Periodic table

Corrosion engineering consultant

Corrosion Doctors site map

Alphabetical index of the Corrosion Doctors Web site

A Brief History of Industrial Platers

(as prepared for handing out to plant visitors)

Industrial Platers was officially established January 19, 1950 with a declaration of partnership agreement between Leo Horodyski, Joe Scislowski, and Stan Scislowski. It was a humble beginning. With limited finances at their disposal, the partners bought only four major pieces of plating equipment; a neoprene-lined nickel tank, a koroseal-lined chrome tank, a vapour degreaser, and a filter. Bus bars, anode and cathode rods, knife-switches and rheostats, etc. were also bought from the supplier, but all other equipment was either made on the premises or dug-up from local scrapyards. The motor-generator set was resurrected from an electrical repair shop's graveyard of used machinery.

One would be quite accurate in describing the new business as a 'back-alley' shop, because that's exactly what it was. It's drab and unprofessional appearing entrance was off an unkempt, non-paved alley to a shabby 'down at the heels' block building partitioned off to accommodate several other small businesses. The locality is now known as the core city.

Since the first customer, Great Lakes Die-Casting was a producer of zinc-base die-castings requiring chrome plating, a copper - nickel - chrome plating system was set up using 45 gallon steel drums for the acid dip and rinse tanks with drop-in plastic liners. The polishing and buffing was farmed out to Motor City Polishing & Buffing occupying space in the same building.

Except for intermittent problems of poor quality die-castings, plating production hummed along in a satisfactory manner. At this early stage of the game, the partners could be excused for smugly thinking that plating was a snap. . .nothing to it, really. A rather rude awakening, however, awaited them a little ways down the line. Trouble cropped up. The high-speed copper cyanide solution decided to act up, resulting in rejects galore. A panic button call was made to the Toronto supplier, and in an exemplary show of being "right on the ball, " a tech service man came down the same day. It didn't take him long to find the problem. Too high free alkalinity in the bath. His recommendation; Either dump part of the solution ( no worry in those days...down the sewer) or lower the free alkalinity by small additions of 50% sulphuric acid. The partners' faces blanched.

"Acid?!!!" they exclaimed with some considerable disbelief. "Poison gas!” Stan, the budding chemist blurted out. The tech service man, however, reassured the doubting owners of the saneness of the latter approach. But since it was the cheaper way to go that's the way they went. So, the expert (his name shall ever remain a secret, in deference to his otherwise unblemished record since that infamous event) poured the first 400 mls of acid into the copper bath, whereupon the tech serviceman, the three owners, and the one employee made a hasty dash for the outdoors to escape the lethal fumes. The outdoors was actually an alleyway where the escapees waited for the room to air out of cyanide gas. Bottles of old Vienna beer helped kill the time. One might say here, it was lucky for them that only time was killed.

By the time the free alkalinity had been brought down to operable limit through successive additions of acid, pretty close to a whole case of the popular brew had been cleaned up. Such was an example of the "fly by the seat of your pants" corrective action as taken by more than a few job shop owners back in the hectic fifties and sixties.

The company's first expansion came in 1955 with the move into their own newly-completed yellow-brick 2400 sq.ft. building on Ouellette Avenue in what was then Sandwich West Township. This was possible only through the exceptionally easy financing terms offered by the builder, M.J. Kaufmann Co. Here it soon added a two-barrel chain-fall operated zinc plating line, and shortly thereafter the company purchased its first piece of automatic equipment, a used Udylite Jr. automatic rack machine for zinc plating. Business in this area grew by leaps and bounds. And as the volume of business increased so did the number of salesmen and other assorted types come knocking at the door. It was a period of getting acquainted with all the many varieties of sales pitches and approaches the owners would be confronted with as the years went by. Like the 'drum-kicker', that aggressive soul who always made sure you never ran out of cleaner, by going around the shop kicking drums to see how much you had left. The real motive for these aggressive souls was that they didn't want to see you buying some other guy's product.

And then of course there was the 'crier' type, but no more need be said because the name is self-explanatory. Last, but certainly not least was the salesman who came on like ‘Gangbusters’. This type had the answer to all your plating problems, except how you could make more money. You almost always came away from a session with this type somewhat humbled and doubtful of your own abilities, and by the same token, you rarely gave him an order.

Though there was always a fair percentage of 'out and out' hucksters calling on you, there were enough topnotch salesmen that could help you and make your day go a little easier. They were not only knowledgeable, they were also honest, congenial, and what we liked about them even more so was that they brought their own beer sometimes. A few of the salesmen that the owners came to consider as being almost a part of the company were Dave Mainland (deceased), f ormerly of Canadian Hanson & Van Winkle, Hap Hind who managed the Windsor outlet, Jim Vollans of M&T, Red Harris of the old Armalite Co., Don Bowman of Imperial Rack, and John McKay of Barrington Chemicals.

