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Jay Burkard has spent the last four years with his eye on the prize.

The owner of Burkard Industries in Clinton Township, Michigan, has been gunning for the No. 1 spot in the Products Finishing Top Shops Benchmarking Survey since the program began, and each year his shop fared extremely well but did not finish as the best shop overall in North America.

But this year is different: Burkard Industries came out as the No. 1 liquid and powder coating operation among the hundreds of shops that completed the benchmarking survey.

“I knew we were near the top of the list every year,” Burkard says, “but the goal of our company is to be the best we can be, and we were not going to rest until we achieved the No. 1 position.”

Burkard Industries has been oh-so-close numerous times. Products Finishing doesn’t typically release the numerical positions of shops except for the one that finishes No. 1, but in reviewing Burkard Industries’ performance over the years, the liquid, powder and electrocoat operation has been nothing short of consistently impressive.

In 2015, the shop finished third overall, a spot it reached again in the 2016 survey. In 2017, it placed fifth overall in the total metrics, and this year it climbed back up to capture the No. 1 spot.

“We take the Top Shops Benchmarking Survey very seriously,” Burkard says. “Our management team has a two-day meeting at the beginning of every year to develop our business strategies, and we review Top Shop benchmarking data, as well as our own internal scorecard metrics to analyze our strengths and weaknesses. We develop that year’s business plan, which includes continuous improvement activities with specific measurable objectives.”

There are not many areas operationally in which Burkard Industries is weak. With an order lead time of 1.3 days, the shop came in at 99.989 percent in the on-time delivery category, which looks at when goods are delivered in the committed timeframe. Burkard says he doesn’t want to claim complete perfection when 18 shipments were late out of more than 17,000 total, but rounding up certainly gets the shop close.

In addition, Burkard Industries’ extensive quality control measures produced a 99.8 percent first-pass-quality yield rating, one of the best in the industry.

One of the reasons for this success is how Burkard Industries’ managers use a 23-point scorecard for key indicators that is posted weekly to show how the operation is performing and in what areas it needs improvement.

“We have TV display screens throughout the shop with rotating slides to show all of our employees how we are performing in regards to safety, productivity, sales, quality, customer feedback and other key indicators.” Burkard says. “We analyze the data extensively, and everyone knows where we are on key indicators, and we are all constantly working to improve.”

The company is a family-owned operation established by Burkard’s great-grandfather in 1934. It has always enjoyed a very strong reputation in markets such as automotive, defense and military, industrial, commercial, entertainment, agricultural, heavy truck, architectural, aerospace, and medical.

In 1988, the company discontinued its chrome plating lines and focused on powder coating. It added additional booths in 1995, and in 2003 added ecoat to its repertoire of services. In 2008, the shop also added a liquid coating application process to break into the chemical agent resistant coating (CARC) industry for military processes.

With the steady climb to No. 1 shop in the Products Finishing Top Shops Benchmarking Survey, Burkard Industries is not about to rest now.

“We want to be the first shop to repeat as No. 1,” Burkard says.