent one vacation traveling to Canada to the Canadian Hansen Van Winkle Company, Ltd. plant to see the furnace he'd helped build in operation.

Since then, he'd tackled every job we gave him with gusto, all the while setting his sights progressively higher as he progressed from shop helper to draftsman to serviceman to salesman. From me, perhaps, he'd developed a yen for flying, and he carried a little scooter in his plane to literally scoot from the airfield to customer's plants. The sight of Jess in a business suit and fedora, tie flapping in the breeze as he motored along on two wheels, became familiar to Inductotherm customers.

In l961 he'd begun commuting by air, usually flying himself from Rancocas to Ohio to open up a Midwest sales office. Then, after a successful two-year stint in the heartland we sent him to Los Angeles to establish our new West Coast sales office. Here, too, he'd succeeded. But somewhere along the way, it seemed Jess was no longer measuring his work by conventional standards of success or failure; at times I got the strange feeling that he was not just working for me, he was mentally competing with me; measuring his own commitment and determination against mine. If I was impatient to get results, he was twice as impatient. If I had worked late into the night to solve a problem, Jess would go without sleep.

If I got by with an inexpensive car, well, Jess drove a scooter. Ever since that time when he was a teenager and I'd lectured him on the value of time, he was in a hurry. Not just to get a job done, but to get it done right. He was determined, whatever job he was doing, to know more about it than anyone else. When he first began brazing copper, he read up on brazing alloys and on the theories of joining metal. When he had to assemble wire panels, he studied the control circuitry and understood every function of every part that he installed. In time, he became capable of building a copper induction melting coil in four or five hours, where others in our shop took two to three days.

He used to wonder what the future held for a fellow like him, a young man who couldn't afford college, and had little patience for the classroom. "Someday, if I'm lucky," he'd sigh, "I'll get to wear a white shirt and go to work at a desk."

Now, at the ripe old age of 32: he was about to travel halfway around the world, to a continent he'd never seen, to start a new company as Managing Director of Inductotherm, Australia. It remained to be seen if he could build a team "Down Under" to match the one I'd built back in Delanco, but the parallels between our infant company in 1954 and the new Australian subsidiary were striking. In both cases, an old established manufacturer held a virtual monopoly in the induction furnace market. In Australia, it wasn't Ajax Electrothermic, but Birlec Major, a subsidiary of the English company originally licensed by Ajax three decades earlier. And just as with Ajax in the thirties, forties, and fifties, Birlec was used to customers coming to them. "The way I see it," Jess wrote back after a few weeks "Down Under," "Birlec is overdue for some competition."

He began by renting a 5,OOO-square-foot factory on the outskirts of Melbourne. Then he began the most important task of all--finding and hiring the men who would make up Inductotherm, Australia. One of the first men he hired was a young Australian named John Mortimer. Mortimer was then two years out of college and was working in Tasmania as a project engineer for Comalco, an aluminum subsidiary of Commonwealth Engineering. Mortimer had responded to a "Help Wanted" ad Jess had placed in a local newspaper and, when the managing director flew down to ask him to join the new, six-man company, Mortimer didn't take long to accept. Even though, true to Inductotherm tradition, the initial salary Jess was offering was considerably less than salaries with which other companies were trying to lure Mortimer away from Commonwealth, none of them could match the opportunity

It didn't take Jess long to show the Australian furnace market what this upstart company could do. While Birlec, Major and other less significant furnace makers in Australia subcontracted out the bulk of their production work, Inductotherm, Australia's managing director knew furnace production from the bottom up. He organized his company to be the only one to design and manufacture entire furnace systems. What's more, as Australian foundrymen were delighted to learn, Jess's company not only delivered an entire assembled package, but the "new kid on the block" installed the furnace as well.

Just as it had at the parent company's plant back in New Jersey, the workday often stretched long into the night at the small plant outside Melbourne. As the "younger brother," our Australian sibling wasn't content to merely outperform its competition on the Australian continent, it wanted to prove it was every bit as aggressive and innovative as its older sibling. It didn't take long for the hard work to start paying off.

But then disaster struck. John Holland's construction group was involved in a massive construction project building the Westgate Bridge over the Yarra River in Melbourne. The plans provided by an English design firm called for box-beam construction to be cantilevered from both ends out over the river until they met in the middle to be joined. On one of the cantilevered sections there was some buckling of the beam plates, and the representative of the design firm recommended the removal of a critical pin to allow straightening or replacement of the beam section. It proved to be the worst move he could have made; the entire cantilevered section crashed into the river carrying to their deaths the entire team of engineers, including 21 of John Holland's best men.

