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Future trends in the Metal Finishing Industry....

Ross McKay is my name, and I live in New Zealand. I am studying towards an MBA from Henley Management College in the UK.

My current project is for a sheetmetal fabricator, on the feasibility of constructing their own in-house electroplating plant. The client specialises in the production of custom enclosures for the electronics and telecommunications industries. Although they already undertake many processes in-house (including powder coating and screen printing), electroplating is a process they currently outsource. The properties of electroplating that their customers most value are aesthetics, EMC and corrosion protection. My project has several objectives: Determine key trends in the metal finishing industry in the next five years, specifically with respect to the electronics and telecommunications industries, Based on these findings, determine the long-term feasibility of committing to an in-house electroplating plant, Based on favourable findings of the above research, identify other applications for any spare capacity of this quality electroplating capability.

At this stage the client is considering construction of an alkaline non-cyanide zinc plating and/or a semi-bright nickel plating plant for rack plating (forgive me if my terminology is somewhat clumsy :)

As a student exposed to a new industry with new technologies, this project requires me to gain an understanding of this industry by gathering and analysing relevant information. I have constructed a small survey that seeks to cover some of the key questions I need answered. I would be very appreciative to make contact with anyone who is suitably qualified to answer these questions and wouldn't mind spending some of their valuable time on doing so.

Best Regards,

Ross McKay
- New Zealand


Hi, Ross. It's not clear to me whether this is a 'hypothetical sheet metal manufacturer' invented for your project, or a real one where you are doing an internship. If it's a training exercise where you are writing a report that will be graded and the sheet metal fabricator is fictitious, maybe we can help. But if this is a real client who actually intends to base his business plan on a report from a student who admits that he knows nothing about the industry, he could end up in pretty dangerous waters if he gets the right answers to the wrong questions :-)

Get back to us, please..

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Thanks for your response Ted. The company in question is a real company. My report will not in itself determine whether they go ahead or not - it will however contribute to the decision. I fully accept your point regarding my lack of specific industry knowledge, however possibly you under-estimate the potential usefulness of an objective business perspective on such an organisation. My task is really to identify many of the external forces and trends in the global environment. The questions I need answered are regarding the changing substrate and metal finishing usage of electronics and telecommunications manufacturers over the next five years. Subject to findings from this and other research, my client is considering constructing an alkaline non-cyanide zinc, and semi-bright nickel rack plating plant. Their main application for this capability, given their existing customer base, will be for custom enclosures for the electronics and telecommunications industries. They will have spare capacity however, and are seeking other applications of this capability - I would also be interested to know of alternative applications and/or industries for these services.

Ross McKay
- New Zealand


If you wish to upload your questionaire, Ross, we'll make it into a form that people can fill out on line to help you get input.

But multi-day seminars (like Electroless Nickel, Coating, Sur/Fin, Airline/Aerospace Finishing, EPA/AESF Week, Interfinish), and industry studies (like the SFMRB report) are done each year just to fine tune our understanding of where some of the market segments are going; it's a massive job to digest so much information and make sense of it. But to my intuition the questions to ask need to be more about the impact of environmental regulations on plating shops, than about the size of the market or the specific finish. Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Hello I am a sales person for a metal finishing company located in Massachusetts. I can tell you that for a manufacturing company to begin to design, build and operate an internal metal finishing process would be a huge undertaking. This industry is plaugued with a brain drain and difficulty in finding qualified people to run these systems. Most importantly this is a science and an art. The time it would take them to get the experience needed to provide a quality finish to the end user would be, in this global marketplace, suicide to their business model.

I speak with absolutes here due to the fact that even with a company that has been operating for 20 years we are constantly challenged by our clients, who are challenged by theirs to do a better job, higher quality, lower cost. Many arms manufacturers have commercial and precision plating available to outside entities after serving the internal client. The outsourcing option, at least in the USA, partly due to environmental and equipment costs, is a better option.

Mark Aberdeen
engineered finishing - Springfield, Massachusetts

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