A craftsman’s work is only as good as the materials he has at his disposal. For engineers creating high-quality machines, the list of materials they need to do their job well is nearly endless. From sheets of carbon steel to innumerable bolts and flanges, they need the very best hardware to create systems that solve their customers’ problems.
Mike Loeffler, the Purchasing Agent at Vacuum Technology Incorporated (VTI), is responsible for making sure VTI’s engineers, machinists, and technicians have everything they need to develop effective industrial vacuum systems. Mike manages an international network of suppliers who send him raw materials, vacuum components, and vacuum hardware from around the world. In addition to sourcing suitable materials for his teammates, Mike also makes sure that VTI’s purchasing processes meet the standards put forth in its quality assurance program. The systems VTI develops accomplish challenging missions like leak testing batteries for nuclear submarines and components of advanced nuclear reactors, and each component of those systems must conform to stringent quality control policies before it can be incorporated into a product.
“It’s a satisfying job. You get to play a role in a lot of different projects, and you always know that your contributions matter,” said Mike.
Since he was a student, Mike has known that he wanted to build a career in purchasing. He earned a business degree from Florida State University—with a major in Purchasing and Materials—before beginning his career with the federal government managing purchasing contracts.
“I guess it’s kind of funny to say that purchasing is my passion, but it’s true. That’s always been the area of business that most fascinated me,” said Mike.
After moving to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to take a job with an environmental engineering firm, Mike befriended VTI’s CEO George Solomon, whose daughter, Sonja, attended the same school as Mike’s son. When a purchasing position opened up at VTI, Mike leapt at the opportunity.
“VTI is just a really unique place to work. We help people solve fascinating problems, and the work environment is very friendly. We treat each other like family,” said Mike.
Now, nearly 25 years later, Mike takes great pride in the work he’s produced at VTI. He says that while his days are always busy, he enjoys the challenge of juggling multiple responsibilities and making sure every project gets across the finish line on time.
“We keep a lot of irons in the fire, but that’s part of the reason I enjoy my work. No two days are the same, and if I get tired of one project, there’s always some other interesting thing to take care of,” Mike said.
In his free time, Mike enjoys boating and hanging out on the lake with his family. He also enjoys carpentry. As a man who’s dedicated his professional life to sourcing good material, his woodwork reminds him how important proper purchasing can be.
“You have to use the materials at hand, and I work hard to make sure our guys have the best materials they could possibly get,” said Mike.