Duncan business tour lands at Easley’s Palmetto Plating
By D.C. Moody
Congressman Jeff Duncan made several stops around the upstate April 23, including Palmetto Plating in Easley as part of a business tour of his district and the discussions led to international affairs.
The international community is having an impact on Palmetto Plating, prompting the global marketplace discussion.
“We are relying on the Chinese, who are gobbling up rare earth minerals all over the world and that’s a future problem for manufacturing in this country,” Duncan said. “We are going to be relying on those overseas supplies and government policies that hamper or restrict access to the same minerals in the United States.
“Palmetto Plating is just one example of an American business affected by foreign interests and governmental restrictions domestically.
Nickel is a common material used by Palmetto Plating in its everyday business, purchased in 551 pound barrels. Recently the cost of nickel per pound increased $2.49 in a single two week period, driving down the bottom line of the business as the increased cost cannot be passed through to their customer base. The material is imported from Canada, South America, or Russia.
Stainless steel pipe, one market Palmetto Plating is involved in, is an example of the cost of rare earth elements purchased under this system. Eighty percent of the cost for stainless steel piping is related to the cost of nickel alone.
“We’ve been talking about what China is doing in the Foreign Affairs Committee meetings and what we are seeing is China come into other countries and create joint ventures or buy up all the mineral rights,” Duncan explained. “They (China) have been doing this a long time, it’s just now coming onto the radar over the last five or six years. They’ve already secured a lot of these rights and now are going after oil and gas and the Western world is beginning to wake up.”
Duncan has long been a proponent of investigating options domestically where energy and resources are concerned, and sees the future as cloudy at best if this trend continues.
“It may come down in the future to access. If China, using them as an example as they are gobbling up mineral rights all over the world already, continues to do what they’ve been doing, they’ll control the market,” Duncan said. “That means they’ll control the United States’ access to raw materials and the ability to manufacture goods domestically, especially if we don’t have access to our own plentiful resources.”
“We as a country have to recognize our energy problems and begin addressing them,” Duncan said. “Once we begin to do away with energy and raw material dependence on foreign countries, using our own resources instead, there will be a change.”
SCBT 2012 ANNUAL REPORT
We do anything from chrome plating for the automotive industry to coating nuclear reactors to satellites. If a customer wants it done, we can usually find a way to make it work. I plated my baby shoes in high school and haven’t found anything since that we can’t plate. Ernie’s been my banker since 1979. Our company has evolved over the years, and he always takes the time to understand my business and find solutions.”
Established in 1964. Palmetto Plating is located in Easley, SC and performs quality metal finishing processes with individual attention and takes the time to understand the specific needs of each customer. With a national reputation for their ability to handle unique and challenging projects, Palmetto Plating has a company-wide policy of giving detailed attention to every customer and every product that enters their plant.
JANUARY2013 PRODUCTS FINISHING MAGAZINE
Auto Drives Plating in S.C.
Palmetto Plating Thrives on Ingenuity, Automotive Parts and Not Saying “No.”
By Tim Pennington, Editor
The first time John Cutchin tried his hand in the plating business, he was still in high school and a little wet behind the ears when it came to the science and chemistry of surface finishing.
“I plated a pair of baby shoes,” Cutchin says. “It was just something I wanted to try, and it was interesting.”
Several decades later and now the owner of Palmetto Plating in Easley, S.C., Cutchin is still plating shoes, albeit the casings for brake shoe pads for U.S. vehicles. More than 1 million of them pass through the tanks each year at Palmetto, which specializes in anodizing, black oxide, chromate conversion coatings, decorative and hard chrome, electroless nickel, pickling and passivation.
Cutchin and his staff, which includes his heir apparent, son Hunter, who serves as vice president of purchasing and customer service, run three shifts at their plant, plating protective coatings on a variety of parts. But the auto industry in particular has been very good to Palmetto and other platers in the Atlantic Coast and Southeast region.
