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ESP news

April 2015 

ESP rated as a 'Top Shop' by Products Finishing Magazine


East Side Plating –
A Northwestern Jobshop That Does More Than a Lot of Dam Parts

Plating and Surface Finishing Journal of the American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society, Inc. June 1996

1000 Jobs In-house? It’s Possible.
ESP Does a Lot of Dam Parts!
Employee Contributions & Teamwork Are Important To East Side Plating
Pollution Prevention Begun in 1982; Environmental Policy Pays Off In Several Ways
ESP’s New Treatment Center Is Now On-Line
ESP’s Strong "Heart" Promises a Healthy Future

The next time you visit your dentist, look around at the equipment. You may owe your smile to East Side Plating, Inc. (ESP), one of the largest finishing jobshops in the U.S., and finishing supplier to Adec, the largest dental equipment company in the U.S. Since ESP was started in 1946, the company has grown from a mere 15 employees to more than 200. Good management and product diversification have been instrumental in fostering the company’s growth.

Dental equipment alone isn’t ESP’s only product. Out of its five buildings in Portland, ESP is a one-stop shop for surface finishing. More than 50 finishes/services are offered to a wide variety of customers, drawing largely from the immediate area, but not limited to it. As Herb Nissen, ESP’s technical director of 13 years, says, "The unique thing about us is the variety of parts and finishes we do. It’s not good business sense to be too specialized."

Unlike other shops that have discontinued mechanical finishing services or at least drastically reduced them, ESP still maintains buffing/polishing departments in two buildings. Some of the mechanical finishing operations are handled by automatic machines, but ESP also has a number of craftsmen who specialize in buffing/polishing complex parts.

These services help ESP meet the needs of one primary customer, for example, that manufactures more than 3,000 kitchen whips a day. ESP agrees to turnaround product for the company in 24 hours. A major portion of the job is to vibratory-finish and plate the handles in nickel-chromium.

Right now, ESP’s future looks good in Portland. The area has a less than four percent unemployment rate and is enjoying industrial growth – particularly with computer-chip manufacturers that are starting to relocate there. Portland is considered one of the three major areas in the country for chip manufacturing. As Mike Montgomery (current president of the AESF Portland Branch), sales and planning, points out, a variety of computer parts and housings eventually come along with the chips – and that means more products for finishing.

ESP places high value on customer contact, and employs a small sales/customer service department to bring in new business and insure that ample time is spent with them. "Customer service is one of our strengths," says Montgomery, "and we’re pleased to be able to allocate our resources to meeting with our clients, becoming familiar with their likes/dislikes, and anticipating their needs."

In planning for a solid future, ESP continually seeks to satisfy customer needs and determine future finishing trends. Those are two of the main reasons Nissen was encouraged to establish a prototype line to test new finishes in a production-type environment. He says ESP tests a number of processes on an on-going basis. Those that prove to be cost-effective, provide a quality finish and fit in with the company’s environmental policy/system are eventually offered to customers.

1000 Jobs In-house? It’s Possible.

Because ESP is one of the largest finishing shops in the U.S., keeping up with the work flow is a challenge. On any given day, the number of new jobs coming in for processing ranges from 150 to more than 200. As a result, it is possible at one time to have more than 1000 jobs in-house in various stages of processing.

For a better idea of the actual volume, consider that approximately one million wheelhubs are finished a year (duplex nickel-chromium on aluminum and steel) for a major automobile manufacturer. As many as 12,000 to 16,000 tubular grab-handle brackets are plated weekly for a large freight hauler.

As mentioned earlier, ESP finishes most of the equipment for the largest dental manufacturer in the U.S., as well as for several smaller dental equipment companies that are also located in the Oregon/Washington area. It’s a fact of life that because of the consideration of AIDS and hepatitis in the health-care industry, some "booms" in products have been realized by other industry sectors. East Side, for example, has seen an increase in the number of medical/dental parts processed because these parts are receiving increased wear on surface finishes as the result of additional and more intensive cleaning. Previously, approximately 1,500 dental syringe tips were delivered to ESP for processing per month. Now the company is finishing more than 20,000 on a monthly basis.

ESP has a fleet of four trucks, and all units are constantly on the road, delivering and picking up products throughout the city of Portland and the state. A 40-ft semi-truck trailer delivers painted and powder-coated products daily to a single customer, and returns to the shop with a new load of parts to be finished. ESP also warehouses finished parts for customers, storing them until they are needed.

Scheduling could be a real nightmare, but the company’s real-time computerized system that was put in place about two years ago allows managers to track jobs by purchase order, part number or customer number. Bar-coding will soon be available on the job floor to improve the ease of data collection. Throughout the five buildings, 45 networked computer stations and 12 printers give access to this important information. The personal touch is also an important element. ESP’s customer service representatives – Linda Crossen, Connie Hansen, Jim Canard and Beth-Anne Delp – handle customer inquiries and schedule orders into the plants.

Computer screens show the status of the job; who did the processing; how long it took to do the finishing; the quantity of materials used up to the minute; and when the job was shipped. Production units and costs in each department are evaluated for more accurate review of profitability.

ESP Does a Lot of Dam Parts!

Like many other jobshops, East Side Plating found it a good idea five years ago to diversify into painting and powder coating services. While this finishing area accounts for only about 16 percent of ESP’s total volume, that percentage is steadily growing. To insure customer satisfaction and establish the company as a leader in this technology, ESP works directly with powder coating manufacturers – even conducts research with them.

