Janis Hubschman explains Linetec’s progress and its plans for horizontal expansion.
Since entering the business of protecting and beautifying monumental structures with high-performance finishes in 1983, Linetec has grown to become the No. 1 architectural coating company in the country. The founder and current senior vice president, Scott Platta, started the company with a single customer – Wausau Window and Wall Systems, a sister company. From that modest beginning, Linetec’s customer list has grown to 300, including such industry leaders as Moduline, Winco, Tubelite and Supersky. In addition, Linetec’s work appears on a number of world-famous buildings, such as the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Mall of America in Minneapolis and the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Linetec is a division of Agogee Enterprises, Inc., a billion-dollar, Minneapolis-based company that owns several glass, coating and related businesses. Linetec’s $50 million annual sales include income from recent diversification. In addition to its architectural aluminum finishing, the Wausau, Wis.-based company now provides finishing services for plastic profiles and the commercial markets.
Says Linetec’s president, Rick Marshall, “The essential ingredients in Linetec’s formula for success are quality, service and reliability.” According to Marshall, the ability to provide customers with these benefits is what sets the company apart from the competition, and enables it to live up to its reputation as the “Finisher of Choice™.”
True Colors from True Quality
At Linetec’s three plants (two in Wausau and one in Villa Rica, Ga.) totaling 325,000 square feet, the company employs the most advanced technology to achieve superior finishing, whether it’s the anodizing of aluminum or the application of paint.
Commenting on Linetec’s fully automated facilities, Operations Director Andy Joswick says, “Quality comes from having state-of-the-art finishing lines. Our anodizing line is recognized nationally as the best in the country due to automation and efficiency of operation. The trick to anodizing is process consistency. At Linetec, key process variables are monitored and controlled by computer.”
Anodic finishes have long been a standard for aluminum products in nearly any application, including architectural, recreational, commercial and automotive. Linetec’s unique and environmentally friendly anodizing process ensures long-lasting exterior colors that won’t fade or weather.
Recently, Linetec became the first company in the United States to install true-color anodizing. A revolutionary improvement on the traditional overdye process, true-color anodizing electrolytically deposits color into a material’s cell structure for exceptional exterior durability. Developed by Henkel Surface Technologies – a Michigan-based company servicing the metal-finishing industry – the process was successfully adopted by Linetec since its automated system ensures “superior process control,” says Marshall. Linetec markets its true-color process as Expressions™ anodizing.
Quality can also be found in Linetec’s fully automated paint line. In-house color-match computers ensure that the color wanted is the color delivered, release after release. Spectrophotometers, powerful instruments that far surpass the naked eye’s abilities, measure the intended color with the color actually achieved in the application process, further ensuring that the color match is as close as technologically possible.
Pretreatment is accomplished by a high-pressure spray system with more than 700 jets, ensuring that the substrate is properly prepared for optimum paint adhesion. Next, automated bells efficiently apply the electrostatically charged paint to the substrate. The proper curing temperature, which ensures that the coating will perform up to its full potential, is attained by a three-stage, gas-fired curing oven. Test panels are processed concurrently with each job to inspect for the most essential AAMA- and ASCA-required coating performance criteria.
Specializing in high-performance finishes, Linetec’s coating selection includes 70 percent and 50 percent fluoropolymers and baked enamels. The company’s painting capabilities extend beyond aluminum surfaces to include some vinyls, fiberglass and selected steel products.
Easy Being Green
With the only 98 per cent VOC-free air emissions system in the industry, Linetec is completely compliant with regulations prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its state-of-the-art, multimillion-dollar VOC-capture system captures 100 percent of the VOCs from its paint system for incineration.
“Environmental regulations are making it more difficult and more costly to be in the finishing business,” says Marshall. “As a result, we’re seeing more and more fabricators shutting down their in-house finishing operations and outsourcing those services. What sets us apart from the competition is that we are already compliant with new EPA regulations, which will be enacted in the near future. It’s a $2 million capital investment we’ve had for many years.”
The Finishing Touch
Committed to exceeding customers’ expectations, the company – with a staff of 450 – offers a wide scope of standard and optional services, ranging from in-depth, part-sensitive receiving inspections to drop shipping direct to a customer’s customer.
Provided by Linetec’s private trucking fleet, direct drop shipping allows the company to go the extra mile for its customers. Says Marshall, “We have 20 of our own trucks that make scheduled runs across the country. The advantage from our customers’ standpoint is twofold: reliability and quality. Since they are our own trucks, customers can be assured that we’ll take care of the material. And preset schedules mean customers can count on our truck to be there at a certain time. It’s like having a finishing plant next door.”
Finally, Linetec has a dedicated field-service crew to ensure that professional on-site touch-up is available to correct problems that may be caused by any fabrication, freight, installation or typical job-site situations.
A Broader Brush Stroke
Linetec’s plan for future development consists of diversification and expansion. After achieving success in the architectural market, Linetec is branching out into the commercial segment, which includes transportation components and consumer products, according to Marshall.
A second initiative for growth is geographic expansion, specifically on the East Coast. “We’re looking very closely at starting an eastern facility for both anodizing and paint, probably within a year,” says Marshall. “We will also increase the number of truck runs in the country.”
Other plans include establishing partnerships with fabricators and extruders by setting up nearby finishing plants and joint-venture partnerships with large customers. And, of course, Linetec will continue to evolve new finishing technologies and services to maintain its leadership position in the industry.