The electroplating industry has had both good and bad press over the years. “It can get embarrassing hearing bad stuff about your industry” says Amanda Wood of A Class Metal Finishers , SA.
“Sometimes it’s justified but I think sometimes it’s because of the sheer complexity of the processes involved in plating. The plater who is not a good communicator may have trouble conveying the essence of a problem, and appear incompetent” says Amanda Wood.
“Throw together variables like dozens of tanks, dozens of chemicals, water, electricity, environment, temperature and people, along with a narrow band of control in some processes and you have more combinations of variables to control than many manufacturing processes – and that’s before you even think about the supply chain, the economy, the customer and importantly the product that is to be treated” she says.
“I actually think there is a very high level of technical (plating) competence across the industry, but I do feel there is room for improvement in the way that technical competence is supported by sound business practices. I think this is especially true in very small companies, where resources are stretched so thin, that it’s difficult for them to look beyond the immediately obvious tasks”.
Amanda Wood says that growing their business from very small to well beyond the size of most job shops in the country, has enabled them to gain significant leverage and manage complexity more easily.
“It can still be tricky, but having a strong resource base enables us to go the extra mile for customers, to look outside the square for answers to challenging jobs, and generally pay closer attention to product quality and innovation.
“Our size gives us a bit more ‘muscle’. Being quality certified, developing good customer relations and showing strong leadership in the management of health, safety and environment are other critical elements for building a sustainable a presence in this industry” suggests Amanda Wood.
As a testament to its efforts, a recent benchmarking assessment showed A Class Metal Finishers ranks in the top quartile of world’s best practice in the management of its business and has capability to meet its current aspirations.
Wood sums it up with “We are proud of our achievements but are currently more interested in ensuring this industry has a strong future. Building strength within our companies [in the plating industry] will ensure increasingly rare skills such as electroplating and metal polishing are retained and developed. If Australia loses those skills, manufacturers will suffer.”
A Class Metal Finishers has a workforce of 25-30 staff dedicated to delivery of decorative and functional electroplating services as well as metal polishing, metal parts restoration and other treatments.