A Conversation with Marc Aleksinas
Marc Aleksinas, business manager at Metal Chem, discusses his experiences in the metal finishing industry and the results-driven philosophy behind the company’s success.
Photo Credit: Metal Chem
Marc Aleksinas, business manager at Metal Chem Inc. (Greenville, S.C.), has been involved with the company since his father, Mike Aleksinas, purchased it in 1995. At the time, the company produced pretreatment chemistries, brighteners, blackening products and burnishing compounds. Around 2001, Metal Chem became one of the first companies to market with a reliable, consistently bright, medium phosphorous electroless nickel (EN) without heavy metal stabilizers and the company has experienced consistent growth over the past 20 years. In January 2021, Metal Chem opened a new research facility, offering more lab space for R&D projects as well as increased production capacity.
Aleksinas recently took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about his experiences in the industry.
Tell us about how you got started in metal finishing.
I started working in the summers for my dad. I would epoxy the production floor, build shelves and fill drums. As I got older, I performed titrations and completed research projects in the lab. After graduating from Vanderbilt, I worked in finance for a year, but the work was too monotonous. I came back to work for Metal Chem in the lab before helping develop our distribution in the Northeast.
What aspects of the finishing industry appeal to you most?
Unlike other industries, performance is easily judged. Metal Chem strives to meet certain ASTM specs, and the coatings either perform or they do not. Metal Chem has always considered our work and our research to be customer-driven. But, in the end, we are results-driven — we expect perfection and our customers expect it also. We strive to be perfect. We may fail, but if we do not set our goals that high, we will not reach them.
Were you always involved in finishing, or were there other aspirations?
After college, I worked as an analyst at a mature Fortune 500 company with market saturation. I found that I was not only a small cog in a wheel attempting to build efficiencies, but I couldn’t see the direct results of the work I was doing. At Metal Chem where we are still building and growing the business, we recognize the results in the work we are doing. We all can see our achievements in the performance of our products, customer satisfaction and our growth.
How has the industry changed since you started your career?
I started in the industry at the beginning of the financial crisis and saw the difficulty that our industry experienced early on. From that bottom, we have learned to focus on what we can control. Now during COVID, our resilience is being tested again. But, there will be a recovery and we have used the slow-down to reinvest in growth.
What advice would you give to those starting out in the industry?
I would say the first thing to do is listen. When you are speaking, you aren’t learning anything. Listen to those with experience, ask for advice and always ask why. If you are always trying to learn the mechanism for a process or why something works or does not and for what purpose, you will become an expert in time.
How do you motivate your team?
The best motivation is in doing and performing. We believe in “do it now.” By immediately putting in practice our intentions or immediately diagnosing a customer concern, we are not letting opportunities pass us by or allowing problems to persist.
Describe a business decision you made that had a lasting impact.
Developing and implementing our ISO 9001 quality policy has benefitted us immensely as we’ve grown. It was the first major project that I was responsible for and I got some push back as it didn’t immediately benefit the bottom line. It also forced people to do more data input and thus kept employees from doing what may have seemed at the time like “more important work.” However, the program has helped us better monitor our processes and define performance. Everyone is bought in now. And every part of the business is setting higher goals for themselves. The program has made us a better company.
How does one stay competitive in this industry?
To me, staying competitive means attempting to distinguish yourself from your competition, either in product quality or in producing work that others cannot do. If your company has an advantage, exploit it. Own the market for your product. Beyond that, expect perfection in what you are doing. And, always look to improve.
What are your thoughts about the future of the industry?
I believe the future is bright! (Pun intended.) The industry will bounce back from COVID. And, I believe both sides of the political aisle recognize manufacturing’s importance now more than in the past decade. I think in the near term, new regulations will direct research. Metal Chem will continue to pursue “what’s next.”
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