For owner Greg Wood, the “secret sauce” to the success of Alpha Metal Finishing is the emphasis he puts on leadership development and building great teams at his Dexter, Michigan, company.
“Truthfully, the technical problems are easier to manage than the people problems at times,” says Wood. “But that is all part of what makes this an adventure.”
Since Wood took over the company for his father, Bob, in 2010, he has strived to have AMF be culture-driven and process-focused. It hasn’t been easy, but the results have been rewarding.
“It takes a lot of work and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to maintain,” he says.
New Lines, Improved Equipment
Founded in 1976, AMF specializes in Type II anodizing (clear and lots of colors), Type III hardcoat anodizing (natural and color), chromate conversion Type I and Type II, and stainless steel passivation.
The stainless steel passivation line was their newest addition when it was brought on in 2018. That was just a slew of new and upgraded features and equipment that Wood added, including:
- New hardcoat controller.
- Lab and titration equipment.
- Versatile, multi-use racking.
- New reverse osmosis system.
- New scanning and barcode system for production and process.
- New waste treatment equipment.
- Security camera system.
“Without a doubt, 2020 was an incredibly tough year for everyone and we are all still feeling its effects,” Wood says. “In spite of challenges we encountered last year, Alpha was able to invest in new equipment and technologies to make things better for our team and for our customers. We are grateful to be able to make a difference in the manufacturing industry.”
Creating Strong Team After Downturn
Wood serves as President and Owner, with Jamie Barrus as his Vice President; Brian Muscat as Project and Process Manager; Damon Cappelli in Quality Assurance; Linda Bateman in Shipping and Receiving; John Nebelung is the Maintenance Mechanic; and Debbie Haynes as Senior Production Specialist.
When Wood joined Alpha in 2010 to help his father after the huge economic downtown crushed manufacturing in the U.S., he had to do everything he could to save the business. This painfully included letting go of some staff that did not have a growth mindset.
Greg’s emphasis on culture and collaboration among team members began to take hold. Barrus was one of the first people Wood noticed as a strong potential leader and she has risen up through the ranks to now Vice President. “Jamie is a servant leader and she really cares about our customers,” says Wood. “More than that, she loves our team and they know it.”
“Changing the culture of the business back to Bob’s original focus of faith, family and work was a big leap forward,” Barrus says. “Prior to Greg stepping up, I don’t think I would have ever thought about staying here. Now, with the dramatic changes that have been made, one being Alpha’s culture and the improvement of Alpha’s quality, it’s exciting to work here and see our customers take notice. It has been wonderful to have Alpha invest in my education and career development. I am happy I made the decision to stay and help Greg with Alpha and the team grow throughout the years.”
Three Generations Call AMF Home
In fact, three generations of Barrus’s family now work at AMF. Linda Bateman is her mother, and BrieAnna, Barrus’s daughter, is the newest member of their family to begin working at AMF in production.
Alpha Metal Finishing was founded in 1976 by Bob, who was a licensed professional engineer and entrepreneur. He previously owned a sheet metal shop and worked with aluminum. When the opportunity for him to purchase a declining finishing company presented itself he took a leap of faith and Alpha Metal Finishing was born.
AMF serves a large variety of manufacturing industries: medical device, sensors, military and defense, sporting goods, university/college engineering departments, robotics, optical, aerospace, computer, electronics, art, pneumatic, firearms, automotive.
They currently employ 18 team members with one shift and flex hours to adapt to heavier job order schedules, a far cry from the almost 80 employees the company had in the 1990s working around the clock.
Planning to Add Titanium Anodizing
“Since we are becoming limited in space, we are exploring opportunities to expand,” he says.
One thing AMF did expand on was its image and branding. They launched a new website in April with a goal to make it easier for their manufacturing customers to find the resources they need to help with the jobs and challenges they face in their daily operations.
“I think we accomplished that, and we feel that the website is a better reflection of who we are and what we do,” Wood says. “One of the best ways we have found to attract and retain new business comes from the many referrals we receive from our current customer base. We also provide some direct mailings from time to time.”
Finding Their Finishing Sweet Spot
But Wood says they have also learned very specifically what jobs are in their “sweet spot” and what jobs are not. “Saying ‘no’ to the jobs that do not fit our strengths is key,” he says.
AMF works with various suppliers to provide their outstanding services to its customers, including Reliant Aluminum Products, Haviland, BASF, Echo Supplies, Layered From Zero, Ann Arbor Technical Services, Sequel, Alro Steel, Rightech Fabrication, Coffer Contracting, Mid-Tech Inc., Carlson Erie, and Schupan.
Wood says AMF continues to grow in sales and employment at a steady rate, and they have made it a priority to invest and upgrade in newer technologies to better serve their customers, as well as be more profitable.
“We continue to adapt to the changes in our industry, and we are positioned for greater growth and opportunities,” he says. “We feel like we are in a good place, and we look forward to serving manufacturing in the next chapter.”
Customer Service Excellence
“I think if I had to sum up who we are as a company, it is that we care,” Wood says. “We really love taking care of our customers and making their experience in service and quality an exceptional one. I continue to be amazed at the innovative ways that my team discovers to improve our processes and push us forward.
Wood says it is rewarding to know that they are celebrating 45 years in the industry this year, and yet when they hear from customers how they made their day special, it reminds them of why they do what we do.
In fact, Wood shared a recent note he received from a new customer:
"Everyone at our company feels very fortunate to have been introduced to Alpha Metal Finishing. We were struggling to find a relatively local source for anodizing that could meet our high aesthetic requirements. When we received back the first two samples, I heard no less than 10 different people across our plant referencing them and how "perfect" they were! We got them back on a Friday afternoon, and after all the hard work that went into getting them completed, everyone in the office was high-fiving our way out the door before the weekend. A huge win to end the week on! We can't thank the Alpha Metal Finishing team enough. They're wonderful to work with!"
“When you hear that kind of statement, you know you are making a difference and doing what you are called to do,” Wood says. “It is very satisfying.”