A Conversation With...Bob Wiedenhaft

Vice President, Phoenix Coaters


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This month, Phoenix Coaters, a Wisconsin-based division of Mayville Engineering Co., is scheduled to open a new $20 million, 300,000 ft2 building, housing the company's fifth paint line. Phoenix Coaters' facilities feature multiple coating operations, as well as value-added assembly and logistical services, specializing in e-coatings and liquid and powder coatings for commercial and industrial applications and military-certified chemical agent resistant coatings. Bob Wiedenhaft, VP, sat down with us to chat about his company, the expansion, and what it takes to make a giant leap in a down economy.


Tell us about your role in the company.

BW: My manufacturing and coating career spans over 35 years. In the beginning [of Phoenix Coaters], I wore many different hats from overseeing the construction of the building and installation of our first line, managing the business, sales, estimating, purchasing, yes—even line loading, blasting and painting at times. My job now encompasses three facilities totaling 535,000 ft2 housing five production coating lines, numerous stand-alone booths, blasting, assembly and logistical services.


What spurred the year's huge investment?

BW: The decision to make this investment was easy even during these difficult economical times as we listened to our customers needs. More and more, the major OEMs are demanding increased corrosion protection, uniform and durable coverage along with a class A finish. Applying e-coat over our robust cleaning and pretreatment system will achieve the ultimate standard in corrosion protection, uniformity and appearance. Also, customers today need to control cost to remain competitive in world markets. With our additional facility, we can offer customers cost savings not only in the coating operations, but additional cost savings through efficient labor, floor space, material handling, inventory management and freight through our supply chain management options.


What sort of capability will the fifth line add?

BW: The expansion will double our current finishing capacity and offer a system that will produce a high quality product second to none in the industry today.

Our new facility will house a Slide Rail Square Transfer e-coating system manufactured by TTX, equipped with a powered and free conveyor system for direct movement of parts to either liquid topcoat booths or powder booths. It features a 15-stage pretreatment that includes acid pickle for maximum bonding and treatment of welded parts, holes and edges by plasma or laser, zinc phosphate pretreatment for maximum corrosion protection and in-line alodine conversion coating on aluminum.

The system can accommodate product up to 6 x 8 x 14.5 ft in size and 3,500 lbs per load bar and is capable of coating 32 tons of product per hour.


What's your secret for growth in a down economy?

BW: If I tell you what our secret is, it wouldn't be a secret any longer! All kidding aside, it's no secret just good business practices with a little luck. You need to look to the future and give your customers what they need and have come to expect, which is a quality product, delivered on time at a competitive cost. You need to be diversified into several markets, offering a wide range of service above and beyond coatings to control your customer's overall cost, meet the customer's production needs and effectively be a one-stop facility for supply chain services and management.


I read that Phoenix is an ESOP. This seems unusual. Can you describe what that means and its benefits?

BW: There are less than 12,000 employee-owned companies in the U.S. today; only about 1,000 of these companies are truly 100% owned by the employees, and Phoenix Coaters is one of those companies. The success and growth of our employee owners is directly related to the success and growth of our company. Employee ownership means that everyone has a vested interest in the success of the company. Each employee is rewarded by the steady increase in the valve of their stock. Business ownership instills a sense of pride which reflects in the service and quality levels given to our customers. The involvement and commitment with being employee-owned has continued to be a major factor in our success and gives us another competitive advantage.