Four-D Brings New Dimension To Plating

Metal finishing shop moves into new facility, adds new equipment to operation.
#masking #pollutioncontrol


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It’s difficult enough to open and maintain a plating shop for more than 40 years, especially in heavily-regulated California.

But to make it even tougher, Four-D Metal Finishing decided to move across town to a new facility, taking a few of its existing plating lines with it and installing a lot of new equipment in a spacious shop it essentially built from the ground up.

Peter and Matt Deguara, the father-and-son owners of Four-D, recently undertook the process of moving most of their operation from Sunnyvale into a new space in nearby Santa Clara. While just five miles from their old shop, the experience of shutting down and moving various plating operations—as well as installing new plating lines—was anything but smooth and easy.

“It was a significant challenge for us,” says Matt. “Especially when our goal was to have as little down time as possible, as not to inconvenience our customers. It was tough”

Says his father Peter: “It was a helluva move.”





The experience of the Deguaras uprooting and relocating their business wasn’t all bad; they now work in a spacious facility that gives them more room and new equipment, all running more efficiently than it had been at their old shop.

But the Deguara’s story is one of what went right (a lot), what went wrong (a lot) and how to prepare a plating shop for such a seismic transformation.

“Not only did we move our facility, but we changed a lot of things about how we ran the shop and our layout,” Matt says. “We really went for it.”

It wasn’t the plan the Deguaras originally set out to do. Residential development around their existing shop in Sunnyvale started some discussion with a real estate developer about selling their property and shop and moving out.


At the same time, Peter was contemplating retiring from the business he and his three brothers—the name Four-D represents the four Deguaras brothers—started in 1973 and ran for the past 40 years. However, time was not on Peter’s side.

“I was ready to move out and retire,” Peter says. “The big question was whether Matt had an interest in the business in the long term. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Matt went to work for his father’s company in 2004 after graduating from college. His youthful, innovative ideas and knowledge of newer technology coupled with Pete’s 35-plus years of experience in the industry were a formula for success. Three years later in 2007, Peter promoted his son to vice president and Matt cemented his future in the plating business.



Owners Matt and Peter Deguara, along with Enviroserv’s Terry McGuinness (center), moved their shop from Sunnyvale to Santa Clara and brought over some existing equipment and installed new lines, too.


Necessary Upgrades

“Making the move gave us the opportunity to finally do some things we wanted to do for a long time, but were unable to do in our old location,” Matt says.

For instance, the anodizing lines at the previous line were all done by hand with no automation. They had a hoist system on their zinc line, but that was pretty much it. Peter saw many of his employees injure themselves on lines, especially back injuries from lifting.

“It was killing us, not just the guys who were hurting their backs, but also in the worker’s comp claims,” he says. “Something had to be done to fix the problem. We had to modernize things.”

So when the discussion with the real estate people turned serious, that’s when Matt and Peter began to take a hard look at moving and upgrading their operations, which at the time included anodizing, black oxide, bright dipping, cleaning, conversion coatings, passivating, zinc plating and inspection.

Things were much different in the plating industry when the four Deguara brothers started their business in 1973. Their father, Paul, emigrated to the U.S. from Malta in 1948 with his wife and two small kids.

Paul and his family arrived in San Francisco and he soon took a job at a plating shop in the city. In 1957, he joined Electrite Plating in nearby East Palo Alto. Electrite was a struggling operation, and Paul saw it as a chance to help the owner, and possibly get a stake in the company. That is exactly what happened, and by 1960 Paul and his partners had purchased and turned the business into a flourishing plating operation.



The new lines at Four-D includes a sulfuric acid anodizing line, an acid zinc plating line and a chem film and stainless passivation line.


Four Brothers

In 1964, Peter started working full time at Electrite Plating after spending evenings after school and weekends helping his father run the shop. After a two-year stint serving his country in Vietnam, Peter left the military and returned in 1967 to run the anodizing lines at the plant. His brother Charlie joined the shop in 1969, and two years later Tony became the third of Paul’s sons to work at the shop.

In 1973, Paul and his wife retired to Arizona, and his three sons continued working for Paul’s two partners. It was soon thereafter that the sons decided they wanted to own their own business. With the help of their oldest brother, Jim, the brothers launched Four-D Metal Finishing in a rented building in Palo Alto.

At first, only Pete and Charlie worked full time at Four-D while the company grew its customer base; Jim and Tony kept their day jobs but came in at night and on weekends to help run the anodizing lines. Six months later, the business was taking off better than they expected and all four brothers were working side by side in the shop.

The business grew with the addition of black oxide and zinc lines, the latter of which the brothers experimented with a new acid zinc instead of the traditional cyanide zinc. It was one of the first plating shops in the Bay Area to try the new technique, and they also were able to manage their wastewater treatment system better.

In 1980, Four-D moved to its Sunnyvale location, where the shop had 11,000 square feet of plating space. The company added a hoist for the zinc line, boilers for heating tanks and spent more than $80,000 for a new wastewater treatment system that was one of the most cutting edge available, especially in the environmentally conscious California area.



The new tanks and plating systems were designed and built by CJI Process Systems, one of the industry leaders in finishing integration.


Large OEMS

With its know-how and green technology, Four-D started picking up huge accounts in the aerospace, computer and electronics, and medical industries.

