Imagineering Finishing Technologies’ (IFT) complicated metal-finishing work – which utilizes more than 10,000 custom, detailed work instructions to finish more than 30,000 jobs each year – requires a highly skilled work force. The Indiana company utilizes knowledge-based training and back-office tools to satisfy its customers’ stringent requirements.
In addition to maintaining a skilled staff, IFT certifies 100 percent of its jobs for OEM clients. Client satisfaction often requires it to stay on its toes to anticipate changes. “We react to the forces of change without much notice amid instituting adjustments via proper consideration, planning and implementation,” President and CEO Jim Hammer says.
With three locations and more than 100 employees, IFT is in the top 10 percentile of U.S. metal finishing job-shop companies. Its finishing products and services include electroless nickel, dry-film lubricants, phosphate coating, nondestructive testing, passivation and chromate conversion. The company innovated recently to implement chrome-free processes to treat aluminum components for the Department of Defense. The chrome-free process demonstrates IFT’s commitment to sustainable services.
“Our company has embraced the concept of substituting environmentally green chemistry technologies in our process offerings when appropriate,” Hammer says. “This reinforces our corporate commitment to eliminate hazardous waste as a byproduct of our metal finishing processes.”
In a recent interview with Manufacturing Today, Hammer discussed what sets his company apart from competitors and how IFT is responding to economic difficulties.
Manufacturing Today: What distinguishes IFT from competitors?
Jim Hammer: Our work force embraces the tenets of total quality management, which gives us a customer-centric work force. Everyone understands that their primary role as an Imagineering employee is to deliver the best service possible to our customers, and they know that any effort less will jeopardize our future.
Our standardized processes and quality procedures bring a reduction in variation and provide consistency due to the controls and verification.
MT: How has IFT responded to the market slump?
JH: It required us to formally amend our business model and mindset. We rebuilt to get informed quicker about inside operational performance and pay closer attention to the outside environment to detect the emerging forces of change. We reevaluated our business processes, and identified and eliminated waste and unproductive non-value activities.
Our management team continues to identify areas of under-performance. We put emphasis on educating and empowering our employees so that they can assist in improving these conditions. In this economy of scarce resources, this was achieved without access to additional investment of capital. Internally, our management team has worked diligently to find means to convert to cash the efficiencies gained and re-employ them to survive this long haul.
MT: How do you manage challenges?
JH: We must stay focused on the business fundamentals that have permitted us to survive during this cycle. We must improve the mechanisms we have in place to get more rapid feedback from our customers on our performance and discipline our entire team to increase our responsiveness to crucial adjustments.
MT: How do you ensure your employees are the best?
JH: As a commitment to continuous improvement and to maintain our international quality accreditations, we have developed a teaching forum to provide ongoing training to sustain Imagineering as the industry knowledge source for metal-finishing applications. The Imagineering Technical Institute is our mechanism to develop a knowledge-based work force.
MT: Describe IFT’s history.
JH: Our company was founded in 1959 by David. E. Huber, a Notre Dame School of Metallurgical Science graduate. While working at a National Space Science lab, Huber formed the notion of a company to have as its business a mission to innovate and decipher everyday engineering problems related to wear and corrosion of metallic substrates.
Upon launching Imagineering, he developed boutique coatings for aerospace and automotive application during his career and consulted many of the Fortune 1000 industrial firms. He sold his business to me in 1996.
Since 1996, Imagineering has expanded its asset base by 450 percent; staff by 330 percent; and has had a revenue improvement of approximately 500 percent.
The brand is globally acknowledged as the knowledge source for metal finishing.