FuzeHub sits down with Tom Basile, Sales and Service Manager at Square One Coating Systems, a metal finishing company in Oriskany, NY with over 100 years of combined experience and technical expertise.
Steve Melito: Welcome to New York State Manufacturing now powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito, and today we are going to speak with Tom Basile. And Tom is the quality manager at Square One Coating Systems in Oriskany, New York.
Tom Basile: Yes, I am.
Steve Melito: Welcome, Tom.
Tom Basile: Thank you.
Steve Melito: Tom, what’s the story of Square One? How long has the company been around, and how’d you get started?
Tom Basile: Square One’s been around about eight years. The owner, Lloyd Ploof, wanted to get into the business of metal finishing. That was his background. My background also. And he decided he wanted to create a new business center basically because competition in the area was lost when former metal finisher left the area years ago and there was only one choice, so people were going to that choice or going out of state even. He decided he wanted to create a business to bring some of the work back in and generate some employment also, as he put it.
Steve Melito: How many folks do you employ today?
Tom Basile: About 22 people at this time. We are adding a few more on in the near future. And we’ve been adding lines on steadily, so we have to look at another shift even with more people.
Steve Melito: Tell me about some of the services that you provide.
Tom Basile: We offer a full line of metal finishing from anodizing to chemical films, passivation. Electroless nickel’s one of our big specialties. We do all sorts of electroless nickel, high phos, mid phos, electroless nickel, boron nitride, ceramic electroless nickel, and nickel teflon we do also.
Steve Melito: Some of those sound like they might be aerospace metals.
Tom Basile: Yes.
Steve Melito: Is that true?
Tom Basile: We are aerospace certified. We do use a lot of nickel in some of the aerospace products we’re doing now. We’re seeing more and more aerospace customers since we received our AS9100 certification.
Steve Melito: Have you been involved in the aerospace market since day one, or is this a relatively new thing?
Tom Basile: Very little. When we first started, it was at first, no. But after about a year we started seeing a few customers, and we were always kind of on the edge of being to the next level. And it didn’t happen until we got the AS9100. Then all of a sudden we seem to get a lot of people with interest because they see that you have put the effort in to have the certification and all the quality standards naturally.
Steve Melito: And as the quality manager, I’m going to guess you were pretty involved in that process.
Tom Basile: Lloyd hired me to get involved in that process. He actually started and did a great job. He contacted an agency to get it going. We worked with them, and we actually achieved it in a matter of, I’d say once we did that, six months’ time. He’s very well disciplined in keeping those systems in place and that’s what we do best.
Steve Melito: And I believe Lloyd’s an engineer by training.
Tom Basile: Yes, Lloyd’s a chemical engineer. I’m a chemical engineer, and our operations manager’s a chemical engineer. We all have at least a minimum of 30 years experience in the field of metal finishing.
Steve Melito: How has that field changed over the last 20, 30 years?
Tom Basile: I think a big thing I see is quality standards are up much more. Another level of quality is Nadcap, which is another level of above and beyond aerospace. We’re looking at that now also. That’s a lot of procedures that have to be followed, documented every time you run a product and certified too.
Steve Melito: When I think about quality, we often talk about applications like aerospace. Do you do medical as well? That’s very quality driven.
Tom Basile: We’re getting into that little by little. Basically, our machine shops that we do business with or other contractors, they’re the primary, we’re the secondary on a lot of that stuff. So, from a direct medical, I’d say don’t see much. But from them to us, yes.
Steve Melito: We have kind of worked together a little bit on a success story. A couple of years ago there was a requester that came to FuzeHub. They were from the Southern Tier looking for something that seemed impossible. We had you in our resource network, and you began talking to the company. I’m hoping you can maybe tell a little bit about that story.
Tom Basile: Once we got our AS9100 certification, I contacted the FuzeHub, Everton Henriques. And within a short while after, you had contacted Lloyd Ploof on this project. And a company that’s in the incubator at Cornell, and it started off as a research thing and it kept getting bigger and bigger at this point. And now it’s looks like a very good product for the future, hopefully, for them and us, ours relationship.
