Waves of Change Anchored in Quality
Posted on Thursday, July 8, 2021
By Sheila LaMothe
Established in 1953 and purchased by the Thrailkill family in 1978, All Metals Fabricating was built on the telecom boom of the 1990s. The industry crash in 2000 led the company down a path of diversification—one that would include fabrication and powder coating of medical equipment.
The process of diversifying AMF’s customer base was coupled with their relocation to Allen, TX, in 2000. As luck would have it, the new facility was located directly across the street from Quest Medical, providing AMF an “in” to the world of medical equipment manufacturing. Quest would become their first medical customer, and while today AMF’s customer base encompasses a wide array of industries, medical equipment remains an important segment, ranking fourth overall.
Following Opportunity Leads to Growth
When Bill Thrailkill and son Billy purchased All Metals Fabricating (AMF), they outsourced their paint requirements. One of the vendors they counted on was Garner Paint—a company with similar family roots to AMF. Started by Dale Garner with his son Marc in 1974, the company provided finishing services for AMF since its early days. In 2002, the Thrailkills decided to buy Garner Paint to become a more complete manufacturing solutions provider. With Marc staying on to run the business, the company was renamed WBT Paint and continued to operate out of its original Rowlett, TX, facility.
Over the period from 2006 to 2008, WBT Paint transitioned to a primarily powder coat facility to accommodate the changing demands of the industry and improve the environmental aspects of finishing. The company’s powder coating operations include a dual batch system featuring two Col-Met powder booths outfitted with Wagner Prima Sprint powder guns, along with two ovens— one from Rohner and the other a Col-Met natural gas oven.
In 2015, AMF’s third generation owner and CEO, Lance Thrailkill, moved WBT Paint into AMF’s 70,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Allen, TX, to better streamline the entire manufacturing process. The move eliminated a variety of logistical issues related to transporting parts to and from the old powder coat location and enabled the company to both tighten quality assurance controls and increase communication and teamwork.
Delivering What the Doctor Ordered
Today, AMF and WBT Paint fabricate and powder coat a variety of medical equipment products, including surgery tables, infant incubators, and cardiac responder stands. In virtually all cases, powder coating is the finish of choice due to its durability, quality, and color vibrance. Steel, both carbon and stainless, is the most common substrate, but aluminum is also used. Regardless of the substrate, the products are held to extremely high aesthetic standards.
The parts are checked for burrs, scratches, or any other imperfections that could impact the final finish before heading into pretreatment. WBT’s technical advisor, Marc Garner, shares, “To help ensure a high-quality finish, WBT uses a three-phase immersion system including degrease, clean rinse, and phosphate, followed by a second clean rinse. The parts then move to the oven to dry as well as burn off any remaining residue. After that, the team lead inspects the parts, as does the powder coater prior to painting.”
While products like surgical tables require a heavy textured finish of up to four mils to stand up to the wear and tear of everyday use and to keep fingerprints from showing, a smooth finish is more commonplace when it comes to medical equipment. These smooth finishes come with a thinner coating thickness, typically two to three mils, and a boatload of challenges. “With the smooth finishes there is no hiding blemishes or imperfections,” shares Lance. “All of our medical products require extreme attention to detail and close inspection. As Marc mentioned, the chemical pretreat is key to ensuring the cosmetic finish our customers are looking for,” he adds. When it comes to final inspection a MG6-F1 gloss meter, a PosiTector ultrasonic thickness gage, and HunterLab MiniScan EZ spectrophometer ensure adherence to ASTM standards, confirmation of coating thickness, and color consistency from job to job.
And the Beat Goes On
Two to three years ago, AMF was contacted by an Australian company who found them as the result of a Google search. The company was looking for a partner that could help them establish their business in the U.S. for an exciting new product—ZapStand—the cardiac responder stand referred to previously in this article. The ZapStand is a ‘smart’ automated external defibrillator (AED) delivery system for use in municipal areas such as parks. The system is monitored 24-hours a day and provides real time, step-by-step assistance in a cardiac emergency. In addition, when the button is pressed to access the AED, it automatically turns on the GPS inside the cardiac responder directing the ambulance to the exact location of the medical emergency.
Lance shares that the development phase of the project took a good year or so to complete. AMF produces the complete ZapStand unit, including fabrication and powder coating of the aluminum enclosure and internal steel racks. The initial ten stands were installed in Frisco, TX, between November 2020 and January 2021. With the first group of ZapStands deployed and active, the plan is to install 2,500 ZapStands across the U.S. over the next seven years. “It’s rewarding to be part of something that is saving lives,” says Lance. In fact, according to zapstand.com at the time of writing this article, ZapStand was responsible for saving 72 lives.
Perfection is Our Goal. Quality is Our Guarantee.
One might think the fortuitous Google search that connected AMF with ZapStand was a fluke, but that is not the case. When Lance joined AMF in 2008, he put an emphasis on SEO (search engine optimization). His dad doubted his efforts and Lance recalls him saying, “You mean to tell me somebody is going to send us business because they found us on Google without ever coming to our plant? I find that hard to believe.” Lance’s response? “We’ll see.” Thirteen years later, Lance estimates nearly half of their top customers are the result of Google searches, including another major customer from Australia.
We all know that times change. Sales by Google search is an example that would blow the minds of previous generations. For WBT Paint, change is resulting in a rebranding effort. “Since we no longer wet paint, our name is not representative of the services we provide,” explains Lance. “Plus, we are looking to grow that part of our business. In the past WBT has only supported AMF’s powder coating needs, but we are beginning to focus on expanding so others can benefit from the quality powder coating that WBT offers,” he adds. While the new company name is not set in stone, All Powder Coat & Screen, is the current front runner (the company also silk screens).
Times are changing at WBT Paint, but one thing for certain will remain the same. All Powder Coat & Screen will continue to deliver the high-quality powder coating WBT Paint prides itself on, and their customers—medical equipment and otherwise—have come to expect. New, young management may be leading the rebranding charge, but it’s veteran Marc Garner who, much to the surprise of his younger colleagues, came up with their official rebranding slogan that echoes the company’s history and leads them into the future, “Perfection is our goal. Quality is our guarantee.”
Sheila LaMothe is editor of Powder Coated Tough.