Instrumental Family

Posted on Friday, January 21, 2022

By Michael Beamish

DeFelsko Corporation, a leading U.S. manufacturer of coating thickness gages and inspection instruments, is a multi-generational family-owned company that has supplied simple, durable, and accurate gages to the global coatings industry since 1965.

DeFelsko’s founder, and my grandfather, Frank Koch, was born and raised in Germany and formally trained as a tool and die maker before emigrating in 1956. In the 1960s, my grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to Ogdensburg, NY, where he started several successful businesses, including DeFelsko Corporation.

It was his involvement with coating thickness and test instruments that most defined his career. He began importing and selling inspection instruments from Germany in the early 1960s and soon moved into manufacturing, beginning with the PosiTest mechanical pull-off gage and continuing with the ever-expanding PosiTector series of inspection instruments.

His ability to understand the needs of the inspection community and to make instruments that were rugged and easy to use set my grandfather apart from his peers. The PosiTest mechanical coating thickness gage was the first instrument designed by DeFelsko in response to the shortcomings in existing products on the market. It had a more stable design, a unique rare-earth cobalt magnet, and a balance arm assembly that improved the resolution, accuracy, and longevity of the instrument. Other innovative changes included a removable center dial for simple calibration adjustments and a built-in V-groove for positioning on cylindrical objects.

Under my grandfather’s leadership, DeFelsko also pioneered several other technologies including handheld ultrasonic coating thickness gages, auto switching ferrous/ non-ferrous coating thickness gages, and unique self-aligning adhesion testers.

The Next Generation
In 1988, as the company increased its manufacturing capacity, Frank’s daughter Linda (my mother) and her husband David Beamish (my father) joined the company. With a degree in civil engineering and a background working in the high-tech sector, my father brought a range of skills to the organization. My mother’s educational background in chemistry and previous work in international marketing at a large-scale manufacturer provided relevant experience that prepared her for a leadership role at DeFelsko.

Along with the focus on manufacturing came significant investments in research and development. Over the following years DeFelsko pioneered several industry- changing technologies including the first fully interchangeable inspection instrument (featuring compatibility with coating thickness, dew point, surface profile, soluble salt, ultrasonic wall thickness and hardness probes), the first reusable ISO-compliant salt contamination measurement method with no sharps or adhesives, and the first handheld, field-ready instrument for 3D-imaging of blasted surfaces.

Throughout this time, the demand for quality inspection equipment grew as newer coatings and industry requirements increased the need for tight quality controls. Customers who had never measured coating thickness before suddenly required a gage, and existing users often needed to upgrade for enhanced features like statistics and onboard memory. That same trend continues today.

Getting Involved
Upon my grandfather’s death in 2011, my father assumed even more responsibilities as the president of the company. It was under his leadership that a working partnership with the Powder Coating Institute began to grow. My father volunteered his time to rewrite the Test and Measurement Equipment module and slide-deck presented to the students at PCI’s Powder Coating 101 and 202 workshops. He also made time to travel and deliver presentations and the training module to students around the country until his untimely death in 2019. In 2020, he was posthumously inducted into the Powder Coating Institute’s Hall of Fame.

Like Father, Like Son
Even from a young age, I always had an interest in the business. I began working at home after school completing paperwork for some international shipments, and in my teenage years I manned the DeFelsko booth at several industry conferences, learning the art of selling from my father. During some of my summer breaks from college I continued working at DeFelsko—this time in the engineering department taking an active role in the development of DeFelsko’s first generation instrument for measuring the thickness of powder coatings prior to cure.

In 2014, I concluded my formal education in engineering and law and decided to join the company full time. My first task was to oversee the design and construction of a large expansion and renovation of DeFelsko’s facilities, setting a path for continued innovation and growth. I am now a third-generation owner with over 15 years’ experience in the design, manufacture, and marketing of testing instruments in a variety of international industries including painting, plating, powder coating, quality inspection, and manufacturing. Like my father, I give presentations, conduct training seminars, and am an active member of various organizations including AMPP—the Association for Materials Protection and Performance, PCI—the Powder Coating Institute, CCAI—the Chemical Coaters Association International, ASTM—American Society for Testing and Materials and ISO—International Organization for Standardization.

I have also continued my father’s work reviewing PCI technical course content. Acting as a subject matter expert for PCI’s Education Committee, I recently reviewed and updated inspection equipment presentation slides and accompanying content in the Powder Coating Handbook that his father had originally written.

Along with DeFelsko Sales Manager Jeff Truskowski, I also developed the ‘Standard of Work’ for the hands-on portion of the Powder Coating 202 workshop. Both of us are approved and qualified PCI speakers and regularly present at PCI’s Powder Coating Technical Conference, training sessions, and workshops.

Like my grandfather and my father before me, I’ve dedicated my life to the improvement and promotion of the science of coating inspection. Together with my mother, Linda Koch Beamish, we are leading DeFelsko into the 21st century.

Today, the company my grandfather started employs over 80 people at our modern facility in Ogdensburg, NY, which houses research, manufacturing, sales, shipping, and service departments. Our products are well known in the powder coating industry and are sold under the PosiTector, PosiTest and PosiPen brands, including the PosiTector series of interchangeable probes for measuring coating thickness, dew point, surface profile, wall thickness, and more.

Michael Beamish is vice president & general manager, DeFelsko Corporation.