AFI would like to introduce Rachel Holt as our new quality manager as of April 2022.
She has been developing into her role since January of 2021 working as a quality technician throughout our facilities. Rachel was referred to AFI by a friend and intrigued to become a part of our team because of our family culture. Rachel has shown excellent motivation to grow and learn in her career leading her to develop strong relationships with both customers and colleagues. Rachel is a native to Mankato, MN. She graduated from Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School in Courtland, MN. After high school, Rachel attended college at Bethany Lutheran College where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Her previous jobs have included managing teams and processes in customer service. Rachel’s aspirations with Associated Finishing Inc. mirror the top qualities we were looking for in a Quality Manager. Her attention to detail has been a staple to our production team. Rachel will oversee all quality issues that may arise, determine the root cause, complete corrective action cases, and also document and manage the data collection on any given issue. Rachel will play a pivotal role in continuing our ISO 9001certification and continually improving our quality management system. She was very involved in improving our quality system in the months leading up to the most recent ISO audit and through this process she got a in-depth look at the strengths and opportunities our quality system. While she admits she has much yet to learn, we are excited about her willingness to push for success into the future. Rachel’s goals within her position as Quality Manager are to develop new processes that will help the company as a whole improve customer quality and satisfaction. She believes Quality Managers need to be able to act on their observations and make strategic suggestions about how to uphold quality standards and improve the accuracy of outgoing shipments. They’re strong leaders who can motivate and train their team with relevant feedback and helpful suggestions. Overall, Rachel believes that quality is one of the most important aspects of the industry and she is very committed to helping this department grow! Outside of being a Quality Manager, Rachel’s favorite activities include exploring nature and hiking with her dog. She also loves kayaking down the Blue Earth river and spending time with family and friends.
Associated Finishing has officially expanded beyond the borders of Minnesota for the first time in our history. AFI Carolina, is located in Statesville, NC about forty-five minutes north of Charlotte. The opportunity to start a production facility popped up in North Carolina and it was attractive because of its growing industrial market, existing customer base, and close support of some business partners. Starting a facility outside of a day’s drive from Mankato is new to us and comes with its challenges, but it is a step in the future of our growth.
AFIC was officially started January 1st of this year. The original jobs in the door were painting screw heads, off-road truck equipment, and miscellaneous parts for a local OEM. The current equipment is set up best to cater to metal fabricators and OEM’s needing a durable industrial finish that flashes at their customers. The knowledge of over 60 years in the finishing industry in the Midwest will ensure that the Statesville area will have proven system for high performance coatings for years to come.
Housed in a 10,000 sq ft building in the Statesville’s industrial park, the facility is outfitted with two paint booths, a 20’ blast room, two 12’ ovens, and a 16’ spray-bay. The building is set up to both powder coat and liquid paint staying consistent the company’s vision to always remain as flexible as possible in our production capabilities. Starting small, the production team had three employees that were working parts through the process. The production throughput has been ramping up all year and AFIC has now grown to six full time production employees. AFI’s QC manager Collin Schreyer relocated to the area to lead the team while maintaining Quality Coordinator responsibilities for all plants. The plan is to keep growing steadily, adding capacity in both equiment and employees, as stronger relationships are built within the area.
The year 2021 ushered in a brand new chapter in Associated Finishing’s family history. John Kapsner, our long-time financial manager and ownership partner decided it was time to sell his interest in AFI and spend more time fishing, enjoying grandchildren, and traveling. We congratulate John on his retirement, wish him well on his endeavors, and thank him for his years of service.
We are excited to announce that John’s retirement created the opportunity for long-time AFI leaders to purchase shares and enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of business ownership. Our leadership team of Jammey Harroun, Mick Rykhus, Matt Miller, and Ryan Kapsner were able to purchase John’s shares along with present owner/president Ted Schreyer. Schreyer comments, ”I’m so glad we were able to keep the company closely held rather than selling to private equity which is so common now days. This team has helped make AFI what it is today and they deserve the opportunity to own it. It’s a credit to the team that we were able to pull this off. We’re still the same company with the same commitment to our customers, now more of us have skin in the game.”
Ted went on to comment, “John Kapsner has done a great service to this company and we’ll miss working with him. He was our banker in the 1980’s and joined us to manage our administrative functions in 1988. We’ve had a great run with him running administration while I ran operations. We bought out Chuck Klammer in 2009 and he’s been a perfect partner. It’s bittersweet that I won’t be tending to AFI on a daily basis with John anymore, but I’m excited to have this team with me as partners. While they’re young and energetic, they bring a wealth of experience and knowledge of the finishing industry. Congratulations John, we hope that you enjoy a long and exciting retirement!“
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!