Steve Melito: Are there other markets that you’re really looking at, maybe that you haven’t been in before? Or what’s coming ahead?
Tom Basile: Knowing Lloyd, yes. As I say, he’s very aggressive at looking at things. He likes challenges. He likes high tech stuff. He really gets into that. He’ll see something and he’ll wonder, ” Hey, can we do this? Can we take it further?” That’s the way he is, so yeah, I’d say definitely yes.
Steve Melito: Do you do any automotive work?
Tom Basile: There’s some for second-tier contractors. We do see some, not a lot. In this area, unfortunately, the big automotive people have moved out years ago, so you don’t see as much as you used to.
Steve Melito: How about in the defense industry? Do you do some work there?
Tom Basile: Yes. Some of our people we do business with are doing work for larger corporations like Curtiss-Wright, GE, Lockheed Martin. We’re the next level down, basically, on that. We just picked up one a few weeks back, a large military contractors’ supplier out here is now going to us, so we’ll start seeing that one.
Steve Melito: That’s great. Does your location help you? Oriskany is near Utica? Not far from the Southern Tier, not far from Syracuse, Rochester.
Tom Basile: I think it does because we can send a truck out every day and to pick up in Rochester, Albany, depending, Syracuse, Binghamton area, so we head in all directions, and we’re looking to expand that in the near future with another truck, looks like.
Steve Melito: Tell me a little bit about the workforce. You said you have about 22 employees. Are there a lot of long time folks there?
Tom Basile: There’s a few, yes. We basically got the operations manager, who started from day one. He’s the one that built the company up, basically. We have our electroless nickel people, who have been on there for several years. Our night future supervisor, he’s got 30 some years experience in there, and he’s been with us a while now. So, we’re starting to build a base of people staying longer, thank god. There’s a lot of training involved to get to what we want in quality naturally, so to keep people long-term is key to us.
Steve Melito: Is good help hard to find?
Tom Basile: Yes, it is very tough. It’s a tough market. The skill that we look for isn’t common anymore in this area. Electroplating, metal finishing is not a very common application anymore. Years ago it was, now it’s not.
Steve Melito: How does electroplating work? I’ve heard the term before, but I’m not sure I really understand the process.
Tom Basile: In the metal fishing you’ve got – I’ll use nickel as an example. There’s electrolytic nickel, which uses electric current, and there’s electroless. They call it an auto catalytic reaction. It works upon a chemical reaction. The electrolytic, you’ve got a positive and negative part. Your positive is the metal and your negative is the product you’re putting it to, and when you apply current in this metal solution, the nickel solution say, it transfers the nickel ions from the positive to the negative and it sticks to the product, basically.
Steve Melito: How does it compare to some other options that people might use?
Tom Basile: The only other option you have against plating would be different types of either dip coatings, like plastics or powder coating as a paint finishes. Biggest advantage of electrolytic plating, corrosion resistance is a major factor when you do different types of electrolytic plating.
Steve Melito: Have there been advances in the technology?
Tom Basile: In the chemistries, I’d say definitely yes. In the quality of the equipment, the type of power sources, the testing equipment, they’ve all definitely made some advances in the last few years.
Steve Melito: We had to chat earlier, and you mentioned that at your place you really have a lot of equipment. It’s running almost full bore. What kind of equipment do you have?
Tom Basile: Our lines, our chemical process tanks are running full gear in a lot of cases. I mean we just put an anodized line in last year, and that’s pretty steadily busy right now and nice to see. All our test equipment. We’ve got XRF, which we use it for all the lines, measuring the thickness of the metals for our quality aspects. We are putting in a fog chamber, salt spray chamber for corrosion testing, so we’re advancing in those areas right now as far as equipment.
Steve Melito: You wear a couple of different hats-
Tom Basile: Yes.
Steve Melito: In addition to quality manager.