With all the pain and problems he now faced, Holland chose to retrench and asked us if we would buy out his investment, an accommodation we were then glad to make. Thus, in December 1970, we became the sole owners of our Australian licensee, Inductotherm Australia, Ltd.

A year after Jess had arrived in Australia, his company had outgrown its original factory and moved to larger quarters to meet the booming demand from the local foundry market. After another six months, Inductotherm, Australia, had not only surpassed the older competitor, Birlec, in sales, but it also commanded 90% of the Australian market. Now Jess began looking north, to Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.

I made two trips to Australia during the time Jess was there. We did not obtain any significant business but it was fun. I especially enjoyed my long stopover in Fiji on during each trip.

Rowan purchased a company in England and it was not long before he needed to get rid of his new partner. Jess was just the man to take over. More from The Fire Within.

Was that a cruel thing to do? Yes, it was and I felt guilty about it. And I still do. But it was also a matter of principle. I named Metalectric's chief engineer, John Perks, acting Managing Director and returned home to put my plan of action into effect. Metalectric needed a dynamic executive, somebody who could shake things up, show the work force what they were capable of and show them the Inductotherm way of doing things. And I knew just where to find such a man. A few weeks earlier I'd received a letter from Jess Cartlidge:

May 17, 1971

"Hank, you now have a group of people in Australia similar to the original Inducto gang. They are young, they are enthusiastic, and they are keen to tackle anything.

"They are tops in the part of the world they have been given and they have demolished the competition.

"My assignment was to establish Inductotherm in thee induction business in Australia. That has been done. This group no longer needs me. There is obviously a lot of fine tuning to be done and this will take a couple years, but to withhold from my successor the joy, sorrow, sweat, tears, worry and the satisfaction in doing this would be to rob him of the very things that have made this experience so totally satisfying to me and so potentially satisfying to Inductotherm. "What's next?"


When I returned home from England it was 8 p.m. our time, 11 a.m. the next day, Sydney time, and placed a call to Australia. I first explained the situation in Droitwich, and then asked, "Jess, I wonder how you and Brenda (his new and very lovely Australian wife) would enjoy England?"

"My bags are packed," he laughed, eager to tackle this new assignment.

Metalectric's new Managing Director arrived in Droitwich on November 1, 1971, to find the company's morale dismally low. The labor force and management alike recognized that the company had not been productive; they seemed to doubt that intervention by a bunch of Yanks was likely to change anything for the better.

Jess quickly recognized that Metalectric's management really didn't understand their product, their customers, or their industry. Moreover, the work force was conscious of the fact that they had never really been trained, and they couldn't comprehend what was expected of them. The lack of communication between labor and management was symptomatic of British industry, a problem that led to the depression from which England was then just emerging.

The British subsidiary's new leader realized that turning the company around would require more than providing the appropriate tools; he would have to instill a new attitude and a new corporate culture.

A self-made man, Jess had no use for the British class system that had prevailed for generations, a system that had hindered communications and cooperation between labor and management for decades. From Jess's standpoint, there was only one way to work--the Inductotherm way. He'd seen it work in the United States and he'd seen it succeed in Australia. But could it work in England?

If Jolly Old England was a change of scene for Jess, Metalectric's new managing director was a revelation for Droitwich. Instead of an executive who kept to the office, rarely venturing out from his ivory tower into the shop, Jess showed that he was a "hands-on" manager. It didn't take long for the work force to realize that the new boss knew as much--and more--about production techniques as anybody in the factory. And why not? After all, he'd performed almost every production job there was. He not only knew every procedure inside and out, but he also didn't shrink from rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty to demonstrate the most efficient way of using a drill press or brazing copper tubing to form it into a coil.

As Jess realized, his new work force had never known what it felt like to be a team. That was going to change. When Metalectric landed its first big sale, Jess didn't celebrate with the salesmen and management alone, but invited the entire work crew to share in celebrating their mutual success. This was unheard of for these British workers who had never been invited to share recognition for achievements of any sort.

Scarcely six weeks after his arrival, as Christmas was approaching, the Managing Director invited the company's employees to a holiday party at his home. At first, some of the old-line employees were reluctant to accept. Surely there was some mistake, they insisted. Workers simply didn't socialize at the Managing Director's home. In England, it just wasn't done. But eventually, the most hidebound traditionalists recognized that, not only was the invitation sincere, but that the old days were gone forever.

Jess sent further shock waves through Metalectric. After Friday night executive meetings, he would invite the managers down to the Star and Garter, the local pub, which was, as pubs are in most small English towns, the center of the village's social life and gathering spot for the company's workers. For the first time, with a little prodding from the boss, the firm's management and workers began talking to each other.

