Benchmarking a Plating Operation to No. 1
All that remained of Jeff Smith’s electroplating shop were the charred remnants of a door frame amid the smoldering debris that was once Electro-Spec in Franklin, Indiana.
That chilly March morning in 2003 is forever etched in Smith’s memory, especially since a photo of the fire’s aftermath is framed on the wall in his office.
“It was difficult to see something like that,” says Smith, who eventually rebuilt his shop with hard work and millions of dollars in investments. “It was all gone in just a few hours.”
The remaining door frame served as a metaphor of sorts for Smith; given that when one door closed for him, another opened a few months later when he rebuilt, paving the way for a resurrection likely unseen by many in the finishing industry.
Smith and his management team not only rebuilt the company, but they distinguished themselves amongst the most elite plating shops in the world, earning the distinction of being the Products Finishing Top Shops Benchmarking Survey’s No. 1 shop in 2016.
It was an honor that almost brought Smith to tears, because it validated his struggles over the past decades not only to rebuild and survive in a tough economy, but also to carve out a niche for his employees.
“To be recognized as the best shop in the U.S. is something that is a little hard to comprehend at first,” he says. “But I know how hard my employees and team have worked to get us to where we needed to be. It has been a struggle, but it has also been very rewarding. It was well worth it.”
Precious Metal Plating
Where Electro-Spec is thriving is in the fields of medical, automotive, aerospace, military and RF/microwave industries, often a tough challenge where high quality is demanded on an extremely repeatable basis. The company’s customer base includes the likes of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Medtronic, Smiths Group, Energizer, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell and TRW.
The shop specializes in precious and semi-precious materials such as gold, silver, nickel, copper, its proprietary Tri-M3 tri-alloy, electroless and electrolytic nickel in thicknesses 5 to 500 microinches. They plate over brass, copper, carbon steel, stainless steel, nickel, phosphorous and Kovar (nickel–cobalt ferrous alloy) among others in processes that include barrel, wire, selective and vibratory.