We are happy to celebrate 4/20 by taking a look at the newest addition to our team, and to celebrate this time of prosperity. Steve Feamster is our fresh wizard at the welder, but he's no novice. Steve would likely prefer the term doctor and designer anyway. Read on to find what makes our newest team member tick, from the professional to the ontological, from the machinery to the meaning.
Steve, thank you so much. Let’s start at the heart: what is your core competency?
I’d say my core is using my experience in automation to help the end customer make their products better, faster, cheaper, that's what it really comes down to. I started with the welding and it was a building block that I didn't expect. It tumbled to other amazing things because stainless steel is used in every bit of food and medical grade machinery.
That’s a great place to be. Let’s go on the journey. How did you get here?
In high school I struggled and wanted to get out, so as soon as I got to be a junior or sophomore I transitioned to a vocational track in my school and was able to take some electives that were welding and working on cars and I happened to fall in love with welding. I’ve loved it ever since. By my senior year I was splitting my time at an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship was at a co-packing plant that made 5 hour energy and brewed beer. It was going well, but after five years I knew I had to grow, and not get stuck in an old shop with old school ways, so I started up my company Sanitary Welding. In the next 2 or 3 years I packed it up and went to California, and lucked out on a great job, where I discovered the automation role with cameras, robots and new technology. But I continued to do and stainless steel work. Then in the last three years I've been networking in the hemp and canna industry and have found people who have needs in the automation realm. But it's beyond automation, people have a big need for mechanical gear to improve their job. Something that is still a hand tool but is more effective for their job than hand rolling or cutting. So there's the backstory.
So within that landscape, what sets you apart?
There's a lot of welders, but there's not a lot of stainless steel and sanitary welders. But, for me, I don't consider myself a welder. I consider myself a designer and inventor. Someone will tell me what their problem is and I have a consultation that explores how they are going to improve their manufacturing process. Nowadays, people assume things are easy because everything 's store bought and you can throw it out. But when you need something custom you need someone like me to come in and create a solution. No matter what the problem is I can improve upon what’s there.
What is your North Star?
For me and my crazy path I have really stuck true what I believe in and I don't sway in the wind. I don't jump if everyone else does. I have my own way of thinking, some like it, some hate it. My main thing is I pride myself on my name and my work, and if I say I’ll do something its done right, and if something goes wrong I take it upon myself to fix it. I'm there for someone who needs it. But my biggest thing is thinking outside of the box and being human. That means I admit I have mistakes. A lot of engineers demand their way or the highway, and that's not what I think an engineer's job is.
When you're problem solving with people what's your process?
When I started it was go right to the problem. But as I've grown to consider myself more of a doctor. With container systems, extraction systems, there are so many variables. There is more than one way to change a knob and get the same result. So before you start tweaking anything you should ask a hundred questions, you should explore more. Because, what I've learned is there’s a pattern for everything. I really do believe that there is a reason for everything whether we know it or not, and it's about evaluating what the problem is and how that problem is created. Looking at the problem not the symptoms.
The goal becomes not just how do we fix it, but how do we improve it so the problem never happens again.
So let's talk about the future of the industry. What do you think the future of your own work and stainless extraction, automation and mechanical engineering and design looks like?
It's a big question. On the personal end the next step was to join SciPhy to grow, you do not want to be too comfortable. I wanted to try something new and when I see the direction of the industry, and I see SciPhy’s direction with scaling larger systems for cbd and even thc, its the right direction. These larger, industrial projects. If you can't be the greatest, join the greatest. And I also don't want to be slaving away, i want to be the ideas guy, but a core difference between me and normal engineers, is that i can actually build it.
Let’s talk long term, the vision for where you wanna go as a designer/creator.
I would like to be a Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, right? One day I'll be in space! But really, I think that original ideas and solutions are the way. I see a big picture that I want to play my role in. My big dream is to be a leader of a team that will be really helping the community somehow. But I am maybe different than some engineers that want to hand over the keys to robotics; I am a bit more human-centric and I want to make sure that things are done right before we let AI determine too much of our decisions. While I understand the exponential curve, I really believe that it's a relationship, and that robotics and AI will not be able to advance without the human component.
For some reason I keep coming back to this conversation, there is something to that with me and my path. I have got to play with a lot of cool expensive tools in my career, lasers, radar, lidar, laser profilers, 3D imaging, you get to see a lot of front line tech that is just coming out, which has shaped my opinions.
What has you excited right now in our industry, at the intersection with what you're doing?
I would say you the fact that it's a brand new horizon, there are great unknowns, the “green rush,” I want to be on it every way I can. I see a lot of hope in the industry. I really love the community. When it comes to SciPhy, the community here is great to be around. Friendly people that are happy to be doing what they're doing, I see that a lot in this industry, and I see it with the brewers too.
But above all I want to live a good life, have work life balance, take care of my family and my community, and you know that's the essence of the big picture, feeding it all back to that.
Want to see more of Steve's work? Follow him @sanitarywelding on Instagram and head to his website. Give us a follow @sciphysystems as well, and be sure to sign up for our email list for the behind the scenes look.
But we know where you really need to see Steve? Your next facility. Contact us today to learn more.