Tom Basile: Yeah, it’s fun though. I’ve got the quality manager, and right now my main job there is, naturally is the quality, but we’re looking to get Nadcap certified. That’s another major task. I go on the road and do sales because I can understand the customer’s needs from a quality standpoint better too. It helps me there. And I bring along Lloyd once in a while, and the other operations matter Jody. And that helps. The relationship we build with people helps. And I do research. The project we talked about with Cornell, I do all the research application. I mean, it’s a joint venture from a think tank from me and Lloyd and Jody. But I’m in the lab doing the work to get it and then it would go back to those guys and review it and off it goes to Cornell, basically.
Steve Melito: Are your clients national?
Tom Basile: Most of them are in New York State. We do have some out of state. We have several in Vermont. We have a couple in Pennsylvania. I believe we have one in Ohio right now. We’ve done work for even one as far as away as Shreveport, Louisiana.
Steve Melito: That’s great.
Tom Basile: A military one.
Steve Melito: And then how do you find companies to approach? What’s essentially your marketing strategy? What’s that like?
Tom Basile: There’s several things to do is I look at the manufacturing companies in New York State and see what their outputs are. I get in touch with agencies like the FuzeHub, Everton and you guys have helped us. Everton’s lined up customers before for us, a couple. You use every avenue you can to look for customers.
Steve Melito: Where do you see the company in five years? Or is that tough to predict?
Tom Basile: I think he’s going to have double the sales at least or better. He’s growing and growing, and I see some new technologies he’ll probably add to it also. Again, he’s very intrigued with technology, so I think he’s going to add more to it.
Steve Melito: As you grow and change, are there particular types of customers you’d like to attract?
Tom Basile: You want a full mix of customers, naturally, but it’s nice to get the ones that give you big runs consistently. Because once you get that product down pat, your scrap rate’s nonexistent, basically. We have a customer we do that with now. We run the same things day in and day out, same types. And our scrap is nonexistent. We do a very good job with them. We have a great relationship with them. So, you look for a mix, but that’s what you want is a couple good solid runners too to build the business on.
Steve Melito: Is your supply chain local as well? Do you do a lot with folks in the state?
Tom Basile: Some of it, yes. Some of our OEMs, yes. Unfortunately, there’s a few we had to go out of state because they’re the ones that manufacture it. But yeah, we do business with some local suppliers.
Steve Melito: How about things like assembly? Are those also services that you’ll provide?
Tom Basile: At this time, no. But down the road I think so, yes. With that Cornell project, there’s a potential for that. It all depends on what happens in the future with the project as it progresses.
Steve Melito: Do you ever work with your local MEP Center, AIM?
Tom Basile: Yes.
Steve Melito: Cory Albrecht?
Tom Basile: Cory Albrecht, yes. Lloyd has worked with them.
Steve Melito: Okay.
Tom Basile: Definitely. And the Edge, and naturally, the FuzeHub also. We work with a lot of agencies. It brings in some good prospects for getting some grants naturally, and also for helping us connect with the right people sometimes.
Steve Melito: I think you said Lloyd recently won an award from-
Tom Basile: The Mohawk Valley Edge Leading Edge-
Steve Melito: Mohawk Valley Edge. Yeah.
Tom Basile: Leading Edge Award.
Steve Melito: That’s great.
Tom Basile: Yeah.
Steve Melito: That’s great.
Tom Basile: Just a couple weeks ago he did that. Yeah.
Steve Melito: Last word here, anything else that the world should know about Square One Coating Systems?
Tom Basile: Yeah. Give me a call and I’ll get Lloyd to quote some product for you right away.
Steve Melito: Perfect. Great. Great. That was Tom Basile, the quality manager at Square One Coating Systems in Oriskany on behalf of New York State Manufacturing Now, I’d like to thank you for listening. And if you’re a manufacturer that wants to get in touch with Square One, please feel free to reach out to us or of course reach out to them directly. And if you need business or technical assistance, the place to go is FuzeHub. You can do it online anytime 24/ 7. Just go to our website fuzehub. com, and go and look for the solutions program menu and then complete an online form that explains what you’re looking for, and then member of our team, probably even me, will be in touch with you within 24 hours. Again, on behalf of New York State Manufacturing Now, I’m your host, Steve Melito. Thanks for listening.