Imagineering Finishing Technologies: Mastering Critical Coatings Beyond Aesthetics

Imagineering Finishing Technologies’ (IFT) capabilities go far beyond the simple coating and painting of parts. “We do not provide decorative coatings which only need to be visually appealing,” says Jim Hammer, president and CEO of the South Bend, Ind.-based company. “We apply functional, precision coatings for parts that absolutely cannot fail.”

IFT has earned the reputation as the KnowledgeSource™ for metal finishing and testing solutions. “We work collaboratively with our clients to understand their needs and critical performance objectives to solve wear and corrosion concerns to improve performance and extend the useful life of manufactured components,” Vice President of Technical Services Dan Englebert says. “With the assistance of our global supplier-partnership network we provide our clients with a competitive advantage in the markets that they serve.“

For the company, this includes treating metal parts and components used in a number of critical applications. One recent example of the company’s capabilities is its collaborating with aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed to coat and treat parts used in NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). IFT modified its Indianapolis facility to accommodate large treatment tanks that can process rocket parts of 18 feet or more in diameter. The SLS is the platform for launching rockets including the Orion manned spacecraft into space for exploring the underside of the moon as well as Mars.

“I’m proud that we’re a preferred supplier to the space program,” Director of Marketing and Business Analytics Andy McDonald says. “It is a great feeling to know that you are more trusted than any other company when it comes to processing parts that will quite literally protect the lives of the astronauts who will be visiting the moon and those who will eventually be the first to set foot on Mars.”

Another example of the company’s critical path work is a project it performed with automotive parts manufacturer BorgWarner. “We did prototyping over a 12 month period with them to come up with a process to reduce a substantial wear problem they were facing with a transmission component they had an extremely high warranty exposure on,” Hammer says, noting the process developed by the company has since been used to process millions of parts over several years for the manufacturer. BorgWarner recognized IFT with its “Team Excellence Award” for its work.

Quality Achieved

Like many of IFT’s clients, BorgWarner looked to it for its expertise in precision metal finishing and corrosion control. “I am proud of the fact that we have developed a reputation as the KnowledgeSource™ in the industry that is called upon to perform tough projects,” Hammer says. “We’ve proven we can achieve our customers’ objectives in a timely manner.”

Founded in 1959, the company provides plating, coating and non-destructive testing to OEMS, tier manufacturers and engineers in the aerospace, automotive, medical and military industries. IFT customers include AM General Caterpillar, General Electric, Honda, Halliburton, Toyota, NASA, Westinghouse, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Kitchen-Aid and Honeywell. “They expect a high level of quality because their customers are highly demanding, whether it’s the aerospace, automotive, military or energy industries,” he adds. “They have precise requirements for critical end-use.”

IFT’s combined 125,000 square feet of process facility space and multiple certifications enable it to meet customer demands. In addition to its Indianapolis facility, Imagineering operates two locations in South Bend. IFT is TS16949, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ITAR, AS9100 and Nadcap accredited.

“In order to help our diverse customer base solve their wear and corrosion issues, we take complex blueprint instructions and process specifications, and convert them into easy-to-follow job instructions for our team members on the floor who execute each operation,” Chief Technology Officer Mike Kolo says. “Having tight controls on the variables in every step of our process allows the operators to focus solely on making sure the parts are processed strictly to specification in order to produce the desired outcome.”

IFT processes roughly 30,000 jobs annually and typically turns around parts within three to five days. “Our workload is extremely dynamic, but we are able to react to it very quickly through constant planning and collaboration among all levels of the organization as well as through the use of planning, scheduling and chemistry management software,” Kolo adds.

The company also uses am enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and other analytic systems to evaluate current and past jobs.

Shared Expertise

IFT’s suppliers play an important role in the company’s work. “We work closely with our extended group of global and industry suppliers to utilize their expertise in helping us solve wear and corrosion issues,” Chief Operating Officer Mathew Huff says. “It’s not uncommon to invite suppliers on customer visits and conference calls to troubleshoot and provide additional support.”

The company has relationships with global chemistry suppliers including MacDermid, Enthone, Henkel, Heat Bath and others. “We have access to their technical resources and lab equipment to assist in solving internal and customer product-related solutions, and partner with them on large opportunities to ensure we are using the best product and techniques,” he adds.

A Vision of Growth

Hammer, a 34-year IFT employee, purchased the company in 1996. Since taking the helm, Hammer has reinforced the company’s commitment to quality and customer service by adopting total quality management principles.

“The adoption of the strictest global quality assurance models, as well as upgrading the business systems and production processes and investing in brand development, was necessary to support the development of a top customer service organization behavior change,” he says. “The return on investment created an active sales lead-generation system from the global quality accreditations, and helped us achieve a zero-defect processing rate and a history of on-time deliveries.”

The company’s ability to successfully serve clients continues to help it grow and expand. “My marketing vision is to develop [IFT] into the dominant applied engineering metal finishing company by being the best managed job shop provider of advice, processes and innovative know-how in the industry,” Hammer adds. “We plan to make continued capital expenditures to upgrade our plant and equipment in order to expand our capacity and become more efficient, as well as invest in new technology to achieve the growth opportunities presented by our dynamic customer base.”