Triplex Plating is a family-owned zinc plating operation that was established in 1939.
Photo Credit: All photos courtesy of Triplex Plating
Triplex Plating in Michigan City, Indiana, is one of those family-owned plating shops that has stood the test of time. The company has served the industry since 1939 over four generations. Specializing in zinc plating, the company’s capabilities include barrel and rack plating. Jesse Baldwin is the chief operating officer for Triplex, having returned to his family business after earning an MBA and a Six Sigma Black Belt and spending some time as a management consultant. Upon returning to the business, Baldwin is bullish about the company’s efforts for continuous improvement. Triplex participated in Products Finishing’s Top Shops Benchmarking Survey in 2021 and utilized the feedback from the survey to identify improvement opportunities. The effort paid off. In 2022, Triplex Plating has not only qualified as a Top Shop, but finds itself ranking first place in the electroplating and anodizing category. Baldwin recently sat down with PF to talk about the company’s processes, environmental practices and its formula for success.
Jesse Baldwin, COO, Triplex Plating
Can you give us a bit of background about Triplex?
Triplex is celebrating its 83rd anniversary this year. My great grandfather founded the company and we are currently transitioning to our fourth generation of ownership. We started as a small decorative shop focusing on copper, nickel and chrome plating. We hand buffed everything, hence the name Triplex.
In the early 1950s, we switched over to a cadmium zinc cyanide plating process to help meet market demand — and I think a lot of people from that time can remember, it was kind of the Wild West in the industry and metal finishing platers were a dime a dozen. Competition was extremely fierce, and we really carved our place in the marketplace as being a plater that would take on complex work that some just wouldn’t touch.
Then, in the early 1980s, through some expert guidance from our chemical supplier PAVCO, we became one of the first to convert an existing cyanide line to an alkaline non-cyanide process. From there, we’ve continued to adapt to the needs of the industry. The capabilities that we’ve created allow us to handle orders of all different sizes and packing requirements. That’s how we’ve established our niche in the marketplace.
Triplex specializes in barrel and rack plating processes with numerous chromates.
What are your current capabilities and what markets do you typically serve today?
We’re a full-service job shop specializing in zinc. We offer barrel and rack plating processes with numerous chromates. We also have RoHS (restriction of hazardous substances) compliant passivate finishes.
We don’t necessarily serve any one marketplace historically — it’s really whatever’s hot in the market during that year. Right now, I would say we’re seeing OEM automotive starting to pick up just a little bit. RV business has absolutely boomed recently. Construction equipment has been large for us this year as well.
Triplex handles orders of all different sizes and packing requirements.
One of the things that Triplex seems to put pride in is environmental responsibility — can you talk a bit about some of the steps that you’ve taken?
So geographically, we are right on the tip of Lake Michigan — and just being that close to a natural body of water, we’re automatically held to a higher standard. There’s a lot of regulation. Over the years, that has naturally created a culture focused on proper waste disposal and treatment. That helped shape our current waste treatment program itself. There's obviously a federal discharge limit. We strive to be around half that — in fact, we’re often much lower than that.
One of our newest initiatives is the creation of an internal waste operator training program. The process is still overseen by licensed operators, but our intent is to make sure that our future leaders are properly trained. It’s a great opportunity to not only create a career path for people to give them additional skills, but to get leaders in this building with the right mindset. We have to be stewards to the environment.
What makes Triplex a Top Shop?
I think the spirit of the Top Shops program is the ability to utilize peer data to create industry benchmarks. Then it’s up to each organization to figure out where they fall and what internal work needs to be done within their business to get there.
Last year was our first year applying to the Top Shops program. The metrics we received were game-changing. We quickly saw that we had performed well within the industry. But there were also some opportunities. So, we just sharpened our pencils, set some targets and translated that into success.
What kind of relationships do you have with your customers?
Our relationship with customers is built on trust. We’ve been here for 83 years, and the past two years have probably been the most challenging. I think everyone would agree that the pandemic has really made manufacturing a wild and unpredictable environment. One thing we’ve consistently delivered to our customers is trust. We never overcharged. We didn’t over-promise turnaround times. There were no forced expedite fees to guarantee processing with our customers. At the end of the day, we did what we always do: We communicated effectively with our clients and put the customer first to deliver high-quality parts at an effective price. That’s really our value proposition in the marketplace, and it’s allowed us to build strong relationships with our customers over time.
Everybody’s felt the pinch. I would be surprised if there’s anybody out there that has not gotten a price increase. We had success with reaching out to our customers to let them know what kind of cost headwinds we’re seeing, and what to expect. We don’t want our customers to feel like they’re caught flat footed. Being transparent goes a long way.
You mentioned education initiatives for some of your team. Can you talk a little bit about the team dynamic and company culture at Triplex?
We have numerous long-tenured employees here at our shop, and they know how to operate independently, which is very helpful. But a lot of work right now is going into preparing our next generation of leaders — the people who will help us continue to take this organization forward. With that comes proper training and creating career paths for them. A big focus has been listening to our employees and leveraging a net promoter survey for our employees to help identify areas where we want to make changes. We use that as an advantage to help hire as well as retain what we have.