Creating an industry niche is one thing. Creating an area of business specialization not done anywhere else, however, is truly a horse of a different color.
For Paul Hendon, such is a collective professional boast he is able to lay claim to.
Since assuming ownership of Quality Surface Processing in May 2003, Hendon has overseen, in his words, “a manufacturing services company, with half of our business in custom powdered painting and the other half custom investment casting cleaning.”
Its services are split, with one aspect possessing a foothold locally, while the other half, to Hendon's knowledge, stands without a peer from coast to coast.
“There are a number of line-based powder coaters locally, so my niche is more large parts and small volume orders,” said Hendon, a Michigan native. “We paint and powder coat large parts for local machine tool builders; specifically, we paint and powder-coat their machines. We also have a niche in the painting world because we do it in a batch mode.”
Unlike a line-based system (which goes around in an oval and, essentially, is not set up to properly handle low-volume orders), batch-mode powder coating allows the process — from the preparation, painting and curing — to be completed manually and to a high degree of precision.
“A line-based system is not very conducive to allow for masking, which provide cover for things customers don't want to get painted,” said Hendon, adding the company offers a multitude of color options, including two-toned paints. “Some of the larger parts we do, we end up painting the first color, then we do some extensive masking and prepping. So, we kind of specialize in masking solutions for customers with low-volume orders. Overall, the line-based systems are just not really set up for that low volume--and that is where our niche lies.”
While the powder coating via batch mode stands as the Schofield-based organization's local differentiator, the national visibility of Quality Surface Processing, 1070 Pine Street, is represented through its casting-cleaning services.
Supporting clients ranging from California, Texas, Arizona, Ohio and Michigan, to name a few, the process is that of, according to Hendon, “cleaning castings that have been molded in ceramic — that is what an investment casting is. We remove ceramics out of cavities and pores that they cannot break out of. We are the only company that I know of in the country offering it as a service.”
The value-added aspects of the offering are not lacking
“Investment casting is a high alloy steel material,” said Hendon, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and an master’s degree in engineering mechanics from Michigan Tech University. “So, [companies] like to minimize the amount of the steel that either machined, or they want to recycle the steel because it is very expensive, but to get the steel ready for re-melting, they make fiberglass insulation of which some of the residue is left in there. Therefore, plants send them to us, we clean them of the fiberglass and send them to their melting facility. We get castings as very expensive scrap, but there are companies that have people on staff whose full-time job is to track where their scrap is as it is that important to them.”
Considering that his proprietorship of Quality Surface Processing stands as his introduction to the manufacturing industry, the growth and business development over the past decade-and-a-half is not lost on Hendon.
In 1979, four years after concluding his sevenyear educational odyssey at Michigan Tech, in 1979, Hendon relocated to Wisconsin. In essence, the first domino to fall en route to his future professional endeavor
“The move from Michigan was both professional and — as it was closer to my wife's family — -personally motivated,” Hendon said. “It was certainly less hectic than the Detroit suburbs.”
A decade after becoming a card-carrying member of the Dairy State, Hendon joined Fiskars, where he served as the company's director of engineering for just under 12 years — the last stop en route to Hendon becoming his own boss.
The decision to purchase what was to become Quality Surface Processing (the company was operating under a different name prior) was one that Hendon felt aligned with his prior experience
“I was familiar with business strategies, understanding P&L and all those kinds of things,” Hendon said. “I did a lot of integration and improvements, and felt there was something there.”
Upon officially taking over the reins of the company, Hendon moved the business to its existing headquarters and was off and running. Less than five years later, however, the economic downturn struck.
According to Hendon, Quality Surface Processing's attention to quality and customer service allowed it to not only survive, but also continue its ascent.
“Naturally, we made the necessary adjustments in terms of controlling business expenses,” Hendon said. “Our customers were still fairly active as well. Due to having a track record of good service and a quick turnaround, customers said ‘Those are the people we'll stick with.’”
Presently home to seven full-time employees, Hendon continues to adhere to the business principles that navigated his company through the stormy economic waters of a decade ago with at least one eye on the future while enjoying the grind of each day
“Running the business is still very challenging,” Hendon said, “but enjoyable. Very much so.”