Pinakin Patel

20 Questions with Pinakin Patel, Techevon

Pinakin Patel is President of Techevon, a global metal finishing consultancy that offers a complete product line of colors and chemicals for the aluminum anodizing process.

Prior to starting Techevon, Patel served as Vice President of Technology at Pioneer Metal Finishing, where his emphasis was on introducing new products and processes that complement the business, helping the company harness more value from its existing customer base.

Patel founded Techevon in 2008. He has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering. He began his career at Haviland Chemical Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Pinakin Patel, right, and his son, Tej, take in the Master's Golf Tournament.Pinakin Patel, right, and his son, Tej, take in the Master's Golf Tournament.How did you get your start in the finishing and coating industry? 

I had a master’s in chemical engineering with emphasis on polymers and could not find a job in 1982. So I started working for a small Metal Finisher called Norelkote in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Today this company is Pioneer Metal Finishing.

What does your job entail?

It is my mission to make Techevon a leading supplier to the anodizing industry. We are focused on developing new anodizing colorants and seals that can meet ever-changing functional requirements and ongoing environmental regulations. My job entails whatever is necessary to achieve that goal, but in my mind, our technology and our people are absolutely critical to our success. I spend a lot of my time equipping our world-class laboratories and building a strong team of chemical engineers and laboratory technicians, but the best part of my job is getting to put the two together. My best days are spent coaching and working collaboratively with the team in our labs to meet our customers’ needs through troubleshooting, rigorous testing, and, of course, innovation. 

Can you walk us through a typical day for you?

If need be, Patel is ready to move product at Techevon headquarters.If need be, Patel is ready to move product at Techevon headquarters.I have office days and customer days. On my office days, we have the typical morning status meetings and unavoidable paperwork, but after that, you can find me working on our pilot line with my team on various projects. Whether we’re working on a new lightfast dye or trying to figure out how to troubleshoot a customer issue, facing a new challenge in the lab with my team is truly my happy place. 

I spend a lot of days on the road visiting customers as well. I have known some of them for quite a few years now, so it’s always great catching up, problem-solving, and learning about how their work is changing and how Techevon can continue to support their goals and growth. For our newer customers, I enjoy taking the time to deeply address their questions and problems – not only does it show that we truly care, but it is the best way to really understand their current chemistry, process, and challenges. In turn, that extra time and energy we spend with our customers onsite really helps us come up with the best solutions and do the best job we possibly can. 

What do you like best about working in the finishing and coating industry?

Two things. First, anodizing fascinates me, especially how the different applications contribute to our daily lives in so many ways. I think that has made my career feel more meaningful – my work has the ability to reach everyone in products they use every day. Second, it is incredibly rewarding to help our customers solve a difficult problem, especially when they see the value in the service Techevon offers and want to continue to work with us in the future. 

What preconceived notions about the finishing and coating industry have changed since you started working in it?

Patel has been a featured speaker at many anodizing conferences in his career.Patel has been a featured speaker at many anodizing conferences in his career.The industry has changed a lot since I started. There is so much more sophistication in the technology we have and even in how people think about color. It used to be that anodizing was done by applying a specific voltage of around 16V for a specific amount of time for clear and black-colored parts only. If the color was not black enough, you just increased the time until it turned black. So simple! Also, back then, there was no differentiation between the different hues of black. Today, good anodizers process parts using current density and can target a desired thickness and get that every single time. Automatic controllers can be programmed to produce specific current densities and thicknesses that deliver the same finish consistently. The scrutiny has increased on black; customers are demanding neutral black shades, which they measure with color meters. And we are doing more color matching than ever before. Not only are anodizers using more color, but they come to us with a specific color in mind that they want to match – the same way you would select and match colors at a paint store. 

Can you describe a particular project you have been involved in that made you most proud?

We had a large automotive OEM that wanted to make sure that all the parts produced for them would meet their quality expectations and be UV stable. We worked with this company to develop a range of colors and were able to validate the quality of the color using color meters, and we developed an accelerated UV testing machine that would give us 8 years worth of outdoor exposure in just 24 hours. The results of this test have been correlated to industry-standard UV testing, which can take up to 2,000 hours for results. We have been using this system for more than two years with excellent results. It’s a great way to help anodizers and their users quickly identify potential quality issues. The innovation has also helped us immensely reduce our own R&D time. 

Why would you recommend a career in the finishing and coating industry to a friend?

Patel with one of his grandchildren out for an adventure.Patel with one of his grandchildren out for an adventure.I think it is a career largely ignored by younger generations because it is not perceived as high-tech or cutting-edge, especially when compared to jobs in software or biotech. The irony is that these more “desirable” careers depend on anodized components, and there’s just as much excitement, innovation, and growth in anodizing – some would argue more because nothing is more gratifying than creating tangible products that we use in everyday life. Smartphone parts, car and aerospace components, medical devices, and even high-end cosmetic cases are all made using anodizing. 