But the times changed, and so had Four-D. Jim passed away and Tony and Charlie retired several years ago. Pete and his wife, Rosemary, ran the business until Matt joined them. Pete’s oldest son, Andy, is also working for the shop in digital technology.

When the time came to look for a new location, Pete and Matt picked the Santa Clara location and purchased it in 2013. It was an empty machine tool shop that had offices and large work areas, all of which was perfect for what the company needed. The company gutted the 12,000-square-foot space and began prepping the building for renovation as a plating facility.

The Deguaras initially intended to complete the renovation work themselves; however, they soon realized they would need to seek professional help in the way of a contractor, architects and engineers to assist in the complicated project. Also unexpected was the amount of time they would have to spend with regulators and city officials working through the permit process to get every detail approved before they could start building their dream shop.



Four-D performs a variety of plating process for various industry, including automotive and aerospace.


Design & Build

The Deguaras spent several months designing the shop and deciding where mechanicals would go. When they started presenting plans to all the local entities they needed approval from, they started to see trouble ahead.

The first big hit was when they realized what the permit costs would be just to upgrade the electrical system and put in a new transformer to supply the facility. “The permit itself was over $60,000,” Matt says. “That didn’t include all the work that we needed to do to run the lines and get everything in the building. It was a shock, to say the least.”

The biggest challenge in the planning strategy was the conversion from the old site to the new. They wanted to vacate their shop in early February 2014 and be up and running in the new facility in one week. They ordered new tanks and plating systems from CJI Process Systems of Santa Fe Springs, California, but delays in the building’s permitting process slowed the integration down considerably.

That meant the Four-D crew shut down their old facility for the transfer of some equipment and supplies in early February—a deadline set by the new owners of the building—but did not get their new facility operational until almost two months later.


Closed Shop

“Being out of business for two months was almost a killer for us,” Matt says. “We just didn’t expect the hang-ups and delays. That was way behind schedule.”

One of the aspects of the move that did work smoothly was the transfer of chemicals and solutions, as well as the disposal of some hazardous waste. That expertise appeared to be outside the scope of their personal knowledge, so the Deguaras called on Enviroserv and Senior Account Manager Terry McGuinness, who has known the family for a long time.

The first thing McGuinness did was sit down with Peter and Matt to inventory what needed to be moved, what could be salvaged, what was going to be tossed and what special materials, such as unneeded chemical baths, needed to be handled with care.

“One of first concerns was handling all the hazardous waste that originated from the closure of the old facility,” McGuinness says. “Some of it wasn’t going to be used again, so we needed to dispose of it properly according to the regulations. And some of it had to be pumped out and stored offsite until we could get it into the new building when it was ready.”

Enviroserv brought in tanker trucks and heavy-duty machinery to get the hundreds of gallons of plating baths out of the older facility and transported for storage, or disposed of.

But it wasn’t just the chemicals that needed close attention. Enviroserv also disposed of all the old plating tanks and scrubbing systems to meet regulatory guidelines, and whatever could be recycled eventually was.



The Four-D operations includes anodizing, black oxide, bright dipping, cleaning, conversion coatings, passivating, zinc plating and inspection.


Moving Materials

“You have to properly containerize the hazardous materials and the waste, but more importantly you have to document everything you are doing with it,” McGuinness says. “It isn’t something that any shop owner could do themselves. There are a lot of regulations to follow, and it can be confusing to those who don’t know what they are doing.”

That was good news to the Deguaras when they saw Enviroserv handling the transfer of equipment and supplies. They realized that this aspect of the move was out of their realm. So while Matt was maintaining the old shop and getting ready for the move, Peter was prepping the new facility, and McGuinness and Enviroserv were getting things ready for the big move.

“Terry’s crew did a really nice job of getting things ready for us and bringing some order to what we were trying to do,” Matt says. “He was able to see what we were doing at each location, and that helped in the planning of what needed to happen and when.”

Enviroserv even had to make sure the sediments at the bottom of plating tanks were disposed of properly. The chemicals from the tanks were taken to 10-day chemical transfer yards for storage in tanks that were approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“We were required to inspect the containers daily at the storage site,” McGuinness says. “There’s a lot of planning that must occur even before you get to the new site and start pumping chemicals into the new tanks.”


New Systems

The new tanks and plating systems were designed and built by CJI Process Systems, an industry leader in finishing integration.

CJI, which specializes in manufacturing custom process equipment for a spectrum of industries and applications, provided Four-D all labor, material, equipment and supervision to design, fabricate and install three process lines: sulfuric acid anodizing line, acid zinc plating line and a chem film and stainless passivation line.

Overall, the Four-D owners are extremely pleased with their new modern system and expanded space.

“We probably ended up spending about 30 percent more than we anticipated, but that was because there were some costs we didn’t expect and the permit fees were pretty high,” Matt says. “We got back a lot of the customers that we had to turn away when we were closed during the move, but not all of them. It was definitely a learning process for us all.”

For more information on Four-D Metal Finishing, please call 408-727-7900 or visit fourdmetal.com. For information on Enviroserv, visit enviroserv.com or call 800-368-4778. For information on CJI Process Systems, visit cjiprocesssystems.com or call 800-322-7422.


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