When people think of Orlando, Florida, images of mouse ears and amusement parks come to mind more than powder coating and Teflon. But for those in the plating business, A.M Metal Finishing is as familiar in Orlando as Mickey Mouse.
Sloane and Rick Hunter
Rick Hunter was 34 years old and looking for a climate and career change when he left the cold winters of Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 1994. His family had operated 33 Avis car rental franchises (largest franchisee in Canada) and sold them back to corporate. Hunter entered adulthood more familiar with door dings and rental insurance than abrasive blasting and laser engraving. But he saw that a small mom and pop plating shop was for sale in Orlando and was intrigued
"I knew nothing about the business," Hunter says, noting that he often journeyed to the Orlando city library (in the days before Google had all the answers) to read about anodizing. It also helped that the sellers had a manager on staff who took Hunter under his wing and taught him about the processes that made the shop run.
Since then, Hunter has staked the business's reputation on a high-end product with on-time delivery. A customer who visits A.M.’s 25,000-square-foot facility will come away with quality.
Team members celebrate National Surface Finishing Day
"We are a high-quality shop, and we deliver on time," Hunter says, adding that people looking for the lowest price won't find it at A.M. A chemist and quality manager are involved every step of the way, checking the parts through the process. Delivery dates are fulfilled, even if it means working through the night or a holiday.
"We aren't the cheapest, but if we tell you that you'll have it Tuesday, then you’ll have it Tuesday," Hunter says, adding that his shop has had to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas to deliver by deadline.
It's this attention to service and detail that has earned A.M. Metal Finishing a 100% report card, grading on quality and delivery, from Lockheed Martin for the past five years. A.M’s niche products and customer satisfaction have also landed them on Products Finishing’s Top Shops spot for 5 years running and one of the few that have made the Top Shops Powder Coating list simultaneously.
A.M. Metal Finishing has weathered economic downturns by diversifying. When one category slacks off, another picks up. A.M. has built a stable of clients that include medical, defense, amusement park ride parts, aerospace and food, including adding Teflon to Olive Garden frying pans. "And if people start eating out less because of the coronavirus, then the medical will probably pick up."
A.M. Metal's 16 × 5 × 6 anodizing tanks allow for the larger parts needed by the aerospace and defense industry. While their large tank size is an asset, a small staff is as well, making them more agile than most. "We are small enough that if the customer wants to try something new, I can make a decision right then," Hunter says.
He is optimistic that innovations will continue to keep his shop busy. "It is a growing market, we are doing some autonomous cars, laser cameras," Hunter says.