Dean Curbishley, founder of Fastec Services, in his shop
Sam Hiatt, senior engineer
Judson Snyder, test sample technician
Dean Curbishley, founder of Fastec Services, in his shop
Metal detector product, services provider
Brit creates American Dream by founding Fastec Services
20-year-old firm represents CEIA in North America
Posted August 19, 2021
By Devin Steele
TRAVELERS REST, S.C. – Since its founding 20 years ago in Dean Curbishley’s basement in Buffalo, N.Y., Fastec Services LLC has established itself as America's leading expert in industrial metal detection repair, calibration, service and sales, he said.
And in textile/carpet production, detecting metal contaminants is one of the most important aspects in ensuring quality materials are produced efficiently and expeditiously. For that industry, Fastec is the exclusive distributor of Italy-based CEIA metal detectors in North American, with numerous clients in the sector. CEIA, founded in 1962, produces electronic metal detectors that are globally recognized by leading world manufacturers of industrial machinery.
CEIA’s electronic metal detectors belong to the family of micro-sensitive bar metal detectors. They are the ideal means of protection for production lines against accidental damage caused by pieces of metal that can enter the manufacturing process along with the material, Curbishley said. Its metal detectors for the textile industry are available in sizes ranging from 200 millimeters to like 8.7 meters and can detect an item down to a 1.0-millimeter ferrous sphere.
Fastec’s inhouse product is its test samples that Curbishley developed and are used to run through metal detectors, typically every half hour, to ensure they are functioning properly.
Fastec, which moved to this quaint suburb of Greenville, S.C., in 2010, provides sales and services to the textile, food and pharmaceutical industries. And despite a lean staff of only eight employees, the company services more than 3,000 customers throughout North America – and he has more than 15,000 business contacts on his phone, Curbishley said.
A multi-brand industrial metal detector service center, Fastec Services provides both onsite and offsite repair, service and calibration for all major metal detector brands and conveyor systems.
Curbishley called CEIA’s TE/SLD the “most advanced digital textile metal detector,” noting that it is highly sensitive to all magnetic and non-magnetic metals, including stainless steel. Digital signal analysis allows users to optimize detection with respect to the product’s speed of passage and the metals to be intercepted, thus obtaining the best possible immunity to any external interference, he added.
“It's lightweight and dimensionally small, so it can fit into the line a lot easier than others,” he said.
CEIA’s calls its TE/SLD metal detector most advanced digital textile metal detector.
Growing the business
And all of the above could not have happened without Curbishley’s vision, dedication and hard work. After moving from Buffalo, N.Y., to Charleston, S.C., in 2001 and with a year of experience as a metal detector technician, he could see himself spending the rest of his career in that highly specialized field, he said. With an electrical engineering background and diverse experience in that area that included work on various types of water vessels and at a celebrity villa in France, the Brit launched Fastec with great aspirations, he said.
“I've always been ambitious, always looking for that niche,” Curbishley said. “I knew when I was at the job interview in Buffalo at an independent metal detection company, something told me that I have to be doing this the rest of my life because it's the basis of electrical engineering. It's basically a transmitter, it’s a magnetic field, which is something I’ve always been quite interested in.”
But it wasn’t easy in the beginning, especially as a one-man operation, he said.
“It was a lot harder than I thought it would have been, especially trying to find good technicians who are willing to travel,” he said.
Not to mention finding customers …
“Back then, I just looked in the Yellow Pages for food manufacturers that might need metal detector calibration and I sent out hundreds of letters a month,” he said. “I would get maybe one reply out of 100 letters sent.”
Yet, he wasn’t discouraged, he added: “We had enough money to get by, but my biggest problem was we didn’t have enough initially to get where we wanted to be. I would get jobs, but I couldn't afford hotel rooms, so I slept in the truck for several months when I was on the road. At that stage in a business, you wait for the postman every day. These big companies don't pay you immediately, with terms like net 30, net 60, net 90.”
Eventually, he was able to find help who he could train to join the company. He hired a secretary and two technicians with promising electronic skills.
“We do not just do metal detectors, but we do electrical controls, pneumatics, metal welding, etc. and you have to know a bit about everything – thermoplastic welding and more, as well,” he said. “And people, especially in the food industry, are mandated for their equipment to be calibrated biannually, annually and some even quarterly.”
After paying the hard dues in its infancy, especially in the food industry, and joining the ISNetwork of industry contractors, Fastec Services was able to add Kraft Foods and many others to its client list, then branched into other industries such as textiles and pharmaceuticals. And before long, customers just started “popping up,” he said.
After a decade of growth and success, Curbishley and his then-wife Jaimee, who still works for the company, decided to move inland from the S.C. coast to Travelers Rest, S.C., in 2010 because they loved the “countryside,” he said. But it was almost like starting over because none of its staff was able to move to Upstate S.C., although he did leave the test sample business there for a while before moving it to its new headquarters.
He was able to find potential hires through employment websites, but none who were as specialized as they needed to be, he said.
“You're not going to find a metal detector person, someone who knows it all, so you have to bring them in and train them,” he said. “You might find one who worked for a manufacturer, but we're working on like seven or eight different brands of metal detectors. And there's lots of different models, as well. There's a lot to learn, and I trained them myself.”
Fastec’s longest-serving employee Sam Hiatt didn’t have any formal qualifications but is an “electronics guru,” Curbishley said.
“Sam is absolutely amazing,” he said. “There's nothing he can't do. He's actually developing some software, and soon we're going to be able to remotely monitor all of our customers’ metal detectors and make adjustments remotely as needed. That will allow our customers to waste less product because if there's a problem with a metal detector, it will alert us and the companies, and adjustments can be made immediately. It will save our customers a lot of time and money.
“I was also lucky enough to find Leonard Camidge, Fastec’s second longest employee who has also been and continues to be a key part of Fastec’s success,” he added.
Company personnel weren’t able to travel as much during the COVID pandemic, of course, although calibration of metal detectors was federally mandated. But because Fastec had trained personnel at some companies to calibrate the machines themselves, some of the burden was eased.
“We stopped flying for a while and then we were just long-distance driving,” he said. “I always said that this business is recession proof, and we’ve learned it's COVID-proof, too.”
Business and travel have picked up for the company in the last few months, Curbishley said, and he would like to see the company continue to expand its products and services in the textile industry.
“We are the premiere experts for industrial metal detection, including textiles, and we have the best machines,” he said. “We can provide better value and savings across the board from step one to the final end – from purchasing a new unit, installation, calibration, test samples, etc. – and can continually monitor the product and make sure it's working properly.”