Arthur Sacco, president and founder of Coating Systems, Inc., Lowell, Massachusetts, will tell you that using the latest technology to maximize capabilities does pay off economically and environmentally. Seventeen years' experience in the metal finishing industry and first-hand experience in dealing with the EPA convinced Mr. Sacco that it was possible to design and engineer a plant to protect employees and the environment while providing customers with superior products and services at the same time. He was right. The Coating Systems Group (CSG) has experienced continuous growth since opening in 1992.
Just how do you make a traditionally antigreen industry environmentally friendly while keeping it profitable? By making significant investment in research and development, the latest technology, and advanced processes and systems—and people.
While technology and ongoing R&D are paramount, CSG is customer-driven. "Today's customers are more demanding. They expect the highest quality product delivered on time and at the right price," said Mr. Sacco. "Your people are the key to your success. At CSG we reward people. Everyone from management to the person on the line has a vested interest in producing the highest quality product and managing productivity."
Employees benefit through bonus programs tied to productivity. Mr. Sacco recently installed a bar code system that allows him to track both labor and jobs in production hours. Jobs are tracked from entry through shipping, providing the customer with instant job status determination.
Mr. Sacco is constantly looking for new technology and works closely with suppliers to ensure CSG technology remains on the cutting edge. For example, MacDermid Inc., Waterbury, Connecticut, CSG's major supplier of proprietary chemicals, has provided advice through the design and engineering phases to start-up. "We consulted with MacDermid prior to engineering the new automated zinc line," said Scott Wyman, CSG's facility manager. "The company's knowledge of chemicals, plating cycles, and process equipment ensured this line produced maximum results right from the start."
When CSG installed New England's first stainless-steel electroless nickel tanks with an anodic passivation system and microprocessor, the supplier worked closely with CSG to assure that the electroless nickel chemistry would function properly in conjunction with the anodic passivation system. This technology keeps the electroless nickel from plating out on the surface of the tank in contact with the solution. It also eliminates the need to dump the solution and strip the tank with nitric acid every other day, as is the case with conventional polypropylene tanks. This reduces labor costs, production downtime, and hazardous waste disposal. This technology is the latest in the country and keeps both electroless nickel tanks in production 16 hours a day.
There is increasing environmental pressure to minimize waste. All of CSG's process areas are tied into ion exchange systems. Beginning with the automatic zinc line, all processes will be renovated to allow recycling of rinse waters through the ion exchange systems. "We use ion exchange systems to deionize the incoming city water. It's very clean, clear and a much higher quality than the utility water. This helps improve the quality of the end product" said Mr. Sacco.
"We also participate in the supplier's electroless nickel takeback program. We pay a little more per gallon for the solution, and it recycles the spent product from our process lines." Both CSG's ion exchange system and the takeback program have enabled CSG to significantly cut waste disposal costs.
Upon entering the processing areas at CSG, you may think you are in the wrong place. Unlike traditional metal finishing plants, not even water touches the concrete floors. The process lines are totally encapsulated with one-half-inch-thick polypropylene. The rinse waters are segregated for treatment through separate ion exchange systems, and all solutions are pumped above ground using air diaphragm pumps.
And then there is the air. An advanced technology climate control system cools the air and maintains humidity at a level that reduces staining of finished parts. It also keeps the air comfortable for the employees. Barometric pressure readings from inside and outside the building send signals to microprocessors that adjust the variable speed motors controlling the makeup of the incoming air to exactly balance the needed air with the exhausted air.
"I'm extremely conscientious about utility use and try to be as efficient as possible. For example, in our anodizing area we have a 12-ton chiller that costs us about $300 a month to run, but in the winter months we use the cold city water in place of the chiller for cooling process tanks. That allows us to keep the chiller off as long as the city water stays under 56F. Another benefit is the city water that cools the anodizing tank warms up and we reuse that warm water for more effective rinsing."
The Coating Systems Group is a progressive metal finishing company doing the right thing for the environment, its employees and its customers. Mr. Sacco proudly sums it up. "Building the plant of tomorrow has not always been easy. But it has been rewarding in many ways. Our efforts have resulted in an advanced technology that produces the highest quality metal finishing capabilities available today, reduces operating costs, increases profitability and protects the environment." Just goes to show that nice guys do not always finish last.