A BMW plant opened in nearby Spartanburg, S.C., in 1994 and plans to expand again by 2014 and hire 1,200 more workers. A $1 billion Volkswagen plant opened in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2011 with the hope of selling 1 million cars in the U.S. by 2018 and helping to create nearly 10,000 supplier jobs in the region. The U.S. Department of Commerce says that, based on the 201 1 value of exports from its Spartanburg facility, BMW is the largest automotive exporter from the U.S., producing more than 1,OOO vehicles each day and exporting about 70 percent of them to 130 countries.
“We call this stretch of I-85 the Autobahn,” Cutchin says of the highway running alongside the BMW plant. “The automotive industry has really been a good thing for all of us.”
But car parts are not what made a name for Cutchin and his Palmetto Plating plant in the industry. In fact, Palmetto is known throughout the eastern seaboard of the U.S. as a resource for plating, passivating or electropolishing very large pieces of equipment and components. Vessels, tanks, heat exchangers, pipes and other components seem to find their way to Palmetto’s Easley plant or to its sister company just up the road that specializes in black oxide finishes. Being centrally located to cities such as Atlanta, Charleston, Columbia and Charlotte has been a big plus.
“That, and I just can’t say no to anybody,” laughs Cutchin, who started his company in 1964 after taking a few classes at Clemson University.
JUST SAY YES
For example, the Patterson Pump company in Georgia called Cutchin about passivating several pipes for a water project it was working on. The pipe sizes were huge, between 48 and 66 inches in diameter. Several larger platers had passed on the project, but Palmetto was able to use a little ingenuity to get the parts plated and back to Patterson Pump.
A stair-making company called Palmetto about electropolishing a unique staircase that was 4-ft wide and 24-ft long. At roughly two tons and made up of several hundred parts, the job scared off more than a few job shops, but Cutchin embraced the task.
“One thing that I have learned during my time in business is that things are always changing,” he says. “Customers change, processes change, even employees change, but you have to move forward and continue to meet your customers’ expectations.”
A big benefit for Palmetto is its partnership with suppliers who weigh in with technical advice and expertise on tricky projects, or on new specifications being asked of Palmetto.
Over the past year, Palmetto and Metal Chem of Greer, S.C., have been working closely to design a cycle to blacken medium phosphorous, electroless nickel plating for several existing and potential customers. Hunter Cutchin and Metal Chem’s Jordan Beavers have tested and optimized a process to blacken electroless nickel plated copper for heat shield parts for one of Palmetto’s customers.
“Their objectives were clear, which were to achieve a non-smutty, uniform black coating that maintained its color despite some wear,” says Marc Alcksinas of Metal Chem. The company’s Meta Black EN was developed as a room temperature post dip designed to blacken mid-phos Metal Chem electroless nickel. Alcksinas says Meta Black EN creates a thin black nickel oxide film that is free of loose smut and maintains integrity for more than 50 hours neutral salt spray exposure (ASTM Bl17). A typical process cycle includes:
- Electroless nickel plating using Meta-Plate Ultima MP EN, 0.5-1.0 mil
- 2x clean rinse (DI preferred)
- Meta-Black EN, 75aF fm 45-150 sec 4. 2x clean rinse (DI preferred)
“Adding a baking step can improve hardness and wear resistance of the Meta Black EN,” Beavers says. “Also, clear topcoats can provide better corrosion protection and wear resistance as needed.”
Beavers and Hunter Cutchin discovered during testing that the black coating can be affected by substrate metal and surface conditions. “However, length of immersion time in Meta Black EN along with a clean, active deposit prior to blackening can aid in developing a consistent, black deposit,” Beavers says.
The entire heat-shield parts project was a testament to John Cutchin’s years of experience and know-how.
