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30 Best CEOs of the Year 2021

An Interview with Frederic Poulin, FZ Engineering President and CEO: ‘We’re Committed to Building an Innovative and Efficient Industrial Future’

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“We built a modern functional work environment to increase productivity and set personal goal-driven KPIs for every team member. The results were outstanding.”

FZ Engineering provides breakthrough software, manufacturing, quality control, and post-processing solutions to efficiently produce 3D printed metal or multiple material parts with high geometric accuracy, outstanding surface finish, and superior mechanical properties.

The 3D printing technologies with FZ allow businesses to increase their speed to market, produce stronger and lighter parts, reduce waste, eliminate costly tooling, and give them the ability to manufacture products that couldn’t have ever been created before.

The company was incorporated in 2015 and is headquartered in Quebec, Canada.

Frederic Poulin, FZ Inc President and CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.

Q. What motivated you to reinvent the industry you are in? And what are the challenges your services address?

The motivation came from a special day that I will remember for the rest of my life. I was working as a manufacturing engineer for an aerospace company. Every Wednesday, I would have a meeting with the design engineering team for a specific project that I was leading. They were designing under constraints from the perfect design that could be manufactured per their knowledge, and I still had to bring them back to reality. The reality was that the design still needed to be modified a lot in order to be manufactured with our certified and usual conventional processes.

I had been in their shoes before, as being more of a mechanical design engineer in the past, and totally understood the frustrations they had. In many cases, the perfect theoretical design can never be achieved in real life because of manufacturing constraints.

While designing models, we as engineers always have paradigms about what is possible and impossible to create. For example, you cannot create a curving hole or empty space within a non-assembled perfect isotropic part with our conventional manufacturing methods.

But on this day, a director from a new product introduction group came up and showed me a part. Not any ordinary part; this was an additive manufactured ‘3D printed’ part.

This part had been printed out of metal. Now it seems like no big deal, but six years ago, I could have just never imagined this part. It had instrumentation holes and features that could have never been manufactured by any conventional or even more advanced manufacturing methods.

This was the future of mechanical manufacturing.

But there was a massive problem with the technology. Parts manufactured by 3D printing offered insufficient surface roughness quality, low mechanical properties, and poor geometric precision; thus, making them nonusable for many applications.

This was the start of FZ Engineering.

Q. Providing high-quality mechanical and engineering services need the support of extraordinary talent and dedication. How did you manage to form your dream team?

Let’s say that this was and is still nothing like building a sports team or anything else.

We are developing breakthrough technologies for manufacturing, and in some of our activities, there is nothing comparable for the moment in the industry. Unfortunately, many do not yet have the skills and experience that can help us from the get-go. So, we find the candidates with the most potential to evolve with us. Then we put in place the right training and tools for them to continuously improve within the company. We built a modern functional work environment to increase productivity and set personal goal-driven KPIs for every team member. The results were outstanding.

Q. Describe a time you had to make a tough decision. What did you do, and what was the result?

Well, we cannot deny that this year was more than a little challenge for many companies. On the verge of launching a new commercialization campaign for FZ when the pandemic crisis emerged, we had to take a huge decision.

I would say that to decide to launch the FZ Medical company was very tough. We had all the advanced manufacturing tools in hand to make this possible, but we were principally active in aerospace activities before the lockdown. So, having decided to swim in unknown waters and develop medical ventilators was quite a risk.

Fortunately, this resulted in a great success story. I must thank the incredible work from all FZ teams, satellite teams, and medical professionals. My teams followed me in this great project, and so many hours were invested in the FZV-LC Ventilator. But it was all worth it.

Our solutions have participated, and are still participating, in the fight against COVID-19, using a range of products developed to offer the most economical systems with adequate performance and perfectly meeting the needs of professionals from the healthcare community.

Q. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting, what would it be?

Starting a new business is like jumping out of a plane, but without knowing if the parachute will ever open.

I remember a fellow CEO once who pointed to me an article a long time ago. Unfortunately, I can’t cite it because I don’t remember the title, but I remember some of the principle lines . It explained that mediocre CEOs will always tell you that they were successful because they did this… and then made great moves like that…, but that actually the real ones will tell you that they made it because they just didn’t quit!

Therefore, my critical advice is—don’t give up.

Q. What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?

This past year has been very intense for FZ Engineering and its new subsidiary, FZ Medical.

FZ Medical, which mobilized the FZ teams to develop and commercialize high-efficiency economical mechanical ventilators in record lead times to help Covid-19 patients.

This past year was a big year for FZ Engineering with the grand opening of its new leading-edge laboratories and advanced manufacturing facilities. FZ has made bold moves in deploying its proprietary technologies and with the quality equipment it has acquired, FZ has set up the stage to differentiate itself from the competition. Besides, FZ is committed to achieving a whole new level of excellence in the world of additive manufacturing and now leading many great projects with many OEMs, in addition to world-leading industrials.

So yes, I believe this year was quite memorable.

“No matter what industry, FZ’s technologies will pave your way towards a new era of sustainable manufacturing, improving the performance and mechanical properties of your parts or assemblies, and allowing you to create products that could have never been created before.”