Left to right: Thom, Dean, Jeffrey, and Jeff Bell of Precision Finishing
Precision Finishing Inc. in Quakertown, Pennsylvania
Clemco Conversations spoke with Thom, Jeff, Dean, and Jeffrey Bell, members of the second and third generations of family working at Precision Finishing, which provides surface-finishing equipment and contract shop services for the metal-working industry. Precision Finishing has been a Clemco/ZERO® distributor for more than 48 years, and the company also is a user of Clemco/ZERO industrial blast machines in its contract job shops.
Jeff: My father bought Precision Finishing in 1955. It was a small chemical company working out of a 1,000 sq. ft. building. It designed and manufactured compounds for the tumbling industry, and it also had a small tumbling shop. Jack, my father, created a solid foundation for my brother Thom and me to grow the business to where we currently have 48 employees at two locations. In fact, in 2017 we opened a new 40,000 sq. ft. facility. Thom is vice president of sales, and I am president. We have different personalities, but our strengths complement each other, and we know that we are fortunate to work together.
Thom: There really is no typical day, our business has grown so much. Around 1960, we began distributing finishing equipment and then expanded into abrasive-blasting equipment in the late ’60s and early ’70s. At that time, ZERO Manufacturing came out with a reclaim separator that allowed the use of glass bead for a consistent manufacturing process. We became hooked on using ZERO cabinets in our job shop and immediately became a distributor.
Clockwise from top left: • Precision’s original, 1,000 sq. ft. facility. • The original facility after decades of renovations and expansion increased it to 18,000 sq. ft. • Precision opened a new 40,000 sq. ft. facility in 2017. • ZERO automated cabinets inside the Precision job shop, • A ZERO BNP-A200 Blast Cabinet with an indexing turntable surface preps automotive parts for coating adhesion.
Back then, ZERO encouraged distributors to market their cabinets by taking them to customers for demos. ZERO gave us a BNP-50 Cabinet, which we installed in the back of a Ford van outfitted with a track and rollers. We put the cabinet and an air compressor on a dolly, and an air compressor behind the front seats. We would go to auto shops, manufacturers, other customers, open up the backdoor and roll out the equipment for a demo. Ten or 15 guys would gather around. People couldn’t wrap their heads around how glass bead in one of these cabinets cleaned parts so fast.
Dean: About five years ago, Jeffrey and I came on board at Precision. Thom is my father, and Jeff is Jeffrey’s father. We began as machine operators, learning the production jobs for nearly two years, because we needed to understand this business hands-on. I now work as the operations manager, but titles don’t matter here. At any time, I could be working with the sales team on customer quotes, scheduling jobs for the shop, developing finishing processes for new jobs, dealing with everyday in-and-out parts production and sample processing, and just about anything else you can think of.
Jeffrey: Dean and I needed to come across real-world issues to understand the business, so starting in the shop was the best way to do that. Technical process engineer is what they call me now. I assist our sales team in the field with high-level process and technical issues, and I lead process development and improvement in our contract finishing facilities. Marketing, web design, technology implementation, and process diversification also fall in my days.
Dean: Today we use Clemco/ZERO equipment to finish parts for aerospace, defense, OEMs for auto parts, and many other industries. For one medical-device manufacturer, we use ZERO cabinets to finish more than 100,000 parts a year.
Jeffrey: Along with abrasive blasting applications, we represent equipment and consumables for industrial washing, shot peening, standard vibratory and centrifugal finishing, Accelerated Surface Finishing processes, and more. We also manufacture a line of aqueous chemistries called Chemtrol Industrial Compounds for vibratory, washing, and other industrial processes.
Thom: We don’t consider this a typical family business, but a business that family members happen to be in. We’re fortunate to work in a field that’s always changing and never boring, and where we can effect positive change in the world, whether it be in an operating room, transporting people, or generating alternative energy . . . the applications never end. We really love what we do.
If you have any questions about your Clemco blast system or a new blast project, please reach out! Our team of sales engineers are happy to help design, integrate, improve and troubleshoot any blast project you may have.