Hard chrome plating, which had been in operation almost since 'day one' was a ‘round the clock' operation, servicing the needs of the many Tool & Mould shops in and around the city. The only change made here was that a rectifier now supplied the power instead of the ancient motor-generator set.

One process that definitely never became popular with the owners or the employees was the case-hardening of steel using molten cyanide that the company got involved in through a request by a customer. Not only was it a hot, smelly, and physically demanding job, it was also extremely dangerous because of the 1800 degree molten cyanide the process called for. This process was dropped after a relatively short tenure because of the understandable complaints of neighbours whose sleep was disturbed nightly by the intermittent explosions in the quenching of white-hot heat-treated parts.

In the late fifties and early sixties the term 'Environment' had not yet come into common usage by the media or the citizens in general. Pollution probe committees and vigilante groups had not yet arrived on the scene. Plating wastes and heavily contaminated rinses simply went down the sewer and that was 'it'. No bother. Smoke and fumes in the atmosphere were accepted as part of the industrial landscape, and no one paid too much attention.

Which brings us to the funny story about the time when Stan came up with a way of descaling and bright-dipping bronze castings for a firm in Chatham. The end-product was sparkling bright, but there was a serious drawback to Stan's startling discovery. It damn near dropped everybody in their tracks every time a basket-load of work was dipped into the acids. Since no one could work, let alone, breathe while Stan was hard at work, it was a unanimous and wise decision to conduct the process outdoors. Fine and dandy!

Anyway, one gloriously sunny day, Stan of the plastic-lined lungs was busy processing a load of castings, and with every dip in the undiluted nitric acid, great clouds of choking, brown nitrous oxide gas rose skyward. On a nearby 'pitch and putt' course, a threesome of aspiring golfers blithely went about their game unaware of the toxic gas drifting their way. But when the first faint whisps of the brown stuff caused some slight coughing and throat-clearing, they looked up and beheld with terror the ominous cloud coming right at them. In nothing flat they dropped their clubs and ran, almost knocking each other down in their panic to get away. They were last seen disappearing across the nearby C.P.R. tracks. As mentioned earlier, Air Environment and the quality thereof was not something people made an issue over in those days, and nothing was heard about it or was mentioned in the local newspaper.

In 1963, with the pressing need for further expansion, and an inability to procure the property adjacent for building on, the partners decided to look for an older building. Their brief search resulted in the purchase of a 40,000 sq.ft old former warehouse on McDougall St., the present address of Industrial Platers.

Shortly after moving into their new quarters a 60 feet long hoist line was erected, with 9 ft. wide tanks for the purpose of nickel–chrome plating. After 10 years it was decided to drop chrome plating due to insufficient return on the investment, the line being converted to an all-purpose facility for zinc plating, phosphating, pickling, and paint-stripping.

Further process expansion took place within a short period through the acquisition of four pieces of automatic plating systems, namely:

1. A Stevens Model "C' Zinc barrel plating machine.

2. Two Hanson & Van Winkle (HVM) rack zinc plating automatics.

3. A return-type full automatic copper - nickel - chrome double lane plater.

The nickel-chrome plater was later incorporated with a pre-plate line into a 'plating on plastic system and leased to Reflex Corporation, along with space. After three years of losing money, and in lieu of money owing the lessors, Reflex turned over to Industrial Platers all equipment purchased and leased, along with supplies. Most of the equipment was later sold piecemeal, with the plating automatic being purchased by Waltech Corp. of Wallaceburg.

Other processes the company became involved in were: Tin plating (barrel & rack); Cadmium plating(barrel & rack); zinc phosphate (barrel and basket); pickling and cleaning of steel parts for reclamation.

Electroforming on a modest scale was set up, with Joe Scislowski taking over responsibility. The first job produced was a contract for 24 pen-barrel molds. Also, some considerable time was spent in experimentation towards perfecting a technique for electroforming from 'pin-bundle' mandrels. Only limited success was achieved, but as time was not available due to managerial demands on Joe, the project was terminated.

In 1966 Industrial Platers was taken over by Hedgewick Enterprises and in 1975 its shares were bought back by the original partners.