After three months in Europe, the new Managing Director made another major change; METALECTRIC LTD. became INDUCTOTHERM EUROPE LTD. The new name signaled two major changes in the company's status. First, that the once struggling subsidiary was on its way to becoming a stalwart in the Inductotherm family. Second, that the British company was now poised to move beyond the boundaries of England.

Jess was determined to carry out a true Trans-European strategy, with sales offices established throughout the continent. But penetrating the continent was going to be far tougher than gaining respectability in Great Britain. Over the previous two decades the continental market had lost faith in English manufacturers. The incessant labor strikes had diminished the ability of manufacturers in England to meet delivery schedules.

What's more, even though Inductotherm Europe was adopting a new work ethic, Inducto-style, the power company frequently suffered slowdowns, sometimes from a lack of coal resulting in brownouts.

In the face of these obstacles, our former shop-hand-turned executive was as resourceful as ever. One winter, when the country was plagued by a series of strikes by electrical company workers and the ensuing brownouts, Jess went out and found two ice cream trucks. The vehicles carried their own diesel-powered generators to power the refrigeration units during the summer. Since this was winter, the trucks had been standing idle.

Jess rented the trucks, and for two months the trucks stood backed up to loading docks, powering Inductotherm Europe's lights and power tools. This ingenuous approach to staying in operation, whether the local power company was on strike or not, made headlines when a reporter came by. Even more important, it enabled the company to operate continually and to make its deliveries on time.

By 1974 Inductotherm Europe was well on its way to disproving the myth that English companies couldn't compete. That year, over 50% of the company's sales were to continental Europe. But there, besides the German giant, Junker, and Swiss giant, Brown Boveri, Jess's company found itself butting heads with a competitor the Managing Director knew better than any other--his own parent company back in Rancocas. In the Middle East, Asia, and Eastern Europe, too, salesmen representing the company's two separate arms frequently wound up bidding against each other.

Such a situation would be anathema to most global conglomerates, but--our expertise as engineers notwithstanding-Inductotherm was still relatively new to the often complex arena of international trade. It was unavoidable and natural that there be overlaps--far better than having gaps. "We have a better shot at landing the business this way," I would tell Roy and Jess, whenever either complained about competition from the other.

I wasn't just dismissing their complaints with a glib quip. In Germany, for instance, Jess could back up his sales arguments with reams of performance statistics; but the German foundry industry was slow to trust English suppliers. On the other hand, they knew the American Inductotherm's reputation for reliability and efficiency; one might have thought the Rancocas Creek was the Rhine.

I saw this rivalry between our American and European organizations as a healthy sign. Both teams wanted to pursue new markets and new opportunities, even if it meant competing against their sibling company on the opposite side of the Atlantic. The intramural rivalry would make each company that much more effective against other companies, I contended.

The British Government inadvertently lent weight to my argument in 1976, when it honored the company Jess had brought from the brink of failure with the Queen's Award to Industry. It was given in recognition of the Droitwich company's contributions to both the economy and the image of England. Even in the face of stiff competition from Inductotherm in the United States, Inductotherm Europe was among a handful of companies in Britain to earn this distinction.

It was an impressive conclusion to Jess's five-year stint in England. In that time he had propelled Inductotherm Europe to the $10-million-a-year level in sales. Moreover, he had positioned the company for continued growth for the years ahead; just as he had in Australia, he'd selflessly trained a new management team to take the reins from him. John Perks, Managing Director, Ian Haywood, Sales Director, John Simcock, Engineering Manager, and Graham Hawkins, Production Manager were men who epitomized what Inductotherm Europe stood for.

On the day the Queen's Award was presented, all of Droitwich turned out for the ceremony, which was attended by scores of white-robe magistrates and other dignitaries in robes and medals. The only element missing from the ritual was Jess Cartlidge; he'd already returned to the United States to tackle his next job, as Inductotherm's first Vice President of International Sales. There were still a few parts of the world left where we hadn't sold Inductotherm furnaces, but that would soon change.

I made several trips to Europe during the time Jess was the CEO but my selling methods did not work with the English. A subsidiary of Union Carbide wanted a vacuum melting furnace and insisted it had to be made of stainless steel. I would not agree so we lost the order to the Germans. Jess was interested in my sales contacts in the Soviet Union but I told him Ruble was handling that territory.

Jessie was like a fish out of water in Rancocas when he returned in 1976. His rival, Roy Ruble, had the job the Jessie always wanted as president of Inductotherm.

Jess continued to attempt to sell Roy on the idea of opening up new operations but Ruble was dead against it. From The Fire Within: "The action is in Japan, Hank." "I can't argue with you, Jess," I told him. "Several Japanese companies are already established there in induction melting. I think we've got two choices--either there will be a strong American competitor in the Japanese market or there will be a strong Japanese competitor in the American market. Which would you rather see"

"I'll pack my bags," Jess answered, with a broad grin.

