Funky Medina Plating and Powder Shop

Article From: Products Finishing, from Products Finishing magazine

Posted on: 11/1/2014

Owners Shawn Ritchie and Tait Krejci take an unorthodox approach to success.

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Owners Shawn Ritchie, above, and Tait Krejci, below, take an employee-friendly approach to managing their coating business.

Ritchie and Krejci took unused space and converted it in a combination man-cave, playground and auto garage for employees.

Medina Plating has adopted several quality control measures into its daily operations.

Medina Plating’s existing plating lines have helped the company become an Atotech Automotive Applicator, one of the first Triple-A platers in the U.S. to receive the distinction.

To get to know how Medina Plating in Ohio is run, you must first meet the owners.

The president is Shawn Ritchie, straight out of central casting as the former contractor, professional walleye fisherman, expert archer, philanthropist and humanitarian, and recently named citizen of the year in his community in Northeast Ohio.

The vice president is Tait Krejci, the grandson of Medina Plating’s founder, a laid-back mechanical engineer with an MBA from Case Western Reserve, a full beard and a quiet demeanor, who never in a million years thought he would come to work every day in a plating shop and love every minute of it.

Stand the two side-by-side and you may see nothing in common, yet that diversity has propelled growth for Medina Plating that includes a new powder coating division, as well as new high-volume rack zinc, zinc-iron and zinc-nickel plating lines.

The duo have also begun consulting for other plating and finishing operations on how to strategically design and build lines, which they have done several times at their own shop. These polar opposites complement each other’s strengths, creating a very good business synergy.

“I am the gas and Tait is the brake,” says Ritchie, who purchased the company in 2001 from Krejci’s father, whose own father started MPC in 1962. “We work very nicely together, and we really do have more in common than people may think.”

 

Efficient & Quality Driven

Their most obvious connection: building and maintaining extremely efficient and quality-driven finishing lines.

Medina Plating–thanks to the backgrounds of both Ritchie and Krejci–has adopted several quality control measures in its daily operations, the most noteworthy being the Production Part Approval Process (PPAP) used by most automotive manufacturers and numerous other manufacturing suppliers.

Originally developed by Auto Industry Action Group in 1993 with help from Ford, Chrysler, and GM, the PPAP testing system must be completed before coating production begins. Medina’s technicians provide evidence that all of the customer’s engineering design record and specification requirements are properly understood by everyone in the shop.

This is so that the shop can demonstrate that the finishing process has the potential to produce products that consistently meet all requirements during an actual production run at the quoted production rate. In other words, it’s a standard used to reduce risks that the finished part won’t meet specifications.

“Our goal here is to sell quality,” Ritchie says. “I’m not in business to compete with other job shops on price. We bring value and quality, and that’s a big difference than just a cheaper price.”

 

Clean Shop Means Separation

When he entered the plating industry in the 2001, Ritchie had a vision of how he wanted to run the business, which included heavy emphasis on quality, testing and verification.

“I wanted a clean shop,” he says. “I wanted to get the certifications to show we could perform at a high level, and I wanted to separate ourselves from others.”

The evidence includes an onsite laboratory, complete first-piece inspection for sample submission, three Fischer X-ray systems for testing plating thickness and bath composition, an atomic absorption spectroscopy, an Oxford/CMI magnetic induction plating thickness tester, a Singleton corrosion test chamber configured for neutral salt spray testing, and both internal and external quality planning.

All that has led to ISO/TS 16949:2009 certifications, as well as the distinction of becoming an Atotech Automotive Applicator, one of the first Triple-A platers in the U.S. to receive the merit issued by the global company.

Atotech says the AAA certificate demonstrates to OEMs that a finishing shop is a recognized and capable applicator of Atotech products for automotive standards. The company provides the plating shop with products, documentation, training and technical support. Once a shop is certified, Atotech performs regular audits to extend its AAA certificate.

Medina Plating is ISO certified in rack zinc, zinc/iron, and zinc/nickel plating. Krejci said they use an alkaline zinc plating processes for the most even and durable plating thickness to avoid blistering or chromate rub-off. They also use an acid chloride zinc plating process for the best looking deposit, and the ability to plate cast iron/high carbon steel.

 

Rack Zinc Specialists

For rack zinc, Medina offers a trivalent chromate in black, blue or yellow, with or without a sealer, as well as a hexavalent olive drab. Most of the formulations have come from Krejci himself, who has used his experience in the lab to come up with mixtures that Medina customers love.

“I really enjoy coming up with the right combinations to solve our customers’ needs,” he says. “Being able to fully understand the chemistries is a big benefit for us, especially when a customer has a unique situation that calls for something unique to solve it.”

Medina Plating has met specifications for most major manufacturers, including ASTM, BMW, Case, Cummins, Chrysler, Delphi, Ford, Honda, GM, Nissan, Parker Hannifin, Rockwell Automation, Toyota and Volvo.

That was the goal when Ritchie purchased the shop from Krejci’s family, including grandfather Jim Krejci, Sr. who started the shop in 1962 with a dream of offering a first-class metal finishing business that would support the needs of local manufacturing companies, as well as those in nearby Cleveland and Akron and other areas throughout the Midwest.

