What do a lamp, an MRI machine, a cockpit and a tank have in common?
Many of us have flown in an airplane or had an MRI. Little did we know that many of the parts on planes and in medical equipment are sandblasted, washed, primed, painted, coated and sealed in Euclid, Ohio, at Painting Technology, Inc., 21641 Tungsten Road. The business passed to President Mary Lou Ambrose in 1990 as part of a divorce settlement. It still is owned by her and will pass to her daughter, Vice President Denise DeGaetano.
This high-tech painting and coating company doesn’t do houses or wall; it gets contracts to do job-shop work for companies like Aero Fluid Products in Painesville and AeroControlex in South Euclid that are suppliers to manufacturers such as Boeing. The company may do an order of one part up to thousands of parts in a batch, depending on the size, process and timing requirements. Some of the parts it has painted include lamps for Kichler Lighting, ceiling grids in classrooms, parts in MRI machines and in U.S. Marine Corps tanks, the plastic air-nozzle vents above passenger seats in airplanes, bulletproof Apache and Blackhawk helicopter seats, components in tracking missiles, cockpit control-panel knobs, airplane landing gear in the Boeing 737, and the door-locking mechanism on the plane door that the flight attendant closes after you have boarded.
Painting Technology started in 1984, at which time Ambrose was half owner. The company located in Euclid to be in close proximity to Austin Hunt Corp., formerly located on Tungsten Road, which owned the other half of Painting Technology. In 1990, when Ambrose took over the company, she bought the building and kept all the paint technicians who had come to work there after her customer Picker X-Ray Corp. closed its paint shop. At the time, most of Painting Technology’s work was for the medical industry.
Now, Painting Technology has eight employees, is ISO 9100 and NADCAP certified, and works primarily in the aerospace industry. She says it costs about $20,000 per year to maintain these certifications. With a conveyorized drying rack, four paint booths and two drying ovens, the company handles the final coating process of the parts before they are installed. As Ambrose says, “It’s a process, not a paint.”
She is looking to get work from companies who make ISO and NADCAP parts. She says, “It’s a niche market. Not many in this area are certified to do this process, and we get lots of out-of-state business. Some companies do their own work, but if they don’t have their own painting facility they send it to a job shop like ours rather than to a competitor.” The company buys its coatings from companies, such as PPG or Creative Coatings.
When asked about the types of jobs for which she hires and her challenges in hiring a skilled workforce, she explains, “They used to train kids in schools’ shop classes to paint cars and handle coatings, but it’s hard to find employees now. They need a knowledge of spray guns and systems. We can’t just hire a house painter. We’ve tried to hire young people with no experience but they aren’t interested. Everyone is on computers today, but we need process people. We even went to Veteran’s Affairs looking for people with military experience. If we hire off the street, it’s a three- to five-year process to learn this job before you can be left on your own.”
Eight years ago, Painting Technology became an MBE (minority business enterprise) and WBE (women business enterprise). In early 2015, it installed a new $50,000 compressor system. Ambrose says that maintaining and upgrading equipment is integral for the company to maintain on-time delivery and quality with few rejections. She says, “This is how we have kept the same customers since 1990 and do 99.9 percent of their coating work.”
Gina M. Tabasso, marketing communications specialist, HGR Industrial Surplus, www.hgrinc.com