The customer used the heat shield to cool down fiberglass strands as they emerged from a formulation process. When the customer mentioned to Cutchin that the heat shields worked best after a few hours and days of use, when they would turn black from the heat source, Cutchin recommended the blacken electroless nickel process to get the desired result from the beginning. Walking around the Palmetto Plating shop and strolling through its parts staging area reveals the story of how the company got to where it is today and where it is headed when Hunter takes over for his father, John. Large, irregularly bent pipes from the first nuclear energy plant to be built in the U.S. in 30 years await coatings on Palmetto’s loading dock. Large, oversized vessels are getting a coating in the Palmetto “rubber room,” an outdoor plating facility layered with rubber walls that Cutchin built several years ago to handle projects with odd sizes and shapes.
“A lot of what we do is thinking outside the box,” Cutchin says. “To that end, we are constantly looking for new ways to better serve our customers by improving efficiency and investing in new technology.” ###
For more information on Palmetto Plating, please call 864-859-9314 or visit Palmettoplating. com. For information on Metal Chem, please call 864-877-6175 or visit Metalchem-inc. com.
MARCH 2011 METAL FINISHING MAGAZINE
Above & Beyond
Many finishers “preach” customer service, but at Easley, S.C.-based Palmetto Plating, client focus is Commandment #1.
By Reginald Tucker
In the realm of collegiate sports, the state of South Carolina is renowned for its beloved “Gamecocks” and “’Tigers.” But when it comes to specialty pretreatment and finishing processes for complex, large-scale jobs, it’s Palmetto Plating that’s top of mind.
Based in Easley, located northwest of rhe state capital between Atlanta, Ga., and Charlone, N.C., Palmetto Plating has been sought out by virtually everyone from automotive original equipment manufacturers to designers of heavy industrial machinery to makers of components for nuclear power plants. Even other surface finishers have been known to send jobs its way. What clients are seeking, for the most part, is access to Palmetto Plating’s coveted expertise in nearly a dozen surface finishing process categories (pickle passivation, electropolishing, and chromate conversion coatings among them).
One such customer is Clint Simmons, Manufacturing Engineer, CWI/CWE, at Toccoa. Ga.-based Patterson Pump Co. Simmons cited one particularly challenging project that required passivation on massive 48-inch to-66-inch diametcr stainless steel elbows and piping for a municipal environmental water works department. ”The parts were out of our realm–much larger than anyone else was willing to handle,” he recalled. “We called several folks, but they wouldn’t touch it. Palmetto Plating turned it around quick and with om any problems.”
Tampa Bay Steel, a Florida-based operation specializing in metal distribution and processing, is another Palmetto Plating client who needed assistance in tackling an oversize project. In this case, the job called for the surface preparation and finishing of a multitude of massive, stainless steel/nickel alloy air pollution control units designed for use in clean power generation plants. Tampa Bay Steel constructed the units, known as “absorbers,” then sent them to Palmetto Plating to ensure they were completely free of iron contaminants.
Steve Wilson, who oversees special projects for Tampa Bay SteeL says Palmetto Plating has long been the go-to source tor its special passivation needs. “All the projects they have done for us were very sizeable, some of which are multi-million-dollar projects. The quality of their services and attention to detail have allowed us to offer our products with full passivation, which has given us an edge against our competition. It also gives us the assurance of a defect-free product.”
The list of satisfied customers goes on. Paul Morey of Easley-based Stair Crafters, Inc., described a fairly recent job in which Palmetto Plating was called on to electropolish a curvy, winding stainless steel stair-way measuring 24 ft. long X 4ft. wide. The stairway unit, which entailed a “No. 4” finish prior to elec-tropolishing, weighed more than 4,000 lbs and consisted of upwards of 300 individual pans. With the staircase slated for installation in an upscale residence in the Bahamas, the architect and builder on the project required a finish that not only offered optimal brightness and cleanability, but one that also removed burrs and free iron.
“We have been very pleased with the services that Palmetto Plating has provided us on several of our very high-end staircases,” Morey said. “The completed finish is always just what we want, whether it is stainless steel that is being electropolished or cold-rolled steel that has to have a chrome-nickel finish. Our customers are always amazed at the finished staircases we design, fabricate, and install for them with the help of Palmetto Plating.”