Inductotherm had already made incursions into the Japanese market and, by my standards, we'd come up short. During the seventies we'd been represented there by a trading firm called Fuji Industries. Most of our sales came in specialties such as vacuum melting, usually in conjunction with Consarc, where our advantages were obvious and well-known. But even so, revenues had averaged only $300,000 annually. In more conventional melting applications, however, Inductotherm's higher melt rates and greater reliability were matters of degree rather than capability, and demand was negligible.

But we'd been trying to compete with one hand tied behind our backs. The Japanese market wanted more than technology and product; they were also highly sensitive to after-sales service and support. Without a manufacturing subsidiary there, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Inductotherm to become a major factor in that country's ever-expanding induction melting field.

Thus, in August of 1982, Inductotherm International gained a new Vice President--sales veteran Bob Sundeen, who a quarter century earlier had prevailed on his employer to manufacture plain push buttons for our control panel. Jess, meanwhile, had studied the Japanese language until he had become conversant in Japanese and then departed with his wife and two children for Kobe, Japan.

There he planned to build another company from the ground up Inductotherm Japan.

It wasn't easy to faze Jess. In his travels and travails throughout Australia, Europe and South America, he'd become accustomed to the unexpected, but Japan was full of surprises. There was, for instance, the matter of hiring personnel. Elsewhere in the world, this was a routine procedure that went on all year. Not in Japan. There, as Jess learned, all the hiring of new personnel took place in the spring; few were inclined to change jobs at other times of the year and almost none liked the idea of working for a bunch of foreigners.

He also planned to rent an office and a plant, but he had never planned, nor imagined, to pay so much for them. A serviceable, four room, 12,000-square-foot office and plant cost $250,000 a year in Kobe, 10 times what Jess had paid for similar facilities in Droitwich, England and three times the equivalent in the United States.

The Cartlidge family's home for the next few years, too, cost a small fortune--$4,000 a month. Even so, it was a bargain, as similar housing in Tokyo would have cost at least $10,000 a month.

The first several months for our Japanese subsidiary were grim, as Jess lost sale after sale to one of the Big Four and, for the first time in our long friendship, I saw him become despondent. "This is a kind of competition we've never seen before, Hank," he told me, during a trip back to New Jersey. "In Australia and Europe, all we had to do was deliver a better product and better service. In Japan, it seems, every company is inter linked with its suppliers and its customers.

Along with superior equipment, Jess's new company provided a level of responsiveness, service, and support far beyond what the Japanese had been used to. By the end of his first year in Kobe the market was beginning to respond. Five years after Jess had arrived in Japan, sales had increased more than ten-fold, topping the $3.5 million mark. In the newer territories Jess had also staked out, Korea and Taiwan, Inductotherm was on its way to a position of preeminence.

With new names, Consarc, Consarc Engineering and Calcarb we did some business in the Far East during the time Jess was operating there but because the induction systems were built in the US or the UK we did no direct business with him.

In 1986 I made a sales trip to Japan to sell a facility to degas steel. This inquiry came from Consarc's sales agent Fuji Industries. The customer had already decided to buy a new concept from Hereaus in Germany. I tried every trick in the book to turn this customer around. I asked the local agent to photocopy the Mono Lisa and paint her lips a bright red as the German offer. That almost turned the customer around but in the end the job was lost.

In late 1986 and early 1987 I completed three tasks in the Far East but did not see Jessie. In early 1988, nine months after resigning from Consarc, I was fighting a battle with Roberts on my role in a new project for IMM. During a trip to Japan I met Jessie who told me that our long friendship would not end but if I took the job away from Rowan he would be my friendly enemy.

As with most jobs in Japan time passed before the final decision was made to use my designs and build the furnace in Japan. In 1992 the customer wanted to use Inductotherm equipment for the air melting application as well as the vacuum melting and I fought for Jessie. That trip he invited me to a formal dinner at his house in Kobe where he and his wife were dressed in full formal Japanese costume. He made me speak in my broken Japanese during the whole dinner.

In the final hours the top management instructed IMM to use Fuji Electric for the vacuum portion and order the air melting equipment for Inductotherm Japan.

Yamaguchi, IMM's CEO, invited Jessyson Cartlidge and Jimmyson Metcalf as honored guests for the dedication of his new facility in Aioi Japan on October 13, 1993.

During the celebration I spent most of my time with my trusted friend Jess Cartlidge. At this time he was living in Australia in quasi but busy retirement. It was a sad day when I learned that he suffered a stroke and was partially paralyzed shortly after we said farewell. About eight years later I was saddened to receive the news that he has passed on. Jess was loved and respected all over the world.