The two-day New England Surface Finishing Regional, organized by Valley Plating, Springfield, Mass., Gilbert & Jones Distributing, New Britian, Conn., offered a diverse mix of programming. Sessions ranged from talks on everything from hard-to-plate metals, hard-coat anodizing, and rectifier basics, to managing workers’ compensation, the outlook on manufacturing/business trends, and a host of emerging environmental, political and technology changes. Attendees also had the opportunity to meet with more than a dozen chemical and equipment suppliers in the tabletop exhibit area.

Following are a few highlights of the event:

NASF Update

John Flatley, executive director of the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF), kicked things off with the first of two keynote presentations on the association’s accomplishments, activities, and plans to provide additional benefits to members. He delved into NASF’s new website and newsletter, as well as enhancements to the digital edition of the Plating & Surface Finishing Journal—a publication that heretofore was available only in print. Flatley also touched on some marked improvements to SUR/FIN 2010, namely changes in the show schedule designed to not only draw a wider base of attendees but also keep more participants on the show floor for longer periods of time. Lastly, Flatley touted the benefits of NASF membership, paying particular attention to the valuable environmental and regulatory guidance available through NASF’s governmental relations arm, The Policy Group.

Short-term Outlook on U.S. Manufacturing

Metal Finishing editor Reginald Tucker followed Flatley’s act with a keynote presentation on the “Short-Term Outlook on Manufacturing in the U.S.” Subjects covered included: latest findings and historical data on gross domestic product; auto sales; airline/aerospace forecast; current PCB shipments and forecast; and unemployment trends, among others. The presentation also provided viewpoints from renown U.S. economists regarding possible impediments to growth amidst a tenuous recovery.

Technical Sessions

Industry veteran Robert Probert, U.S. Specialty Corp., looked at hard coat anodizing practices for toolers/rackers, line operators, lab control techs, and plating managers. The presentation, which focused on the fundamentals of the anodizing process, aimed to offer attendees solutions to both common anodize problems as well as uncommon plating challenges.

George Viola of Rapid Power/Dynapower, provided a soup-to-nuts presentation on rectifiers, including how they work and the different types of options available to metal finishers. Viola discussed how specific types of rectifiers would work better than others based on various considerations, including finishing specialty, manufacturing environment, and, of course, budget.

Brad Durkin, Coventya, Inc., aptly filled a last-minute void in the programming with his spirited, interactive presentation on plating exotic metals and substrates. Durkin, applying a “class-room” style approach to his session, kept attendees on their toes with a series of trick questions. Throughout his presentation, Durkin strived to dispel common misperceptions about not only the characteristics of certain metals and alloys but also pretreatment processes.

Not to be outdone, Dennis Breton, Heatbath Corp., conducted an informative discussion on the black-oxide finishes. He provided attendees with a wealth of information—from the rudimentary to the more complex issues—surrounding black-oxide applications and specifications. Breton also offered audience members valuable troubleshooting tips and important safety aspects of this decorative and functional finishing process.

Brian DeWald, Enthone Corp., rounded out the technical program with a timely discussion on new chrome technologies designed to meet future functional needs while remaining environmentally compliant. He touched on a wide range of issues, from the unique geographical challenges in fighting corrosion—particularly on automobiles and exterior structures—to employee exposure issues related to fume suppressants (PFOS) in the chrome plating process.

Workplace, Environmental Issues, Politics

In addition to the technical sessions, the New England Surface Finishing Regional also provided updates on other issues of significance to finishers. For instance, Andrew Campbell’s presentation on managing workers’ compensation issue struck a chord with both finisher and supplier attendees. Citing specific experiences gleaned from the consulting work offered through his firm (Campbell Management), Campbell reminded attendees of the pitfalls associated with poor accident documentation and reporting. He also stressed the importance of creating and maintaining a safety manual.

“In the event of an accident, make sure you have a doctor on call,” he advised. “No emergency rooms!” Campbell also provided valuable recommendations pertaining to how claims are investigated and managed while identifying the directly links between health insurance and workers’ compensation. “They go hand-in-hand,” he said.

On the environmental front, Roy Crystal, representing the EPA, brought attendees up to speed on several key regulatory changes. Among them: the new reporting requirements relating to vapor degreasing employing the use of halogenated solvents. Crystal, who specializes in training manufacturers, spends a lot of time these days working with automotive body shops to ensure their operational practices are compliant with existing and impending regulations.

In a related discussion, David Wawer of the Massachusetts Technology Alliance offered finishers guidance as to how impacted facilities subject to TURA1 regulations can participate in a process designed to eventually eliminate the financial burdens associated with what he believes to be outdated, anti-business regulation. “It’s essentially a 20-year-old law that produces no environmental benefit, Wawer explained. “In fact, 2,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Massachusetts over the last 10 years as a direct result of TURA.”

Marc Pelissier, environmental manager of Valley Plating, Springfield, Mass., and master of ceremonies of the New England Surface Finishing Regional, concurred. “Metal finishers and chemical suppliers have all adopted lean manufacturing practices in order to survive,” he said. “TURA regulations—and the associated fees—put us at a disadvantage without yielding any environmental benefits.”

Christian Richter, founder and president of The Policy Group—the government relations arm of the NASF—put on the finishing touches to the program with an update on critical news and developments from Washington, D.C. With all the changes and aggressive mandates regarding workplace issues being put through by the Obama Administration, Richter said it’s more important than ever to ensure that the finishing industry’s voice is heard.

“We’re focused on putting out fires in Washington before they start,” Richter said, citing a current climate might not necessarily bode well for the manufacturing community. This is especially true, he said, with regard to everything from possible changes to unionized labor to impending regulations regarding certain metals and chemicals. The Policy Group’s role in all of this, he stressed, is ensuring that key decisions impacting the surface finishing community take into account potential repercussions on industry.

“We’re not idealogues,” Richter quipped, noting that the main focus is making sure the EPA is working under the proper assumptions. “We’re just trying to put sound science on the table.”


  1. 1. TURA is an acronym for the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act, a law passed in 1989 to encourage a reduction in the amount of toxics used in Massachusetts and the amount of toxic by-products generated.

    The Toxics Use Reduction Act was established in Massachusetts to promote safer and cleaner production that enhances the economic viability of Massachusetts firms. Toxics use reduction (TUR) is a fundamental form of pollution prevention that focuses on the use of toxic chemicals and the generation of wastes in the manufacturing process. It does not focus on the management or treatment of wastes once they are produced.

    TUR is a "planning tool" for more efficient industrial operations that would produce less waste. Toxics use reduction involves in-plant changes that reduce, avoid, or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals or the generation of hazardous waste, emissions (to air or land), and by-products per unit of product manufactured.

    For more information, please visit the Toxics Use Reduction Institute website