North America is Still the Best Emerging Territory

A 30-year plating industry vet tells us what to expect in the next five years.

Arlington Motorcycle Harley 5880f81cad5ef
Arlington Plating

Arlington Plating provides surface finishing and anodizing services that deliver functionality and aesthetics to a diversity of automotive, motorcycle, electronics, and consumer products.

The company produces finishes on metals including aluminum, copper alloys, magnesium, steel, stainless steel, and zinc die cast, as well as plastic materials. OEMs, like Harley Davidson, have turned to Arlington to provide finishes that increase wear and corrosion protection and improve appearance while meeting stringent environmental and regulatory requirements.

The company is currently undergoing an expansion at its Palatine, IL headquarters and recently hired Brian Isola as the company’s vice president of sales.

Isola is an industry veteran with more than 30 years of manufacturing experience in decorative and functional plating, anodizing and metal stamping operations. I recently sat down with him to pick his brain about the state of the plating industry, and learn about some of the more interesting projects that he has ever worked on.

IEN: How did you get your start in the industry?

Brian Isola: Back in 1987, my aluminum raw material background, combined with my selling and communication skills, caught the eye of a company out of Green Bay, Wisconsin [Pioneer Metal Finishing]. I was hired to develop a sales territory out of the Chicago area.

My job was to convince OEMs and contract manufacturers to send their components requiring anodizing and electroless nickel plating to the Green Bay and Minneapolis facilities for processing.

IEN: In your 30+ years of experience, what has been the most interesting project that has come across your desk?

Isola: The Motorola V-60, V-60-I, and VO-PTT cell phone programs. This was the first metal phone developed for mass production on a global scale.

The chassis and exterior battery door/housing components required both cosmetic and functional anodizing, as well as hard coat anodizing. This was the first program that actually developed our organization into a true global supplier.

IEN: Within the next five years, what technology stands to disrupt the surface finishing industry?

Isola: Regulatory compliance. Organizations must commit to developing, investing capital, and using closed-loop pollution control technology mitigating the escape of chrome and nickel by-products into landfills, and eventually into the environment.

And information technology. As millennials and future generations enter the work force, social media and mobile devices will be the cornerstone of how manufacturers conduct business. Today’s organizations are just tipping the iceberg on how buying and selling will be conducted in the future.

IEN: In your opinion, what are some of the emerging markets for the plating industry?

Isola: This is certainly not a revelation from me. The production and transportation of energy is essential in developing countries.  Oil and gas drilling, pipelines, and infrastructure construction in Mexico, Russia, the Middle East, India and South America are some of the key emerging markets.

All will require inorganic metal finishing equipment and consumable production parts to be manufactured and finished for local content.

IEN: What are the emerging territories?

Isola: I believe the best emerging territory is still North America. Reshoring product back into the U.S. is no longer a slogan. Beginning in 2017, an anticipated business-friendly administration bodes well for US production.

Combined with a real commitment to grow the domestic economy by rebuilding our infrastructure and defense systems, means more products will be made domestically for all indices of the markets we service on a daily basis.

IEN: In your experience, what is the greatest challenge for sales representatives in the finishing industry?

Isola: Developing sound oral and written communication skills. I am not aware of any higher education institutions offering, “Manufacturing Sales Selling Skills 101.” This is still very much a people business based on relationship selling. 

Understanding how to define your prospects’ and customers’ true expectations upfront is crucial. Make time to fully explain your company’s capabilities and limitations. This understanding will determine if you’re a fit for each other.

Take the time to research using social media and websites to learn more about your contacts, prospects and customers.  Combine the knowledge you gather while developing a relationship based on trust. Strive to become a resource not a sales rep for your contacts and customers.

IEN: How has your role in various industry associations helped you become successful in your professional career?

Isola: It has allowed me to keep a pulse on what is happening in the industries we service. By networking and listening to industry experts, entrepreneurs, business owners, sales, marketing, production, quality, office administrators, accounting, and customer service personnel has allowed me to develop a well-rounded understanding of how to service the people I do business with from their perspective on a daily basis.

IEN: What advice do you have for newcomers in the industry?

Isola: Metal finishing sales is very rewarding. If you become a value-added resource for your contacts and customers, there is no end to how far you can go in this industry. Take the time to understand your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Perform the same analysis on yourself. Commit to maximizing and selling based on your organization’s strengths.

Remember this mentality, everyone is a prospect until they say “No.” All a no means to me means i, “Not Yet.” If they use the services your company provides, commit every resource you have to turning that “No” into a “Maybe” and eventually a “Yes.”

IEN: From a state of the industry perspective, what keeps you up at night?

Isola: Fear of complacency. In the end, it is all about keeping our customers competitive in the markets they service. We must offer a competitive price, best quality and unparalleled service on an order-to-order basis. If we lose out on any of these three attributes, we are in jeopardy. 

Arlington Plating Company is an ISO-9001:2008 company and an active member of the National Association of Surface for Surface Finishing (NASF) and the Aluminum Anodizers Council (AAC). For more information, please visit arlingtonplating.com or contact Brian at bisola@arlingtonplating.com.

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