Imagine you’re a pastry chef who specializes in cupcakes. For years, you’ve used the same mixer, the same pans, and the same recipe. It always turns out great, and the lucky people who get to enjoy the results always gush with praise.
One day a regular customer calls to ask if you also bake cookies. “No,” you say, “but I’ll start if you need me to!”
So, you invest in cookie-making gear and set to work.
The first batch out of the oven is good enough for the kids at home, but they won’t impress anyone accustomed to boutique baked goods. You try again, and again.
(It’s a good thing you’re disciplined about not eating your own products, or you’d have a short life expectancy.)
By the time you can take your cookies to market you’ll probably throw out more cookies than most people make in a lifetime.
At Thermal-Vac our cupcakes are baked in vacuum brazing furnaces. We’ve been baking them for over 30 years, and we like to think we know what we’re doing.
Over the years we’ve been lucky enough to build relationships with companies who come to us looking for solutions to complex finishing challenges. Do we know how to nickel plate a particular part? Do we have in-house heat treating or does that need to be sent to another facility?
They’ve come to a cupcake shop wondering if we also bake cookies.
In our industry, adding a new process to the shop floor isn’t just a matter of popping over to the local industrial supply shop to pick up some new gear, throwing it in an unused corner and getting to work. From our perspective, if we can’t meet the same standards that apply to our brazing operation, the new process isn’t ready for prime time.
Basically, we need our new stuff to be so good, even Gordon Ramsay will be speechless.
We’ve taken a year or longer after adding a new piece of equipment to our shop before offering it as a service to customers. A lot happens during that time:
- Study. We’ve got quite a few metallurgy geeks around here. Book learning isn’t a substitute for hands-on work, but it’s essential for understanding what’s happening inside components as they pass through a new procedure.
- Test, test, and test again. To put a new service like copper plating into service, we need to know it inside and out. We want to know what can go wrong so we can design protocols for preventing errors. We end up throwing out a lot of cookies.
- Train, test, and train again. Much of what we do is hands-on work. When we test new processes, we’re also testing ourselves. Putting the right people into each role requires plenty of investment of time by everyone involved. We start and end with safety. In between, we focus on refining our operators’ skills until they can be called experts.
- Fitting the pieces together. Exploring how a new process might fit into the process chain with other services on our floor not only impacts the way we handle the new gear, it may also require changes to old ways of working with other equipment. No problem: it’s all part of the business.
- Achieve compliance. If a new process implicates one of our professional accreditations, all of our preparation may culminate in an accreditation audit. This is our time to prove our mastery of the new process to the industry’s most thorough critics. (After a successful audit, we might bake some real cookies to celebrate.)
We add new services to our menu in response to unmet needs in our customers’ finishing supply chains. Doing business this way can be slow and expensive up front, but the long-term benefits speak for themselves.
Need some brazed cupcakes or nickel-plated cookies? Give Thermal-Vac a call at (714) 997-2601. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.