Jewel of Niles
Niles Mfg. has been framed—frame coated that is! The Ohio-based job shop has found a role as a provider of FrameCoatTM electrocoating of prototype parts for Tier One automotive plants and captive shops...
At Niles Mfg. and Finishing, Inc. (Niles, OH—located in Northeast Ohio), the recent introduction of a new e-coat technology to the job shop has opened doors for growth.
An ISO 9001-2000 certified job shop, Niles is owned by Robert Hendricks, who started the company in 1983 as a painter of fireplace accessory products. Over the course of the 20 years, Niles has evolved to become more of a coating and fabrication company. The paint shop, which specializes in e-coat and liquid spray paint, coats parts for a wide range of industries, ranging from automotive to office furniture to components for hand guns and rifles.
Niles’ 140,000-sq-ft job shop—which rests on a site that has housed industrial plants dating back as far as 1860—features three paint lines:
- Lead-free black e-coat line
- Liquid spray topcoat line for providing a sprayed-on finish using a variety of solvent-based paints and finishes that meet standard OEM specifications, Class A and automotive exterior and interior finish qualities.
- FrameCoatTM e-coat line
Both of the e-coat lines use a seven-stage pretreatment system with zinc phosphate, three post rinses and a bake oven to cure the paint. The lines are flexible enough to allow Niles to coat a wide range of part sizes, with parts and vehicle frames in excess of 20 ft wide. The company also offers value-added capabilities of small metal stamping, weld shop fabrication, robotic welding, packaging, warehousing and shipping.
FrameCoat, supplied by PPG Industries (which also provides Niles with Powercron® 8000 for the lead-free black e-coat line), is a corrosion resistant coating, ideal for use on hot-rolled steel. Designed to meet the 10-year durability requirements for OEM truck frame manufacturers, FrameCoat provides high-edge coverage and superior corrosion resistance, also making it a good fit for engine cradles, tow hooks, trailer hitches and knockdown parts.
For its development of the FrameCoat process, PPG received the 2001 PACE Award by Automotive News for Excellence in Innovation and the 2002 R&D 100 Award by R&D Magazine.
Formulated to cure at temperatures as low as 325°F, the FrameCoat technology is formulated with a low organic solvent content, resulting in a VOC content of less than 0.1 lbs/gallon.
Though FrameCoat has become popular with Tier One—it is widely specified by Ford, General Motors, Daimler Chrysler, and their Tier 1 suppliers—Niles is one of a small handful of U.S. non-captive job shops currently using it, and the only job shop in the region to use it. The company has been able to successfully leverage that status to attract customers interested in the FrameCoat technology.
“When we were considering FrameCoat, we knew that we would never be able to compete with a company that paints frames exclusively or to compete in their market of coating frames,” says Hendricks. “But we knew that there was tremendous interest in the FrameCoat product around the country.” In that interest, Hendricks saw an opportunity for complementing his existing business by using FrameCoat for other industry manufacturers, covering a diverse range of parts and products.
With a large programmable hoist e-coat line available but rarely used, Niles approached PPG about using its company’s services to apply FrameCoat to small quantities of prototype parts for customers interested in learning more about the product. The result has been a constant, steady flow of FrameCoat jobs for Niles Mfg. The arrangement has been advantageous to PPG as well. “It's been helpful for both companies,” says Dan Ruble, e-coat product manager for PPG’s Coatings Group. “If somebody with an interest in the technology calls, we can refer them to Niles to get some parts painted. Seeing the results goes a long way in proving the technology.”
The positive partnership between the two companies has allowed Niles to expand its opportunities while continuing to use PPG's coating technologies. “It’s been a good arrangement for us,” says Hendricks. “There’s the business aspect, of course. But the opportunity to deal with new customers, parts and new challenges has been tremendous from a learning standpoint.”
Since beginning the FrameCoat experiment, Niles has realized another unforeseen benefit: a handful of large quantity, automotive-related production jobs for the FrameCoat line. Interest in the technology is now to a point that Hendricks says that he is entertaining the notion of expanding the FrameCoat to one of his monorail lines, which would give the shop a greater capacity for running smaller part sizes.
ABOUT NILES Mfg. & Finishing Inc.
Founded in 1983, the Niles, OH-based job shop provides electrocoating (lead-free black and FrameCoat) and liquid spray painting from a 140,000-sq-ft facility.
Niles Mfg. & Finishing, Inc.
465 Walnut Street
Niles, OH 44446
Phone: (330) 544-0402
Fax: (330) 544-8018
Young professionals are a vital asset to the finishing industry. Products Finishing is recognizing the industry’s top young talent through an annual 40-Under-40 program.
This paper is a peer-reviewed and edited version of a presentation delivered at NASF SUR/FIN 2012 in Las Vegas, Nev., on June 12, 2012.
PPG launched the first use of waterborne compact paint technology in a U.S. automotive manufacturing plant at the BMW assembly plant in Spartanburg, S.C. This painting process has turned out to be a 2012 award winner and has opened up a new way for auto manufacturers to go leaner and become more efficient in their operations.