AFI is always trying to evolve to become a better company and the pretreatment process before painting is no exception. Metal parts are pretreated by using a chemical bath that etches the surface and applies a performance boosting coating. The application equipment and controls of this process are the keys to a consistent, high performing final coating. AFI is continuing to upgrade the process with new technology and relationships with vendors. How are your parts pretreated? That depends on the size and quantity of your order to determine the most efficient way to complete the pretreatment.
Tunnel Multi-Stage In-Line Washer
AFI uses the PEM Spraylean system to clean and pretreat smaller, high volumes of parts. The system’s modular design and flooded pumps make it more efficient than the traditional washer systems and it is placed along the conveyor to automatically wash parts as they pass through. The stages are easier to maintain and can be physically moved and adjusted as needed. The parts pass through these stages with high pressure nozzles applying cleaner and pretreatment solutions followed by rinses to prep for coating. The keys to keeping the baths maintained are the temperature, cleanliness, and concentration of the chemical in the bath. To maintain these parameters, AFI uses a combination of manual checks, electronic monitoring and automatic pumps. The concentration is monitored electronically and automatic pumps add cleaning chemi-cal as needed to always stay within the optimal range. We also manually check the titrations of the baths once a shift to ensure that the monitors and pumps are working properly.
AFI uses the PEM SprayWand system to clean and pretreat larger or lower volume runs of parts. This sys-tem is a manual operation with a pressure washer type wand to apply the water and chemicals needed to pretreat the part. This system can be utilized to apply as many stages of cleaning and pretreatment as nec-essary to finish the job. It gives the operator the freedom to move around the part and fully pretreat the hard to reach areas. In this setup, the chemical is pumped out of the drum and added to the high pressure water to create the correct solution. The concentration of the chemical is controlled using patented orific-es that inject the chemical downstream from the pump. To verify this concentration, the solution is sprayed into a bucket and then titrated to check that the orifice is still allowing the correct amount of chemical through the wand.
If you would like to read more about pretreatment application check out Ted Schreyer’s fea-ture in Powder Coated Tough Magazine January/February 2019 Edition
Over the years, AFI has had the opportunity to work with local leaders on projects for the community. One recent project that we powder coated was the “Unity Totem” created by artist Julie Dempster. It is a change of pace to go from industrial finishing to powder coating one-of-a-kind pieces, but it is fun to see the results of these incredible projects!
The Unity Totem is located in multiple locations across the cities of Mankato & North Mankato including Sibley Park. As described by Julie “It acknowledges the first Greater Mankato inhabitants with “Welcome” in Dakota at the top. Throughout the piece, the word “Welcome” is inscribed in the majority of the 40+ languages spoken in Mankato. The Unity Totem is meant to educate and remind park visitors that the neighborhood is home to diverse cultures. It also gives neighborhood residents validation that their culture is integral to Mankato’s past, present, and future.”
Alan Baer has officially retired from AFI and has moved on to the next stages in life. He has worked at AFI for the past 28 years as the quality manager and process engineer. Alan has been a dedicated manager that played a large role in the company that AFI has become over the years. Alan planned to retire on June 4th, but decided to retire early when the COVID-19 pandemic started up. Since retiring, Alan has been busy working on projects around the house and spending time with family.
Alan enriched many lives around AFI throughout the years and he will be greatly missed! Congratulations Alan!
AFI is still up and running through the COVID-19 pandemic. We are continually decreasing lead times while holding to our tight quality standards. We are taking all necessary precautions to keep our employees and customers safe through new social distancing practices, increased cleaning, and updating our sick policies.
Contact us right for any new or existing projects you would like to have quoted!
The latest update to the Litchfield equipment is a RollSeal door that has been installed on the large batch oven. We replaced the old metal double-door with this “garage” type RollSeal door and have been impressed with the improvements.
