person at plating tank

The Need for Trained Hard Chrome Workers

The hard chrome plating industry will soon face an unprecedented crisis, and some operations are already suffering from this problem.

Eric Svenson Sr.Eric Svenson Sr.We are not talking about the overly restrictive EPA or OSHA regulations because those issues have been solved with updated equipment designs and Zero-Discharge technology, where the chemicals are captured and recycled. No ongoing liquid waste products exist, and the exhausted air is below the chromium (Cr) detectable limits (essentially Zero).

A critical problem our hard chrome industry faces today involves their labor force. It is common for the job and captive shops to employ tank-side platers who lack in-depth knowledge of the process, including their production supervisors. This employee shortfall often triggers:

  • A decrease in product quality and production efficiency.
  • An increase in the rework needed at 3X the cost.
  • Reduced income and dwindling profits.
  • Slower deliveries and customer dissatisfaction.
  • A loss of customers and market share.

Working to Solve the Industry Issues

There are two separate problems here:

  1. The retirement of experienced employees, commonly known as ‘The Old-Timers’. They had plenty of hands-on experience and could solve most plating and production problems. Their replacements are typically promoted from within but lack the extensive knowledge to keep the shop operating at peak efficiency. This results in the inability to solve the day-to-day problems that always develop. An especially critical period is the year before a lead-plater retires because downloading their knowhow is virtually impossible. Critical information is lost, and this technical gap leads to costly disruptions in production.
  2. The other problem is that much misinformation is accepted as gospel but is false. One example is believing that porous pots should be used to remove trivalent, iron, and copper. There are much better, faster, more efficient, and cheaper ways to handle these common bath impurities. This topic was covered in previous articles. Then, there are misconceptions about producing top-quality deposits, preventing bath impurities, reverse etching times, base metal activation, stop-off, anoding and fixturing techniques. Even the ‘old-timers’ are not immune to these errors.

The problem hard chrome currently faces is finding employees with the required knowledge and talents. Successfully applying hard chrome requires a different skill set than other electroplating processes. This points to the critical need for technology updates and employee training.

These skills are not taught in trade schools, and the electroplating industry overlooks the special needs for hard chrome applications. The only training course known is through the NAMF, and theirs barely scratches the surface of what is needed. A successful hard chrome operation requires employees with a broad and in-depth understanding of the process and its complexities. Profitability begins with having a well-trained workforce.

Companies are Hungry for Trained Hard Chrome Platers

Trained and Certified Hard Chrome PlatersTrained and Certified Hard Chrome Platers.The positive news is workforce education always leads to improvements in the overall operation. Having the workers and supervisors properly trained reduces rework, lowers costs, enhances the bottom line, and even increases market share. This also lowers frustrations at work and improves employee retention.

Plating Resources, Inc. recently developed a training program specifically for the hard chrome plater. Initially designed to train employees with no background experience, it was later expanded to include subjects vital to those with hard chrome experience.

This training program is notably named Hard Chrome University, and it is being further developed for worldwide availability to both job and captive operations. Hard Chrome University would be beneficial to both experienced hard chromes looking to improve their operations and new hires with no prior knowledge. It is also prudent that the plating supervisors and some of the management team receive this training. The program can even be used for retraining or to help with employee turnover.

The Hard Chrome University program is flexible, so it can also be focused on problem-solving for those already familiar with hard chrome plating and the equipment, chemicals, and procedures used. It can also include optional testing of the student’s knowledge, with a Certification provided to those passing an exam.

Each student receives a copy of our in-depth training manual titled ‘Hard Chrome University’ for study and future reference. This illustrated manual covers every topic in the program, which includes:

  • Chromium’s beneficial properties and why it’s used.
  • The equipment used and their improvements.
  • Bath chemistry and operating conditions.
  • Plating calculations.
  • DC electricity, conductivity, and current distribution.
  • Anode and fixture designs.
  • Stop-off, selective plating, shields and thieves.
  • Surface preparation and reverse etching.
  • Rinsing, Zero Discharge, and chemical recovery techniques.
  • Stripping methods.
  • Bath impurities and purification.
  • Solving plating defects.
  • Improving corrosion resistance.
  • High-efficiency plating processes for 50% more production.
  • Bath analysis and control.
  • Quality control and special techniques.
  • System operation, maintenance procedures, and worker safety.
  • Protecting the environment.

Tailoring the Training Needs

Training starts with a detailed bath analysis.Training starts with a detailed bath analysis.This training program can be tailored to your needs because it’s provided in three different ways:

  1. Attending Classes at our location in Cocoa, Florida: This program can take up to 40 hours (5 days), depending on the desired topics and the depth required by the students. It can be shortened by tailoring it to specific problem areas for those with prior hard chrome experience. This program is held in a classroom environment and allows time to focus on specific problem areas with questions and discussions.
  2. Training at Your Facility: Our plating engineers and technicians at your location can provide on-site training. This approach allows for hands-on training in plating your parts using your equipment and can also evaluate your equipment, set-up, and procedures. A quiet area with a table, chairs, blackboard, projector, and screen is required. This is generally the most efficient and beneficial approach. The overall timeframe can vary between 2 and 5 days, depending on the topics needed and any special requirements.
  3. Subscribing to an On-Line School: An online course allows students to make progress at their own pace, even during off-hours. Included are provisions for answering questions and offering any additional support that may be needed. All critical topics are covered with the testing and certification also made available. The online school provides a knowledge base similar to a trade school. Additional advanced training is also available that may be helpful for the plating supervisor. This on-line course is currently under development and should be available in the near future. One special feature of the on-line course is the student’s ability to learn in phases with each topic leading to the next.

There are pros and cons for each option, depending on the situation. Sending employees to our school could be more costly (depending on their number) because of the travel and living expenses involved. If the entire team attends at the same time, there would be a loss of production for that week. This can be overcome by only training the supervisory and a few key employees or by training the crew in phases.

One note: any training options should start with a detailed analysis of your bath’s chemistry and impurity loading. This provides a baseline and critical information on subjects needing special attention for future improvement.

The bottom line is that the relatively small cost of employee training is a tiny fraction of the rewards gained with increased production, improved quality, and better customer satisfaction.

Please email the author at the email below with your preferences, requests, and suggestions. We would greatly appreciate this, and it will help direct us in further developing this valuable program to assist your company.

Eric Svenson Sr. is CEO of Plating Resources, He is also a Master CEF, IUSF, and can be reached at