What is the toughest part of your job?

Winning the trust of a new customer. When we switch a new customer to our chemistry, if there are any issues, there tends to be a feeling that it was caused by the chemistry switch. We like to tell our customers that the dye generally is an indicator of a problem, but not the problem itself. Usually, there is a process issue that is the true source of the problem, but this can be challenging for a new customer to understand. Sometimes, the stress level is very high in situations like these because the customer is under production pressure and does not want to have to deal with problems. Most of the time, we can show the customer that the underlying problem was not the new dye but something else. This builds trust and, in the long run, creates a more valuable customer.

How do you describe what you do in your job to family and friends and the importance of it?

Because anodizing is so prolific, I can usually just look around the room and point to something that is anodized and say, “I developed the chemistry and process that coated or colored this part.” In fact, every time my grandchildren are playing with my smartphone and I need to wrestle it away from them I have the opportunity to give them a quick lecture on the importance of anodizing. 

As a chemistry supplier, I teach my team that even though we work in a lab, our job is to solve for a production environment and all the urgency and other variables that come with it. 

Are you involved in any industry associations or trade groups?

We belong to the Aluminum Anodizers Council, International Hard Anodizers Associations, and the National Association for Surface Finishing. We are board members of the AAC and have given multiple presentations at the IHAA symposiums and SURFIN conferences. 

What was the first job you had in your career?

It was at Norelkote in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

What type of college, school, or training have you had?

Patel and his son, Tej, enjoy a break on a vacation.Patel and his son, Tej, enjoy a break on a vacation.I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemical engineering, but most of my practical metal finishing knowledge came from on-the-job experience. Over the course of my career, I have worked both as a metal finisher at Norelkote and Pioneer Metal Finishing and as a supplier with Haviland, Clariant (formerly Sandoz), and now Techevon. Seeing both sides has given me a deep understanding of how interdependent anodizing chemistry and process truly are. Being able to reconcile a controlled lab environment with the reality of a production line can be challenging, particularly when you’re troubleshooting issues. As a chemistry supplier, I teach my team that even though we work in a lab, our job is to solve for a production environment and all the urgency and other variables that come with it. I think this mentality has helped Techevon stand apart in our ability to resolve problems. 

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

I expect to continue in my current role at Techevon, working with my team to solve our customers’ challenges and looking for opportunities to innovate. I am particularly excited about the opportunity PFAS creates. We think anodizing can be a better alternative to organic coatings, particularly in the architectural space, and we have started developing chemistries to show how anodized finishes are better than the best PFAS-containing organic coatings. The reshoring of manufacturing from China to North America will offer great growth opportunities for anodizing, and we are seeing some good organic growth in our industry. Techevon wants to be a leader in offering chemicals that will continue to make anodizing an environmentally friendly coating.

What was the most humorous day/event you had in the finishing and coating industry?

During one of my sales visits to a pontoon manufacturer, we were going to test a new sulfuric acid-based cleaner, and we were not sure what ratio of sulfuric acid would be the best. So, we decided to add sulfuric acid at the customer’s location and test its performance. While pouring the concentrated sulfuric acid into a bucket, some leaked onto my trousers, and I dropped my pants faster than the sulfuric could touch my skin. Needless to say, my customer was very impressed by my presence of mind and the speed of my reaction. 

My father, a man who was not formally educated, but did everything to make sure I got the best education. His dedication to the family and his work are what inspired me to be what I am today.

What was your favorite subject in high school or college?

Organic chemistry

What motivates you to work hard at your job?

pp5jpgMost of the time, it is when a customer has an unusual problem such as white spots, anodic coatings blistering, etc. These are not common events in anodizing and can happen and disappear without any changes to the process. Challenges like these can be frustrating, but solving them makes us a reliable supplier to our customers, and they reward us with referrals and continued business.

Tell us about your outside hobbies and interests: 

I like to spend time with my two grandkids, who are 8 and 5. I also love being outside and like to spend time gardening in my yard. I have developed quite a collection of Japanese maples over the past few years.

What three things do you think of the most each workday?

  • How do I motivate my team to continue to innovate and develop as a company? 
  • What new products do we need to focus on in the future?
  • Is there anything more I can do to help my customers? 

Who has been the biggest mentor in your career?

My father, a man who was not formally educated, but did everything to make sure I got the best education. His dedication to the family and his work are what inspired me to be what I am today.

What is your favorite book?

I am not a big book reader, but I love cars and read Motor Trend magazine cover-to-cover every month.