Palmetto Plating’s technical prowess is only part of the allure. Many of its customers also cite the finisher’s willingness to go above and beyond when a tight turnaround is warranted. Greenville S.C.-based Standard Motor Products. Inc.-a leading independent manufacturer, distributer and marketer of replacement parts for motor vehicles in the automotive aftermarket industry-knows this firsthand. During a recent winter storm that crippled parts of the Southeast region for an entire week, Palmetto Plating worked extra shifts over the weekend leading up to the winter storm in order to make sure the supply chain was nor impacted by delays.
“Due to this effort, the client’s customer was able to keep running production, as many businesses were forced to shut down,” said Kevin Phillips, quality manager, Standard Motor Products. ”Palmetto has demonstrated cooperation, flexibility and customer service during a time of need. They have proven to be a supplier with a partnering attitude.”
And that’s precisely the point, according to Palmetto Plating’s president, John Cutchin, the man who founded the company in 1964 after graduating high school. When Palmetto Plating performs the metal finishing on customers’ products, he says, they get more than quality finishing-they get individualized attention. This driving philosophy, which has been cultivated throughout the company from the front office to the back shop, borders on obsession. It is especially evident in the pre-plating, consultation phase of the job.
”We do a lot of prototyping and testing with the customer in advance to ensure we meet their specifica-tions.” Palmetto Plating’s Cutchin explained. It’s this much sought-after capability–the knack for engineering and product design-that also helps the finisher educate its clients on the multitude of possibilities available with various processes and techniques.
It’s an advantage that many clients clearly recognize. Case in point: Charlotte. N.C-based Ward Tank & Heat Exchanger Corporation, which specializes in the custom design and fabricarion of process equipment for the chemical, pharmaceutical, food/beverage, pulp/paper, power, refinery and pure water industries. Bob Besh, the company’s vice president of operations, has long appreciated the time and effort Palmetto Plating always takes in making sure he and his company completely understand the processes involved. It’s also refreshing, he notes, to work with a finisher that consistently performs services as quoted and delivers on time.
“We have always thought of Palmetto Plating as the best possible source to answer not only our questions but our customers’ questions as well,” Besh said. “We have [referred Palmetto Plating] to a variety of customers who were having different issues and wanted to better understand what was possible by coating, chemical cleaning, pickling, etc. Palmetto Plating has always been able to help them understand the different altternatives, regardless of whether it created business for themselves.”
One company that’s confidently sending business Palmetto’s way these days is Victaulic, a Doraville, Ga.-based manufacturer of pipings and castings for a host of industries, including fire protection, ship build-ing, power generation, oil and gas, chemical mining, and water treatment. Tom Port, Victaulic’s plant manager, has yet to be disappointed, referring to the finisher’s work as consistently outstanding. “Palmetto Plating has met or exceeded our expectations in regards to quality and delivery. Their ability to respond when we need an immediate turn around has been exceptional.”
Palmetto Plating didn’t develop into a multimarket finishing specialist overnight. In fact, the 47- year-old company originally provided metal finishing services mostly to the local textile industry. Over the years, it grew—partly out of necessity—-to accommodate the needs of emerging and changing industries, both regional and beyond. With U.S. industry at large continuing to face seismic changes today. Palmetto Plating’s approach to survival hasn’t changed: explore new market opportunities while maintaining its customized approach to surface finishing.
“We’re doing some interesting things that other platers don’t do,” Curchin said, hinting at a new barrel-plating process designed to replace hexavalent chromium. Palmetto Plating also plans to continue exploring innovations in proprietary formulations and processes. The company is also keeping its options open in considering offering services beyond its present line-up of in-demand finishes.
But one element of Palmetto Plating’s business that is not likely to change is its sharp focus on the cus-romer- the driving factor behind its success for nearly half a century. And that’s just fine by its long-time customers.
“Over the years, Palmetto Plating’s service and quality have been extremely beneficial,” said Bruce Lawson, senior buyer for Rodney Hunt Company, a full-line manufacturer of fluid·control devices and a Palmetto customer for 15 vears. ”I would not hesitate to give a recommendation to anyone.” ###