A company that plated parts for textile looms was a perfect fit for South Carolina in 1961, so it was no surprise that Roy Metal Finishing Company became a staple of Greenville soon after it was founded by Donald Roy.
With the motto, “Quality – Our Specialty,” RMF started fast and earned a reputation as a plating company that put the customer first.
But a quick look around shows that textile mills still standing are now monuments to nostalgia – some even repurposed as high-end lofts.
Technology that keeps mill equipment running is not required when there are no mills left to run. But companies that last do so because they’re able to adapt. Roy Metal Finishing has done much more than survive as it closes in on half a century of service.
Today, RMF is a third-generation family-run operation. The company is now part of Aalberts Industries N.V. and thrives as a member of the international business community.
“The Roy family, since 1961, started out supplying all the textile replacement components until they got worn out,” says Adam Brumfield, director of Product and Business Development at RMF. “That’s how Mr. Roy got into business. Then in the late 1990s, NAFTA kind of took over and made Mexico and China more popular, so all that stuff went offshore. But that’s when BMW came in and just drove the growth in automotive in this area.”
Current President/CEO John Pazdan has guided the company through a transformation from a general industry “job shop” finisher to a key provider of corrosion resistant coatings to the automotive industry.
RMF is the largest zinc nickel electroplating shop in the southeastern United States, and electroplates all things related to iron. Last year alone, the company plated 270 million parts.
“Our industry is so unique because we provide a service,” Brumfield says. “Customers send us parts they sell to other companies for 100 bucks, and what we do to the part costs about 50 cents. So, it’s important that we’re good and that we minimize any fallout or scrap, because that’s just straight cost to the customer. Having stability of the cost consistent where we don’t get upside down from a liability standpoint means our customers, of course, are profitable.”
Last September RMF was acquired by Aalberts, a public Dutch technology company founded in 1975 and based in over 50 countries. It specializes in the manufacture of mission critical systems. However, the RMF management team continues to run its shop and is spearheading a business plan designed to expand Aalberts’ surface treatment business in the United States and Canada.
“Just about every major coating company was family owned,” Brumfield explains. “And now that you get into the second and third generational ownership, it’s like any family-owned business. The third generation is when a business typically fails or stops growing, or the kids lose interest. What we do is expensive, so being bought by a global company is our best move to keep growing.”
The mission, however, hasn’t changed, he says.
“The only difference now is who gives us money,” Brumfield says. “A lot of times when folks hear you’ve been purchased by a big conglomerate, it’s more of a capital investment group that just wants to build you up, cut your costs, and resell you and package you off. That’s not the case here. This property here is probably $40 million in development. To grow like our customers want us to grow and with the new technologies they want us to present to them and the capacity, it was going to take another $15-20 million.”
For that to happen, becoming part of the Aalberts family made the best business sense.
“The family wanted the company to keep growing, but not in the interest of taking on more debt,” Brumfield says. “The Aalberts organization is huge, but what we do fit into where they wanted to grow in North America. Most of their companies are 50-75 people but we have 200, so their interest in us was driven by the stability of the company and the growth potential within this region.”
From automobiles to heavy equipment and, now, the aerospace industry, RMF provides barrel and rack zinc and zinc alloy plating as well as corrosion-resistant heavy zinc phosphating, passivation, water soluble dipspin coatings, sorting, and boxing.
“About 90 percent of our business is anything that rolls,” Brumfield says.
Customers aren’t hard to find. They include BMW, Mercedes, VW, Ford, GM, FCA, Volvo, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai/KIA, John Deere and Caterpillar.
“BMW for many years would import most of their components and then they made an effort to promote the supply chain within the region, so we were able to tap into that process,” Brumfield says. “We don’t supply directly to BMW. We’re Tier 2 or Tier 3, but a lot of the growth in the southeast has been in BMW and Mercedes and Hyundai- Kia. The whole [Interstate 85] corridor has been very attractive to OEMs in our area.
“John Deere and Caterpillar have corrosion resistant specifications that call for zinc plating followed by e-coat and powder coat, and those processes are handled from start to finish at RMF, all under one roof.”
The plating and coating lines are fully automated and operate 24 hours a day.
“Our business is based on volume … we like a lot of parts,” Brumfield says. “As the supply chain for all these guys is how we’ve grown. A lot of these companies have taken the model of BMW in that they’ve encouraged their suppliers to be on the East Coast. The mobility industry is what we call it, with vehicles first, and then heavy trucks is probably our number two business, and then lawn and garden equipment and so on.”
BMW, Volvo, Boeing and Husqvarna have plants in South Carolina, and states surrounding RMF feature everything from Volkswagen to Toyota plants.
“We’ve had some opportunities to go to Mexico in a joint venture down there and had chances to put up satellite facilities in Alabama and Georgia,” Brumfield says. “But it hasn’t made good business sense to do it because a lot of our customers come up I-85 and the sheer weight of the parts we do can be a logistical challenge. At this point our focus is here in Greenville County.”
The company’s more than 200 workers help run RMF’s three plants in the greater Greenville area.
Plans call for the Conestee plant to move its operations to Greenville, while the Mauldin plan will remain open.
“The facility in Mauldin offers similar technology, but we’re landlocked over there,” Brumfield says. “We have three processing lines and it’s a busy plant – one we’ll keep open because it’s very productive. By the end of 2020 we’ll be two Aalberts locations. We’ll transition the labor that’s at Conastee here, and the goal is to have two facilities and keep growing this campus.
“We have 24 acres and 10 to be developed still. This is the future.”
And helping ensure that future is stability.The management team at RMF isn’t planning to go anywhere, and that cohesion means the motto “Quality – Our Specialty” will continue to define Roy Metal Finishing.
“I’ve been here 20 years and I’m probably one of the younger tenured folks,” Brumfield says. “We have a couple of guys who’ve been here 35 years. They started plating and racking parts, and they’re now in a management position. They’ve grown with the company. A huge part of what we do is maintain a stable management team.
“We want to solve our own problems and be progressive in terms of our customers.”