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Nation Coating Systems featured in Business Courier

Nation Coating Systems was featured in the July 29, 2011 Business Courier:

Franklin coating company sets sights on big order
Nation Coating Systems run by former GE Engineer

Larry Grimenstein is scrambling to find a bigger plant for Franklin-based Nation Coating Systems Inc. as he awaits word from Alcoa on a pending order for treating aluminum truck wheels.

If Alcoa decides to go ahead – he expects word this month- Grimenstein’s small company will need at lot more space than it has at its already cramped 9,000-square-foot plant in the Franklin Business Park.

NCS developed a thin, hard-metal coating for aluminum truck wheels that reduces corrosion where tires rub against the rims, eventually causing them to leak. Alcoa just completed a 100,000-mile test and thinks the coated rims will be good for 300,000, Grimenstein said.

The deal could double NCS’s annual revenue of $1.5 million and has the potential to grow sales by as much as $7 million a year, he said. And that’s just one of many pokers NCS has in the fire.

Goodrich Corp. recently awarded NCS a contract for a landing gear part for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner; a long-delayed new plane for which production is now being ramped up. Grimenstein, a former head of manufacturing engineering for General Electric Co. in Schenectady, N.Y, sees lots of potential for more aerospace business, which analysts expect to grow rapidly as high fuel prices prompt airlines to upgrade fleets. So NCS is busy implementing a new quality system to meet strict aerospace standards.

Applications for thermal coatings are growing in a lot of areas, although it’s tough to put a number on the overall industry, said Keith Legg, president of Rowan Technology Group in Libertyville, Ill. The technology was initially used primarily in aircraft engines but has been adopted as a replacement for hard chrome plating on aircraft landing gears and hydraulic actuators.

In addition to Goodrich, Messier-Dowty and Heroux-Devtek are major North American producers of landing gears. The latter two companies have affiliates in the Tri-State – Messier-Bugatti, a maker of aircraft brakes in Walton, and McSwain Manufacturing Corp. in Springdale, which makes wind energy and turbine components.

Legg cited Cincinnati Thermal Spray Inc. and Ellison Surface Technologies as significant local players in the industry. He’s not familiar with NCS.

But he said there’s plenty of opportunity. Hard chrome presents all kinds of environmental issues, so “everybody’s trying to get rid of it,” Legg said. Suppliers who can meet aerospace quality standards should be able to pick up new business.

Aerospace isn’t the only area where NCS is looking to grow, however.

NCS also is working on a steel wheel project that Grimenstein thinks can significantly extend the life of powder-coated truck wheels. Opportunities are presenting themselves in the growing wind energy industry, too, where coatings promise to extend the life of hard-to access windmill components.

The company has just 12 employees, including Grimenstein as president, but no sales force.
“Everything comes to us through reputation,” Grimenstein said.

Grimenstein, now 69, started NCS in 1992 after GE shut down its GE Flame Spray unit in Evendale, where Grimenstein had been sent to turn around the unprofitable business. It took in just $300 in its first month in business, but it was profitable after six months and has been growing steadily – between 10 percent and 30 percent a year, except one- for 19 years.

Now Grimenstein is looking to buy a larger plant in Mason, Fairfield or West Chester: He’s shopping for an existing building of between 20,000 and 30,000 square feet, he said.

Dave Levine, executive vice president of consulting at TechSolve, a nonprofit consulting firm, said economic trends, particularly in the region’s aerospace industry, have been supporting an upturn at many small manufacturers in the Tri-State.
“The business climate seems to be turning around. We are seeing a positive trend,” Levine said. “I think we hit a low spot a year ago.”

via Nation Coating Systems sets sights on big order – Business Courier.

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