Learning from the Masters at Sur/Fin

Products Finishing’s Top Shops Management Stage brings together the best in the business.
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A friend of mine who once played for legendary football coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State University told me how former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight would often make the pilgrimage from Bloomington to Columbus to sit with the Buckeyes coach and pick his brain on the finer points of coaching.

Knight would watch Hayes’ practices, shadow him throughout the day and then sit down at the OSU coach’s home and talk with him for hours. Any nuance of coaching that Hayes would share with Knight, he would take and use on his Hoosiers. There was no debating that the success of Hayes (.761 winning percentage) rubbed off on Knight (.706), even if they did coach different sports.

And I read once where baseball greats Wade Boggs and Don Mattingly once sat down to dinner with legend Ted Williams and, over the next three hours, spoke of nothing more than the delicate science of hitting a cloth baseball with a wooden bat.

Learning from the masters is always a worthwhile endeavor. Any day a person can sit down with someone, talk about a subject that is near to their heart and garner even the smallest nugget of information is a day well spent.

While the plating industry may not have giants like Hayes, Knight or Williams, there are a lot of folks who have been around a while and, over time, have mastered the fine art of plating metal onto metal. Fortunately, a lot of them have chosen to take part in the Products Finishing Top Shops Benchmarking Survey program, which seeks to determine the best operational standards in the industry.

And luckily at Sur/Fin in June, Products Finishing will be able to draw some of the best masters in the business to discuss with other shop owners and managers how they do it every year and earn the distinction of Top Shop. We have partnered with the National Association for Surface Finishing to program the Products Finishing Top Shops Management Stage on Tuesday, June 5, at Sur/Fin, in Cleveland, Ohio. It will be an afternoon filled with words of wisdom from some of the best owners and managers in the business talking everything plating, and the efficiencies and practices that make them some of the best shops in North America.

If you own or manage a plating operation, this presentation on the show floor may be one of the few times you can listen to your peers explain how they do it—and how they do it well. The finishing industry is a peculiar one in which operations and practices are often shrouded in secrecy as if they hold nuclear launch codes or Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe of herbs and spices.

There isn’t a lot of sharing of ideas and thoughts amongst the top shops in the industry, unless of course you count the Products Finishing Top Shops Benchmarking Survey, but even those are just numbers that don’t reflect exactly how a shop got to that level of proficiency.

At the Products Finishing Top Shops Management Stage, you will actually be able to hear some of the owners and managers of the best-run shops tell how they can got almost 100 percent on on-time deliveries or how they have miniscule part rejections or even how they manage ever-challenging staffing issues. These are not overnight-success stories or flavor-of-the-month ideas; these stories reflect years and decades of repeatable practices that have been burned into the operational processes of shop operators and staffs, and they are the reason one shop may be 20 percent more profitable than the next.

Not only will we have shop owners on hand to offer insight into how they run their operations, but our stage will also host some additional programs that day, including one we’ve dubbed “30 for 30”. For this segment, we have invited several shop owners explain their best ideas in one minute each; so, in a matter of 30 minutes, you could get 30 great ideas for improving your own operations.

We are also setting aside time to allow some of our 40-Under-40 alums talk about how young professionals in the finishing industry can improve their networking and engagement practices to further their careers and their shops.

Of course, we also will be honoring all of the facilities that made the Products Finishing Top Shops list this year, as well as those individuals who are recipients of the 2018 Finishing Hall of Fame honor. It should a great several hours of information and inspiration.

I invite you to come to Sur/Fin this year and not only see the best in the business at the Products Finishing Top Shops Management Stage, but also walk the show floor and speak to the hundreds of exhibitors who might be able to solve your most perplexing finishing issue. In addition, check out the fantastic technical sessions planned over the three days of the conference to glean other valuable information.

You may think you know everything there is to know about finishing, or even about running a plating operation. If so, take to heart Ted Williams’ reply when when Don Mattingly asked him what he thought of the new hitters in baseball: “As good as these young hitters are, they still don't know anywhere near as much about what they're doing as they think.”