On November 23, 1981, Tom Beckwith started his first day of work at Electro Chemical Finishing, as the first employee at the newly constructed Remico facility. After helping the contractors finish installation of the brass line (now the custom line), Tom’s duties included racking, plating, unracking, inspecting, and packing parts; for the first several weeks the line was in operation, Tom was the only employee in the building.
A lot has changed since then.Tom’s career in the surface finishing industry began the summer before his senior year of high school. His father was the plating department manager at a company in California that made chrome wheels for cars. Tom worked there, and after graduating high school in Michigan and marrying his high school sweetheart, returned to the company and was promoted to the second shift plating supervisor. From there, Tom moved to a company that made and plated motorcycle accessories.
When the Beckwiths’ first child was old enough to start school, the family moved back to the Grand Rapids area, and Tom started working at ECF. After working as the sole operator of the brass line, Tom was promoted to supervisor of the line, and over the years has held many positions within the company, almost too numerous to list: military line plater, supervisor, sample processor, expediter, truck driver, lab analyst, product tester, and, most recently, PVD technician, among others.
Tom has been in his current position for nearly 15 years; PVD interested Tom because of its environmentally friendly process—since the process is conducted inside a sealed vacuum chamber and produces no chemical by-products, it is universally viewed as entirely environmentally benign. In his work, Tom enjoys finding solutions for finishing challenges and taking on research and development projects.
ECF’s embracing of environmentally responsible technologies like PVD and trivalent chrome is one of the biggest changes that Tom has seen over the course of his 35 years with ECF, and he cites it as one of the reasons for the company’s continued success in the industry. Additionally, ECF has expanded its portfolio from just chrome plating to include powder coating, lacquer, PVD, and other processes to meet customer demand and keep up with industry trends. “I think the company’s foresight in expanding into these areas has helped keep us in business when so many other plating companies have gone out of business,” he said.
The expansion of ECF’s offerings has also resulted in the expansion of its facilities, including four additions to the Remico building since its original construction, to accommodate the plastic plating line and the PVD, buffing, and vibratory areas. The original structure housed only the brass line and the front offices, some of which were the building’s original lunchroom. The technologies in use have also changed significantly over the years. Tom recalled that at one time, 55-gallon drums were in use as tanks at the 44th Street facility.
During Tom’s years at ECF, what he has valued most are the relationships with the people he has worked with. Tom has made dozens of friends within the company; he said, “I’m always running into someone I’ve worked with here.” Also important to Tom are his relationships outside of work, he and his wife have been married for nearly 40 years, and their family includes four children, 16 grandchildren, and one great-grandson. He spends his time off with his family or pursuing one of his hobbies, which include woodworking, auto racing and repair, hunting, and fishing.
A lot has changed for ECF, and Tom Beckwith, over the past 35 years. Building additions, new processes, position changes, new employees, and more have come and gone in that time, and Tom has met those challenges with enthusiasm and dedication. We’ve been lucky to have him.
If you’re interested in working for ECF, view our current employment opportunities.
The preceding story was originally published in the Fall 2016 edition of Currently Speaking, the Electro Chemical Finishing newsletter.