Ritchie’s background was far removed from the metal finishing industry before buying into Medina Plating. He worked as a contractor for the U.S. military, but an unfortunate accident left three employees dead from a building collapse. The incident changed Ritchie’s perspective on his occupational goals.

“I didn’t want to do it anymore,” he says. “I just couldn’t put my employees in harm’s way like that and earn a living. So I gave it up.”

 

True Business Costs

Ritchie runs a real estate investment company, and bought several buildings surrounding where Medina Plating is currently located. When the business came up for sale, he suddenly found himself in the metal finishing industry.

One of the first things he did was to present true “business costs” when quoting jobs to customers. For instance, when he bid 50 cents per part on a project, and lost out to someone who quoted 25 cents, he asked his customer how they gave such a low price, only to find out that the competitor wasn’t charging for trucking fees, gas and all the other overhead costs associated with plating parts.

“It amazed me that some people in the industry don’t fully understand their true manufacturing costs,” Ritchie says. “That means they have to scrimp somewhere else to make up those costs. I didn’t want to do that. I put all the costs on the quote. They were real costs and I wanted customers to understand all it took to do their parts.”  When most of their competitors fell off during the recessions of 2009, Ritchie and Krejci and the Medina Plating staff held together because they stuck to their more accurate quotes and eventually got the work.

The other big secret to Medina’s success is the fact that Ritchie cleaned house with the employees he inherited and only kept like-minded, quality-conscious people that he could build around.

“I let everyone go but three people, and we just started over,” he says. “We have 60 employees now, and they are all great people. That’s been the big key, to get everyone on the same page and moving forward.”

 

Pay as You Go

Part of that included an investment of more than $200,000 on testing equipment, so that parts could be analyzed to determine how well the shop was meeting specifications to improve on rejects and out-of-spec parts.

Bringing on partners such as Krejci also helped to reinforce the company commitment to quality. Ritchie has a “pay-as-you-go” approach to growing the business, opting to reinvest profits for new equipment and coating lines instead of borrowing and leveraging the company’s assets.

That was the case with the new electrocoat and powder coating operation the company built in 2014. The new line can do parts 7 feet long by 4 feet wide, but more importantly, Krejci has engineered the new system to work with the existing zinc line configurations.

“We can plate in zinc, zinc nickel or zinc iron and then take them directly into the powder coating or ecoating line,” Ritchie says. “I don’t think there are a lot of shops that can do that, but we wanted to be able to offer that for customers.”

Thanks to Krejci and the Medina lab, the shop has come up with a proprietary dual coating system used in the powder coating operation, which Ritchie has broken out into a separate operation, Medina Powder Coating.

Instead of an iron phosphate spray wash, Medina’s environmentally friendly formulation offers anywhere from 500 to 2,000 hours of salt spray protection. When the powder coating is applied, Ritchie says, it offers some of the best corrosion protection in the industry.

“There is nothing out there that can touch this,” he says. “We’ve put a lot of research into this because we wanted something that we could stand behind, and this works because that is what our customers want and need.”

 

Philanthropic Endeavors

But a finishing shop isn’t all that drives Ritchie. He and Medina Plating have been honored for many philanthropic endeavors. The local chamber of commerce recognized the company last year with its Corporate Citizen of the Year award. Ritchie personally founded and supported the Elves of Medina, a non-profit organization that provides local families with school supplies in the fall, and gifts on Christmas Eve.

More recently, he made a significant donation to the Feeding Medina County organization to house its food pantry, offering them space and donating a truck and a walk-in freezer for their use.

“He’s our guardian angel,” says Sandy Calvert, executive director of Feeding Medina County, who says that Ritchie’s wife, Jill, is also the volunteer coordinator for FMC.

A champion walleye fisherman and world-class hunter, Ritchie took his personal passion and paid it forward when he and a few friends started a non-profit called Poorboyz Adventures, which serves children and veterans with physical limitations by taking them hunting and fishing.

More recently, Ritchie and Krejci got involved in supporting their own employees when they took unused space from a new addition they purchased next to their existing shop and converted it in a combination man-cave, playground and auto garage.

The large space houses an area for employees to play indoor basketball and games during the frigid Northern Ohio weather, to host family birthday parties with games and gadgets similar to what you would find at Chucky Cheese, and has a garage and tool area that includes an in-house mechanic that can fix employees’ cars at no cost.

 

Employee Friendly

“I made a deal with our employees that I would make space for them to come in and fix their cars or a family member’s car, and I would provide a mechanic if they needed it or they could do it themselves,” Ritchie says. “In turn, we wanted to help others in the community if they needed it, too.”

That generosity helped a local resident who needed his car fixed and painted, which is what Medina Plating employees did when they weren’t racking and coating parts.

The play area has been a tremendous hit for employees, some of whom have brought their kids in on weekend and played video games on a super large LCD screen with a blaring sound system.

“It’s something that we felt we could do for some of the most important people we have,” Krejci says. “We had the space, so why not?”

It’s not your typical finishing shop, by far, but then again, Ritchie and Krejci aren’t your typical business partners.

“We enjoy working together and building our company together,” Ritchie says. “If you can’t enjoy this work, then why do it?” 

 

For information on Medina Plating, visit medinaplating.com, or call 330-725-4155

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