David H. Peace
Vice President, Engineering
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In the mid ‘70s, when the idea of alternative energy was just getting started, my brother and I would browse for hours at the hardware store in Portville, N.Y., a town of about 2,500 people. We were determined to buy cool stuff to build something. The store owner smiled when he saw us coming and knew we didn’t have very much money in our pockets. But, as we found the right parts, we would build makeshift solar panels just for fun – and because it felt like venturing into the future.
In high school, I continued to build solar panels and won many competitions at the local and state level, and eventually won third place in Engineering at the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) my senior year. My friends were also a practical lot; we had to constantly maintain our old cars and motorcycles.
At Gannon University I was drawn to the engineering labs, but over time came to greatly appreciate the liberal arts side of my education. I started working in the physical plant and was assigned the easy jobs, repairing mowers and other equipment used around campus. When one of the big tractors broke, I tore the engine apart, ordered new parts and fixed it. From then on, I worked alongside the campus mechanics while taking courses in heat transfer and thermodynamics – and philosophy and theology.
I guess you could say I was always interested in innovation. Mark Twain said, “When you find yourself agreeing with the masses, it’s time to pause, and reflect.” I like to look for the new and creative, even when the majority of people feel the status quo is just fine. Not technology for the sake of something new, but a better way to holistically solve a problem.
Swagelok and their signature leak-tight tube fitting technology were attractive to me as an engineer during my interviewing process. But what clinched it was the people. I really wanted to be a part of that great team. I joined the company as a manufacturing engineer in 1986 after graduation. The first six months, I worked on the shop floor machining a wide variety of valves and fittings. But I also helped develop new processes for high-purity manufacturing. It was a growing business for Swagelok. The semiconductor industry was emerging, and materials and finishes were constantly changing.
I moved up through Swagelok’s high-purity operations, and 16 years later became director of the semiconductor services company. Machining valves with superfinishes was exciting, but so was learning about customer needs and translating them into products and services Swagelok had never offered before. My experience on the shop floor proved invaluable as I learned how to get the right equipment, materials, methods and people to pull together new solutions.
When you have your sights on a real customer need, that’s everything. So, in 2004 I joined Swagelok’s talented marketing group as director of product and market development. Our focus was on emerging markets, like alternative fuels and nuclear power. Together, we helped introduce Swagelok® Custom Solutions, a new way Swagelok could satisfy customers with custom assemblies instead of just components.
Today, as vice president of engineering, I am responsible for all facets of technology development, materials science, and new product development. My main role now is to develop the team, environment, and resources where creativity and innovation can thrive. We are deploying many of these ideas in the local region through our global technology centers. I still enjoy deep technical challenges and seeing the results from digital design tools, but only as much as they solve problems and make our customers happy.
Outside the office, I enjoy giving back to the community and participate on the board of the Great Lakes Science Center, an extraordinary institution that supports kids, science and the Greater Cleveland community.