AFR doubles up on fabrication success
By Mike Mathes
Jason Dyer examines a computer-aide cart design.
James Dvorachek works with a 3-D wire former.
Aaron Pravechek (left) and Cliff Cleveland (right) measure up a newly fabricated cart.
Isaiah Emmer-Keuler, a Chilton High School Capstone student, prepares to weld a piece onto a paint-line fixture.

Throughout its 30+ year history, American Finishing Resources has been recognized as a leader in the coatings removal industry.

While coatings removal remains a strong segment for AFR, growth in engineered paint line fixtures and universal handling cart fabrication is a burgeoning success story.

This past year, American Finishing Resources has added a second shift for fabrication and doubled its workforce, helping create a positive economic story for the greater Chilton area.

At AFR, the fabrication business piggy-backs well off its traditional “best-in-class” coatings removal business.

“We have developed tremendous knowledge in the industry,” Controller Doug Pietrowski.

AFR has melded a blend of three main strengths to forge the growth in the fabrication segment of its business.

n Capabilities. n Customers. n People.

Wide-ranging capabilities

American Finishing Resources is known as a national leader in coatings removal.

From working with coatings removal customers across the country, AFR has seen the needs of those customers. The firm has channeled that knowledge into engineering and creating paint line fixtures and universal handling carts that improve through-put and cost effectiveness.

Added to the engineering and design capabilities, AFR also utilizes state-of-the-art CNC wire forming technology to help in its fabrication processes.

“The fabrication business has been a great growth story for us,” Joe Dyer, Director of AFR Operations said.

Customer base valued

AFR has grown from its ability to serve a wide-ranging customer base, including many Fortune 500 companies in the United States and Canada. “Our footprint extends well beyond the Upper Midwest,” Pietrowski noted.

“With so many of our customers focused on lean manufacturing and cost reductions, we have embraced those philosophies. We can help our customers to significantly improve their throughput by leveraging our experience,” he said.

That means relying on increased sophistication, tighter tolerances and even working with robotics to create more consistency.

People valued in the process

AFR considers its people the company’s most important asset.

Dyer said that the company is built around a quality-oriented, hard-working culture. “We believe strongly in investing in our people to help them grow as we grow,” he said.

“We want to offer people more than just a place to start. We want this to be a place where they can grow and find a career path.”

Dyer noted that every current AFR supervisor is a “home-grown” employee who has advanced through the American Finishing Resources ranks.

AFR continues to work with area technical colleges and other outlets to provide continuing education opportunities. This type of job enrichment helps AFR team members grow both personally and professionally.

On the floor, new hires and temporary are connected to longer term employees via a mentoring program. Mentors aid the newcomers in growing into their positions, thus helping them build a sense of belonging to the team.

AFR offers one other key ingredient to its workforce—stability.

The diverse base of customers, combined with diversity of operations brings stability to the employment situation.

“We are proud to say that we haven’t had layoffs—even back through the 2008 recession,” Pietrowski said.

“That means our people have confidence that their job will be there for them, even when times are difficult elsewhere,” he noted.

Steady employment in the trades, particularly in welding, is a key ingredient AFR offers to prospective job candidates.

Building early skills

Billie Jo Emmer, Human Resources Director, said AFR has a commitment to skills building with young workers.

The company continues to support the Chilton High School Career Capstone program, placing young people with manufacturing interests in job-settings to improve the student’s employability skills. “We see this as an opportunity to teach a person what it’s like to be in a work setting and help them learn responsibilities,” Emmer said. “At the same time we are able to groom a potential new employee.”

Students work for credit toward graduation, while building skills essential to making them successful in any future workplace setting.

This year Isaiah Emmer-Keuler is serving as a Capstone student placement at AFR.