One of ESP’s five buildings is dedicated to powder coating, with five individual powder booths for smaller runs, and an automatic state-of-the-art line for larger runs. All types of powder are run – polyurethanes, polyesters and epoxies – in a variety of textures and colors. Overspray, in keeping with the company’s environmental policy, is recycled.

Powder coating is growing as a durable finish for infrastructures, such as highways and bridges. ESP’s expertise plays an important role in the powder coating of the support structures for the Shasta Dam Project, and employees smile proudly when they say that "East Side does a lot of dam parts."

Employee Contributions & Teamwork Are Important To East Side Plating

At all levels, a concentrated effort is made to engage employees in team problem-solving and celebrations of successes, and that priority pays off for ESP. Each plant has its own leadership team, and most have an employee newsletter. The company has a mission statement and a short slogan as well, for use with employees and customers: "We finish what others only start. We are proud and you are important to us."

"Nobody does it alone" says Montgomery. "We thoroughly train our people and have on-the-job mentors. Goal-setting and teamwork are important to us. If special classes or further training is requested or indicated, the company pays local school tuition if it’s job-related."

One of East Side’s smiling examples of a good investment is Viorica Nadu, a quality inspector who’s been employed at the company for more than five years. Originally from Romania, Viorica did not speak English. East Side paid for her enrollment in an English-speaking program for the foreign-born, which she successfully completed.

Managers and their spouses look forward to attending programs held in Portland by motivational speakers such as Lou Holtz. Again, ESP buys the tickets as a way of insuring fresh attitudes at the management level. Everyone seems to appreciate this approach, and, as Montgomery points out, most managers/supervisors have been with East Side for 18 years or more.

AESF’s voluntary certified electroplater-finisher (CEF) program is also well-supported by the company. Several individuals have been sent to the AESF training course in electroplating and surface finishing, and have successfully passed the CEF exam that is given at the conclusion of the course. Others have taken advantage of Portland Branch educational programs, working toward their CEF designation.

Pollution Prevention Begun in 1982; Environmental Policy Pays Off In Several Ways

The people who live in the northwest have a great respect for their environment, both for its beauty and recreational benefits. ESP’s managers made the commitment in 1982 to implement a hazardous waste reduction program. As it progressed, they found there were additional benefits, such as saving more than $300,000 annually in reduced chemistry and disposal costs. Regardless of whether a shop is large-volume, like ESP, or smaller, $300,000 is a considerable sum.

ESP’s managers began working closely with the City of Portland and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Employees were engaged in a plant-wide education program regarding water and energy conservation, and safe handling of chemicals and waste. The goal was for all employees to "buy into" the philosophy the buck stops with each of them; pollution prevention is everyone’s – not just one person’s – responsibility. Each employee was given line manager responsibility relating to environmental compliance.

ESP took advantage of all the resources available to them at the time: Classes offered by the DEQ and AESF, and technical advice offered by suppliers. Here are some of the changes/techniques instituted by ESP in the early days of its pollution prevention program:

  • Counterflow and cascade rinses were installed, decreasing water usage and subsequent water treatment costs.
  • Total chemicals used for the reduction of Cr and CN wastes were cut in half, simply by changing reducing agents.
  • The CN oxidation tank, the Cr reduction tank and the acid/alkali neutralizing tank were upgraded. The goal was to separate flow, eliminate contamination of the acid/alkali neutralizing tank, and increase efficiency.
  • Automated metering equipment reduced by 50 percent the quantity of chemical needed to treat acid wastes.
  • To reduce the risks of pump failure and to equalize flow rate, the CN and Cr acid oxidation and reduction tanks were redesigned as gravity flow systems.
  • Plumbing was segregated to prevent cross-contamination.
  • A new clarifier, dryer and sludge press were used to separate liquid and solid wastes. A 4:1 reduction in sludge volume resulted in an annual net savings of $16,000.

ESP’s New Treatment Center Is Now On-Line

Under the direction of Herb Nissen, ESP began building its new $400,000 treatment center and chemical storage building in early 1995 after several months of planning and design. A new laboratory analysis center will soon be incorporated in this area as well. The center services the three buildings that are located adjacent to each other, and includes two-step neutralization, a clarifier and a sand filter. No pumps are involved. Segregated streams are gravity-flowed to the new building, and the treatment tanks are located below-ground level. All resulting sludge is sent to a recycling facility for recovery of gold, silver, cadmium, nickel, zinc and copper.

"It costs a little more to recycle, but that’s the responsible way to deal with our company’s wastes," says Nissen. "ESP has made a commitment to our environment, and the extra measures we take in the manufacturing process emphasize how important that commitment is to us."

ESP’s Strong "Heart" Promises a Healthy Future

East Side Plating’s heart for customers and employees is making a difference in Portland – and all across the country. In times when down-sizing and rampant stress are commonplace in businesses, it’s refreshing to have some outstanding examples in the finishing industry that avoid such negatives and choose to emphasize the positive. As Jim Thibodeau, ESP’s president, states: "Without the contributions and efforts of our team members at each stage of the manufacturing process, ESP wouldn’t be what it is or where it is today. We value our employees and appreciate their diligence in working with our customers and meeting their needs and requirements."

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