When West-Tech Finishing moved from its old 10,000-square-foot space to its new 25,000-square-foot facility in Ontario, Canada, more than 10 years ago, they never believed they would need all that space.

“When we moved in here, I had said to my father that there's no way we'll ever fill this building,” says Glen Attridge, Co-General Manager of the anodizing company in Vaughan, Ontario, along with Tony Iacovelli. “Everything fit in one little corner of the shop. It has taken 10 years, but now somedays we're tight on space,” Attridge says.

Expecting Improved 2024

The West-Tech leadership team includes, from left, Daytime Supervisor Manoj Bhardwaj, Outside Sales Manager Chris Ford, Co-General Manager Glen Attridge, and Quality Inspector Tony Amato. Absent is President Matteo Iacovelli and Co-General Manager Tony Iacovelli.Much like its counterparts in the lower U.S., Canadian shops have sometimes felt the squeeze of a volatile economy that makes it hard to predict what the next several months will hold for business.

 “We've been preparing for the last six months to start up a third shift. We were expecting the work was going to be there, but unfortunately, the volume hasn’t materialized. You can't control that sometimes.”

“The economy here is very up and down right now,” Attridge says. “With the higher interest rates and material costs, we've noticed a definite decline. We're not where we thought we would be.”

But Attridge is expecting that all to change soon for West-Tech Finishing Inc., a Nadcap-certified anodizing facility that offers several colors: clear, olive drab, gunmetal, and black. As one of the largest — and most experienced — metal finishers in Ontario, they specialize in hard and sulphuric anodizing, as well as chemical conversion.

West-Tech has a pair of 12-foot hard anodizing tanks West-Tech has a pair of 12-foot hard anodizing tanks West-Tech has a pair of 12-foot hard anodizing tanks with two 2,500-amp rectifiers and over 200 tons of process cooling, plus two additional anodizing tanks. The sulphuric line has a unique menu system that allows the process to be tailored to a customer’s specific requirement, and parts can be certified to Mil-A-8625 Type 2 & 3, Class 1 and 2.

The facility also has 8-foot tanks for chemical conversion coating: one tank for gold (hexavalent) and one for clear ROHS-compliant coatings. The coatings are salt-spray tested monthly to ensure process control, and parts can be certified to MIL-C-5541E and MIL-DTL 5541F specifications.

Attridge just celebrated his 25th year at West-Tech, but he is by no means the elder statesman when it comes to experience.

“As far as senior management, I'm still the lowest on this totem pole,” he says. “My supervisors have been with us for almost 30 years. Our lead inspector has been with us for 28 years. The one good thing is you can't teach experience.”

Founded in 1988 as a ‘One-Stop’ Shop

westtech 3West-Tech Finishing was founded in 1988 by Attridge’s father, Bob Ford, and his business partner, Matteo Iacovelli, who is President of the company. At the time, Iacovelli owned a machine shop, and Ford had experience in finishing while working at Spar Aerospace Products.

The idea for West-Tech came about when they both sought to have a one-stop shop for customers who needed machining and finishing of their parts.

“They wanted to fabricate the part, then have it anodized or sent to the paint shop beside us,” Attridge says. “The idea was to take it over with the forklift and get it back the same day.”

In 1997, their quality management system was registered to ISO 9002:1994 and QS 9000, followed by an upgrade to ISO 9001:2016 & AS9100 Rev D. Most recently, West-Tech became a Nadcap operation in providing hard anodizing, sulfuric anodizing, and chemical conversion coating, where they also test adhesion monthly per ASM D-3359 specifications.

“Previously, we were registered to the QS9000 standard, but around 2008, the automotive industry started to tail down a bit,” Attridge says. “We looked for other opportunities and decided to get into aerospace in 2009, and that’s when we decided to pursue Nadcap accreditation for chemical processing.”

Steady Growth with Over 600+ Customers

westtech 7Attridge says the company has grown steadily, often seeing 15% annual growth with a broad customer base that numbers 600 manufacturers in Canada, with a few in the U.S. 

The anodizing lines are run by automated PLC controlled, which gives the repeatability and quality customers demand. West-Tech is currently running two shifts from 8 a.m. until midnight with a total of 48 employees.

The goal is to go to a third shift to handle additional work, but the recent economic downturn in Canada has put that on hold. Attridge attended the Aluminum Anodizers Council conference in Seattle to gain insight into what the industry might hold in 2024 and came away hearing that relief might be in sight sooner rather than later.

“It looks like the second quarter of 2024 might be when things could pick up again,” he says, adding that due to their close proximity to the U.S. border and the favorable U.S. exchange rate at 37%, they would like to expand their footprint in the U.S.

As a Controlled Goods Certified facility, 25% of West-Tech’s work is processed for the defense industry, and about 15% is aerospace. They still have about 20% of their customers in the automotive section, and the remaining work comes from various commercial projects.

12-Foot Tanks, But Wanting More

tanksAttridge is hoping to fill up the rest of their space in Ontario with more work, although he does have one big regret about the move into the space more than a decade ago.

“We previously had 8-foot anodized tanks, and we found that a lot of our customers had larger parts that we couldn't handle, so that’s when we decided to go to 12-foot tanks in the new facility,” he says. “We increased our business with existing customers by 15% by putting the extra four feet of tanks in, but the big mistake we made was we should have had 13-foot tanks; at the 12-foot size, you have to go diagonal to process 12-foot extrusions. But I learned very quickly: no matter how big your tanks are, they're never big enough.”

Founder Bob Ford finally retired from West-Tech Finishing in 2021 after 34 years of leadership and guidance, something that Attridge relied on as he assumed a bigger management role at the company. Unfortunately, Ford passed away in late 2022, depriving Attridge of a trusted confidant and mentor.

“It was very beneficial having him around even after he retired,” Attridge says. “He had been out of the day-to-day operation for about five years, but he was here if you had a question. Having that knowledge around was great. And even if he wasn't here, it was only a phone call away.”

Attridge says he and his father had the ability to differentiate between business and pleasure, which was a blessing.

“Even if we had a big disagreement, we could go up to a golf course and just have a good day and be father and son,” he says. “Everything got left at the office, which you have to do with a family business.

Fortunately, Matteo Iacovelli has stepped in and assumed the President position, providing his wealth of business knowledge in running a business operation.

“Having Matteo to provide mentorship has been invaluable on the business side and future planning,” Attridge says. “His wealth of knowledge and experience has helped us immensely with making business decisions.”

Large Masking Operations

westtech 4West-Tech probably has one of the largest masking operations in North America, Attridge says, and one reason is that their customers’ habits have changed. Parts used to be anodized entirely and returned to the customer to machine the areas that required grounding or a chemical conversion coat after anodizing.

“Now we're able to apply the chemical conversion prior to the anodize,” he says. “We have a plotter on site, so we can make any shape, any size, mask it up, anodize it, and ship it to the customer all complete. We have five full-time team members exclusively for masking.”

By doing that, Attridge says they don't have to worry about expensive setups on machines or the chance of the part getting damaged during every setup.

“And it saves time and costs for our customers,” he says.

Visit https://west-tech.ca