When he’s not out racing cars and motorcycles in his spare time, Erik Weyls is president of Coventya, one of the world’s largest suppliers of specialty chemicals for surface finishing applications. The Hiram College graduate is also vice president of NASF, and an active member and advocate of the plating industry.
PF: You joined Coventya at the time the company was merging two other suppliers into one larger company. What was it like to bring all that synergy together under one brand?
EW: The most challenging task of my professional career. Fusing two very established cultures into one makes or breaks the new organization. I strongly believe we have a world-class organization second to none in our industry.
Q: You spent a lot of time in Germany before coming back to the U.S. How is the plating industry different in those two countries?
EW: The differences are mainly cultural, but both industries do face severe regulation at local and national levels, and as a result both industries have active trade associations with strong outreach and advocacy.
PF: It seems Coventya has so much going on with its R&D and its technical engineers. What are the top projects the company is working on?
EW: We invest heavily in R&D, which is spread equitably over our nine different product lines. Research project selection is based on combining immediate customer needs and long-term market vision. As a market leader in data storage, we must retain a strong focus on electroless nickel, and after three years of development we are pleased to release what some consider to be the next generation of EN, today referred to as “reduced-ion” (RI) technology. Zinc nickel is another important area for us. A technology dominated for years by Coventya in Europe, the opportunities are vast in the U.S. In advance of this, we needed to improve the initiation and coverage on difficult-to-plate substrates, and we are pleased that this important project is coming to a close. As always, eco-responsibility is important to us and continues to drive many of our technical projects. In addition to the 50 percent reduction of nickel in our Enova RI electroless nickel, we are pursuing high-performance decorative trivalent chrome technology, boric-acid-free nickel systems and even chrome-free etches for plating on plastics.
PF: You spoke at your alma mater, Hiram College, on the topic of “Acting Entrepreneurially!” What does that topic mean to you?
EW: Our company is management- and employee-owned. I believe this aids greatly in good decision-making and fostering the spirit of accountability. Hiram is my alma mater and is one of the few liberal arts colleges in the U.S. offering entrepreneurial studies as a degree. I recently spoke to a group of juniors and seniors and was asked what was the best thing that has happened in my career. I said getting fired from my first “real” job and having to call home about it.
PF: You are into racing in your free time. What does that entail, and why do you enjoy the sport?
EW: I wish I raced my motorcycle and car more, but I have a huge travel load between spring and fall, and racing is a lower priority. Motorsport is my family’s passion and escape from our day-to-day grind. My dad introduced it to me and my three brothers at an early age. Competitive motorsport requires a deep commitment to discipline and results, both of which apply directly to my professional opportunities.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given, either personally or professionally, and who gave it to you?
EW: I was 12 and wanted to quit piano lessons because they interfered with football and baseball. My mom said I would regret the decision at a later point in life. I thank her every time I sit down to play.
PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
EW: I was a caddy at a great club in greater Cleveland and learned that hard work has very clear and measurable benefits.
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