This is a unique improvement that AFI hasn’t tried in the past, but has a few advantages. The first advantage is that this door seals the oven much better than the conventional doors. The pliable fabric of the RollSeal is pushed against the oven door frame by the pressure inside of the oven. This covers all of the small cracks in the frame creating a better seal. The improved seal not only saves us money on the gas bill, but also helps keep the temperature more even throughout the oven. This allows us to feel confident that especially long parts are being baked evenly. The second big advantage is that the door can be opened and closed remotely, just like a garage door. This advantage allows the operator to stay on the fork lift and moving the load around while the door is opening. It also reduces the amount of time that the door is open letting heat escape because the operator isn’t spending time jumping on and off the forklift.
We will continue to look for opportunities in the future, big or small, to improve our process and equipment!
EOS—Entrepreneurial Operating System— is a business managerial system that gives a company the framework to create a clear vision, simplify processes, increase accountability and uncover issues. AFI was first introduced this system in early 2018 and started to implement it’s principles through-out the rest of that year. Implementer Joe Paulsen, led us through the first full year of the program and guided us through streamlining our departments and processes. He challenged us to set new types of goals and to fight the temptation to go back to our “norm”. The ground level of the system is based on weekly “perfect” meetings in which there is no time allotted to tangents or story-time. The meeting is focused on finding issues in the company, solving them, and holding someone accountable to the solution.
The result has been a contagious culture of improvement. 2019 was the first calendar year for AFI to use the system to drive towards our goals. While we didn’t hit all of our goals, we can see that the collection of new data, putting people in the right seats, and continually improving the company culture will drive us into an improved future. EOS has pushed us to spread responsibility throughout the company and take on challenges that face each department with more focus. That focus will improve the product that AFI puts out on a daily basis and increase our reliability to our customers.
The AFI- Mallard plant received a much needed facelift this spring! Complete with new siding and lighting, the improvements have really brightened up the appearance. AFI has had a history of expansion, especially to the building. The original production space of the main building was about half of the current production space. The latest facelift brought a sharp uniformity to the building that was needed. The building was also fitted with some new windows to help keep us warm during the next Polar Vortex!
The AFI Litchfield facility has officially been open for two years now. 2018 has again brought new additions to the team and especially the equipment in the facility. Efficiency is the name of the game in Litchfield and 2018 has brought many improvements to racking and floor space. We have also added a 140’ x 40’ pad of concrete in our loading area outside of the building to help our process run smoothly.
Over the past year, the Litchfield facility has seen some major growth in business. We have had to match that growth with staffing and equipment. One of the major equipment additions to the facility is the third blast room that is being installed in December. This blast room is thirty feet long and will shoot steel grit media. This investment is addressing our biggest bottleneck in Litchfield over the past year and it will be up and running by mid-December.
Focusing on plant efficiency has been a major undertaking this year. There have been improvements to rack design for a few different projects that have cut our handling time down dramatically. Many times, it is the large projects that make sense to design new racking, but everything we design has thoughts about how to reuse it on a variety of projects. We have also gained floor space by reorganizing and using the new concrete pad outside to store unused racks.
The addition of the expanded concrete loading area has been a very good investment thus far. It has about doubled our usable space to turn around, unload trucks, and store racks. It is especially helpful in the spring when the old loading area would get very soft from the thaw of the frost
Preparations are being made at the AFI– Mankato facility for an expansion. PEM, AFI’s sister company, will be building a new facility on the lot to showcase their paint pretreatment equipment. The new building will have a state-of-the-art training center for all-things pretreatment. PEM currently uses some space within the AFI building as well as another building on the property. This project will allow AFI to move into these spaces gaining critical room to expand operations.
The new building will start going up in the spring and is planned to be completed by the end of 2019!
On December 8th, AFI had a Grand Opening for customers, community members, and family to see the new facility. It was a great night filled with music, food, and celebrating a lot of hard work. Thank you to the Mayor of Litchfield- Keith Johnson, Paul Pagel (MNTAP), and Sam Ziegler (Director; GreenSeam) for the congratulations and welcoming us to Litchfield. We even had a few guest musicians for the night: Keith Johnson, Paul Pagel, and Merle Felling (Founder; Felling Trailers) who played with the Blue Ox Jazz Babies.