James “Holky” Holt has worked with machines for as long as he can remember. As a boy, he helped his father repair diesel engines for tractors, trucks, and farm equipment. In high school, he was always tinkering with cars and motorcycles, and he spent much of his young adulthood working with large industrial machines.

“I guess I got it from my dad. He and I were always working on something together, and he showed me a lot about how engines and stuff like that work,” he said.

That knowledge has proved invaluable in his current role as a Pump Mechanic Technician at Vacuum Technology Incorporated (VTI), where he repairs, rebuilds, and refurbishes a wide variety of vacuum pumps and boosters. Alongside his colleague Matthew Ruffner, Holt services pumps that power innumerable vacuum systems scattered across the globe, from manufacturing plants in Mexico and Japan to premier research facilities in Europe and the United States. Taking care of these pumps can be challenging. Holt has to completely break down every pump he repairs and rebuild it from scratch to ensure it’s ready to run good as new for the customers he works with. But creating a quality product is worth the effort, and Holt believes strongly in the value of his work.

“You can’t pull vacuum on anything without these pumps. All those systems we build for scientists and factories, none of them could do what they do without these machines. Repairing these things right makes a big difference,” he said.

Before coming to VTI, Holt spent 18 years at Shuler Tool, a small machine shop in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 2012, VTI purchased Shuler Tooling and brought Holt onboard as a machinist, where his knack for solving complicated problems and fixing industrial equipment of all kinds quickly earned him a place in VTI’s pump shop.

“Pumps are finicky. Figuring out exactly what’s wrong with them can take time, but that’s sort of the fun part. It’s like you’re solving a puzzle,” he said.

When he’s not helping customers acquire and maintain high-quality vacuum pumps, Holt enjoys working on cars, riding motorcycles, and going off-roading with his friends.

“Any day I get to ride is a good day. There are hundreds of miles of trails in East Tennessee and North Carolina, so this is a great spot to be for someone like me who spends a lot of time outside,” he said.

VTI’s pump shop repairs most major vacuum pump brands. In addition, the pump shop also stocks a diverse catalogue of new and rebuilt pumps, many of which are available at a significant discount. To learn more about purchasing pumps from VTI or sending in pumps for repair, click here.

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