The word that you most often hear associated with electrocoat is throughput. Everyone in the industry will tell you that if you don't have a large enough quantity of parts passing through your line, then it will be difficult to make any money. At times, the industry seems to be emphasizing throughput, or quantity, more than quality. This doesn't mean that quality is not important to electrocoaters.
Quaker Mfg. Inc. (Austintown, OH) takes a slightly different approach. Instead of emphasizing quantity, the company emphasizes quality. By making quality its number one priority, Quaker is attracting customers in need of a quality cosmetic e-coat finish and is finding this to be a profitable venture.
Quaker Mfg. Corp. started out as a tool-and-die maker in Salem, OH, in 1962. Due to its customers' demands, the company evolved into production stamping as well. It can stamp parts ranging in size from a business card to a complete body side. The privately owned company is a Tier I and Tier II supplier to numerous segments of the transportation industry and an extremely diverse customer base, including lawn and garden, outdoor power equipment and appliance industries.
Toward the end of the 1990s, Quaker Mfg. Corp. was looking to expand its production capabilities. Quaker Mfg. Corp. acquired a stamping and electrocoating facility in May 2000. The new acquisition, located in Austintown, OH, became Quaker Mfg. Inc. When Quaker Mfg. Corp. added the stamping and welding capabilities from the newly acquired plant, the company was especially interested in the electrocoat and electrostatic topcoat line, which it planned to use to service its customer base. According to Chris Smith, president of Quaker Mfg. Corp., "We bought the plant to expand production capabilities and generate high quality paint finishes to be more of a full service, value added company."
With the commitment of a dedicated staff, QS9000 registration was achieved within a six-month time frame, spearheaded by Jeff Whinnery, quality manager at Quaker Mfg. Inc.
Before Quaker Mfg. Inc. could start performing any value-added service, it needed to upgrade the electrocoat and topcoat line. "We changed the filtration, in both the electrocoat tank and ovens, to minimize dirt," stated Rob Fagnano, estimating engineer at Quaker Mfg. Inc. "We upgraded to a higher efficiency electrical system and burners, to improve the overall consistency of the process. Also, we've improved the topcoat capabilities by calibrating and upgrading the Nordson electrostatic system."
"We put a new wastewater treatment system in as well," added Dan Duvall, general manager at Quaker Mfg. Inc. "It's a state of the art system. So, we will not only meet the current requirements, but whatever future requirements will be demanded of us. This also reassures our customers that we have taken a proactive approach towards any environmental concerns."
The majority of the finishing work Quaker Mfg. Inc. performs is as a Tier I or Tier II supplier. Some of the work is for Quaker Mfg. Inc.'s stamping customer base, but many of the jobs run through the company's electrocoat line are for its stamping competition.
Quaker focuses on electrocoat jobs that have been difficult for other painters to perform successfully. While it makes for difficult work, the company enjoys the challenge. Plus, it shows that Quaker is not just another electrocoater, but a company OEMs can partner with to improve their products.
An example of just such a job was an aluminum sleeper cab assembly that needed to be electrocoated for Paccar. "They are very difficult," said Mr. Duvall. "Large aluminum panels are tough to e-coat. Prior to us electrocoating them, they had 50% fallout, causing the customer to rework at additional cost." In addition to the difficulties of electrocoating aluminum, the sleeper cab panels had adhesives and sound barriers that complicated the electrocoating process. Due to the previous painter's inability to deliver a class A finish, Quaker was given the opportunity and Quaker delivered successfully.This eliminated the fallout completely, resulting in qualifying both Quaker and BASF as new suppliers to Paccar.
A significant reason why Quaker Mfg. Inc. eliminated the fallout problems on the sleeper cab panels is the performance of the pre-treatment chemicals supplied by Henkel Surface Technologies and the BASF Cathoguard 325 electrocoat it uses. According to Mr. Fagnano, the product is very robust and flexible. While having a high-quality electrocoat is important to high-quality electrocoating, the service Quaker receives from its suppliers is also extremely important. This formulates a partnership between Quaker and its suppliers, which enhances the image of Quaker as a company that can improve its customers' products.
Quaker is successful at eliminating other customers' quality concerns for a number of other reasons. In addition to a high-quality electrocoat finish, it is important to have stringent controls in the process. "We have several areas we can and do incorporate special blow offs and water tilts," stated Mr. Fagnano. "It's very part specific. We really spend a lot of time on it. Our engineering department designs all the specially configured racks. That's another reason we are so successful. In the electrocoating business, specially designed tooling is extremely important to present the parts in a manner to maximize cleaning, coating and throughput."
"Plus we eliminate additional problems for our customers by servicing their most important need by returning their painted product within 24 hours," added Mr. Duvall. "When loads come into us with a variety of mixed parts, we paint load for load within 24 hours. Many coaters will pick and choose parts to put on the line. We paint the whole load at one time. It eliminates the accounting nightmare of what came in and what went out. Additionally, it builds customer confidence that the quantity of all parts that were shipped in are received back the next day. Plus, having only one part on the line allows us to customize current settings and make rapid adjustments on the blow offs to those parts. Also, the length of the monorail system provides the ability to offer on-line special packaging to minimize unnecessary additional handling."
The company is also able to perform high-quality electrocoating because it employs a management staff with more than 100 years of combined e-coating and topcoating finishing experience. Quaker prides itself in creating a team atmosphere in responding to any of its customers' needs. As stated by Mr. Duvall, "Once a customer, always a customer."
Just as with all electrocoaters, high throughput is important to Quaker. With their 18,000 gallon e-coat tank, Quaker is capable of substantial throughput to provide a competitive edge. But it's the emphasis and focus on quality that has made Quaker successful and will continue to make the company successful in the future.