Robotics has become a big part of the culture at Quality Metal Finishing in Byron, IL, which is about 90 minutes east of Chicago.
QMF has succeeded for almost 75 years since the company was founded.But don’t let the precision inanimate machinery fool you; humans are a major reason why
“One thing you wouldn’t know about QMF until you walked into the door is how family-oriented the environment truly is,” says Matthew Bortoli, Owner, and President.
“When you become a part of the QMF family, we care about you,” says Brandon Wolf, Vice President of Operations. “We want the best for you, and we want to see you succeed. QMF will help you learn the skills you need to be successful at our facility and at any other manufacturing or plating facility.”
Combined Zinc Die Caster, Polisher, and Plater
QMF is a unique metal finisher in that it is also a major zinc die caster too, as well as offering machining, polishing and buffing, and decorative chrome plating. They were founded in 1947 and have grown from a regional business to a leading global producer of decorative zinc die casting and metal-plated products.
“We started as a polishing, buffing, and metal plating company it has now become a full service start to finish zinc die casting and metal plating organization,” says Joe Bortoli, QMF’s General Manager.
Today, their facility spans 180,000 square feet, and they say they still maintain three main core competencies of zinc die casting, metal finishing, and decorative chrome plating for various industries, including plumbing, electronics, automotive, hardware, and medical.
While QMF’s offerings haven’t changed much in the last 75 years, the last two years have seen them introduce some newer technology to advance their efficiency in the metal plating industry.
Matthew Bortoli says the buffing and maintenance teams have built automation programs and the inner workings for three buffing and polishing robots.
“The QMF teams finished two robots last year, and the third robotic cell was finished this year,” he says.
New Ultrasonic Cleaning System
In addition, this year, QMF has also been working on a new ultrasonic cleaning system to clean their metal parts before they go to be plated.
“This will become a major improvement to our facility as it cuts supply costs and increases the overall consistent quality of our products,” Wolf says. “The development of this cleaning system has the potentially significant cost savings per year for QMF.”
Joe Bortoli adds that they have also been working towards getting their new automated die-casting robot fully programmed to make their die-casting department more productive and cost-efficient.
QMF has about 65 employees working three shifts, and Matthew Bortoli says the facility is always changing, growing, and progressing, but right now, it is a difficult period due to labor shortages.
“We are making the proper adjustments within the facility to continue with high production,” Bortoli says. “We are increasing our staffing efforts to hopefully grow our facility to a larger compacity.”
Multiple Expansions All Under One Roof
QMF traces its roots in 1947 as a buffing shop in Rockford, IL, and about three years later took over the operations of Stevens Manufacturing in nearby Byron, which was a supplier to QMF. The management team of QMF revitalized Stevens and took over operations while growing through multiple expansions to become a privately-held company all under one roof.
Because QMF is an integrated supplier of zinc die castings, machining, polishing and buffing, and decorative chrome plating, Matthew Bortoli says they have the ability to offer more competitive pricing versus their competition.
“Our competitors must ship a customer’s parts to multiple suppliers in multiple locations in order to provide the same end product,” he says.
Wolf says that because QMF completes everything in-house, their turnaround time is much faster than our competition.
“Our lead time from engineering to first part approval is the quickest in the industry,” he says. “Our integrated process allows us to finish and plate products within hours of producing a die casting.”
Metal Polishing By Hand, Semi-Automatic, and Automatic Metal Buffing
QMF uses a unique blend of metal polishing, including hand buffing, semi-automatic, as well as automatic metal buffing machinery developed by their engineers to produce millions of components annually.
“Special care is taken at each step, with a close examination of potential problem areas such as parting lines, concealed surfaces, and other part features,” Wolf says.
A visit to the QMF plant shows one of the nation’s largest automated copper, nickel, chrome rack plating lines. In addition to bright chrome on die-cast zinc, they also offer brushed nickel and satin chrome finishes which are popular in many home décor products, plus specialty plating of brass.
To retain its customer base, Joe Bortoli says QMF is always trying to streamline its products from start to finish, and they always strive to maintain the best quality standard throughout the entire process.
“We work with customers to engineer their product, and we make any adjustments necessary to meet the customer’s needs,” he says. “We continue to implement new technologies and software to streamline and improve quality because, at the end of the day, our end customer is who we are constantly improving for.”
QMF is continuously growing and expanding with new technology and innovation for our facility.
“Our newest offering to customers and potential customers is miniature zinc die castings,” Wolf says.
Customers Can Rely on Consistency and Quality
“When customers are in a pinch and need us, we always do everything in our power to solve their headaches while also providing our goods and services to them on a regular basis and in a timely fashion,” he says.
And despite the addition of robots and automation equipment that never calls in sick, Matthew Bortoli says the family atmosphere is what makes QMF special to its team, which also benefits their customers.
He says their best days in the shop would be when their team communicates from department to department and supersedes all of our daily goals. QMF also strives to have a fun and safe environment as well, so at least once a month, they will have some type of event or theme day to keep up morale.
“They feel accomplished as a team, and we share the numbers and progress with them daily, so they know they are a part of something greater,” Matthew Bortoli says.