Came the 70s, and with it, the demands by Municipal and Provincial authorities for waste treatment facilities. In compliance with the demands, Industrial Platers added a 60 X 40 ft building expressly for this purpose, with in-floor flow-through treatment and settling-tanks. A pump and centrifuge removed the solid wastes. In 1986 the present owners revamped the waste treatment system and replaced the centrifuge with a more efficient and cost-saving filter press-

In 1971 a used 3-stage washer was bought from Ford Motor Co., and two stages were built on to it to make it into a 5-stage spray zinc phosphate line. In its first year of operation parts were processed for other companies who did the painting, but then the owners decided to install its own conveyorized black enamel dip-painting. The paint department operated on a two-shift production schedule, and quite often on an 'around the clock' basis right up until August of this past year when all paint production was transferred to the new E-coat facilities at Industrial Parts Coating.

In 1973 the steadily increasing volume of zinc plating business necessitated the purchase of a new IONIC return type barrel zinc automatic. The machine was supposed to have doubled production capabilities over the Stevens Model 'C', but much to the dismay of the purchasers, the machine fell considerably short of this. 50% was a closer figure. This increase, however, was offset by several design flaws as was soon found out when the machine went into production, and also by the fact that it was prone to frequent breakdowns. Because of the latter it became known as something of a maintenance monstrosity. As a result, the Stevens was not disposed of until some two years later as a hedge against the possibility of being completely shut down in barrel zinc plating.

Having seen the ‘handwriting on the wall’, so to speak, the partners decided to go with the state of the art in high volume electroplating by purchasing a programmed barrel hoist line from Jessup Engineering of Detroit. And to go one step further in keeping up with the times they alleviated waste treatment to a great degree by selecting a chloride zinc process for the system.

In 1975 or thereabouts a 3-stage iron phosphate unit was picked up from MGM Brakes, one of the company's major customers at that time. For a relatively brief period it was a valuable adjunct to the paint department, but as requirements for storage space and the fact that most automotive paint specs. called for zinc phosphate undercoat this line became obsolete. It was sold a few years later by the present owners.

In 1980, with the need for more space for incoming material storage, the owners opted to erect a 2400 sq.ft metal prefab building, most of the labour being supplied by the company's own employees.

Thus far we’ve described the progress of the company from its humble beginning, through the years of equipment acquisitions and expansions, but there is another aspect of the company's history that deserves mention, and that is the office and the person who ran it. Anna Horodyski was the receptionist ‘par excellence', the all-round office girl, bookkeeper, public relations committee of one, and she was even a lending institution. Anna was the original 'money-machine' long before these modern conveniences were ever invented. Broke and hungry salesmen knew they'd be brought back to solvency once they got to Industrial Platers. Anna was right there with the money. And at no interest. Industrial Platers was quite a unique organization, as all the salesmen would be quick to agree. They would also be quick to agree that there was no other company they loved to call on better than at this address. You might say, in the vernacular of the day, that it was about as laid-back an operation as any could be when it came to buying and selling. Rarely were purchases made from behind a mahogany desk. Salesmen usually walked in through a side or back door and had to hunt through the sprawling plant for either Leo, Joe, or Stan.

In August of 1981 the assets of Industrial Platers(Windsor)Ltd. were sold to Unlimited Textures of Windsor, a Division of Rigidized Metals of Buffalo, NY. Paul Delaney assumed the position of Vice-Pres. of Canadian operations. Dave Miller, formerly of Luster Chrome of Wallaceburg was taken on staff in 1983 as Plant Superintendant.

In late 1985 the employees of the company became unionized under the banner of Local 195 of the C.A.W. Negotiations for the first contract broke off shortly before Christmas and the workers went on the picket-line in a strike that lasted close to seven months.

Gord KeLso arrived in May of 1986 from Windsor Bumper to take over the vacated position of Plant Manager. After a short period of familiarizing himself with the complexities involved in running a highly diversified job-plating plant, Gord set to work to upgrade the laboratory and Quality Control systems to bring them into line with requirements as spelled out by the Big ‘3’. He also replaced the low cyanide zinc plating processes in the two rack automatics with alkaline non-cyanide solutions. He also converted the Udylite Jr. Automatic into a Cadmium plating unit to accommodate the sudden large increase in production in this area.

Industrial Part Coaters was established in June of 1989, moving into its new plant in the industrial park off Central Avenue close by the E.C. Row expressway in July and commenced production of E-coating on its new slide-rail transfer 11 stage zinc phosphate E-coat system.

As Vice-President of Canadian Operations, Paul Delaney monitored closely the new system through its early teething problems with the able assistance of Foster Moore in charge of maintenance, and Paul Riggi responsible for technical and laboratory control. Another important personality on this team is Sales Engineer, Gene Olivastri who brings the necessary drive to improve the sales picture at both locations.

Stan Scislowski