10 Questions to Ask Reputable Anodizers

Posted October 13, 2015
By Jack Tetrault

How Do You Chose the Right Anodize Company?

Choosing any vendor, for any service, can be a challenge if it is done correctly. I posed my industries’ problem to a professional procurement VP and former metal finishing buyer. “Buying services can seem simple,” according to the VP of procurement for a major orthopedic company. “In fact, it’s often much harder than buying a tangible product.”

I was fortunate enough to have similar conversations with many such talented people and took away some great thoughts from these discussions. My intent here is to shed some light on the difficulty and misconceptions when choosing an anodize vendor. We are all buyers. Every one of us purchases services and products and we have thought patterns when doing so that allow us to make decisions that suit our needs. Usually, the three biggest items regard quality, service and delivery, and price—followed by smaller, but important items like, convenHow-to-Chose-Anodize_dchn_coated_partsience, reliability, trustworthiness, and many others. Let’s look at a few seemingly small purchases made in some, if not most, of our lives.

You want to buy a service for, let’s say, landscaping. You find a company local that seems okay. Do you just hire them and see how it goes? Typically not. You usually ask a host of questions, something like this:

  • How long have they have been in business?
  • Where can you see their work or get referrals or testimonials?
  • Are they a contemporary and viable business?
  • How reliable are they?
  • Are they trustworthy?
  • Will they be around next year?

My guess is that these are just some of the questions that will run through your mind. If all your questions were answered satisfactorily, what was the first thing you thought of after that? It’s generally about the price. If it was price, that begets another whole set of considerations. If the price was right for you, did all the other questions not matter? If the hedges aren’t even and the lawn has been fertilized in stripes, is that okay if it’s cheap? Again, my guess is that the answer is no. What if the price was too high? Is that a showstopper? BUT, what if the price was great and everything looked great, but after hiring them, corners were cut that you couldn’t see? Suppose there was poor insect control, bad lawn feed, flower care, etc. Maybe not this year, but the consequences of that will show eventually. Would it be worth it? I can think of many examples: think about a house painter who doesn’t scrape well, uses poor quality paint, no primer, and paints over items that should be removed or masked. It looks good today, but soon it will not. How about a car mechanic who uses poor quality parts, does “patch it” repairs, or worse, creates a new problem by using a poor product or method? I think you get the idea.

I’m using these examples to illustrate a point. It’s pretty much a daily occurrence that we make buying decisions or are at least in the consideration phases. These decisions can have lasting impact and can save or cost us money; some seem like such obvious choices. However, they are not all obvious. Truth is, everyone wants quality—and if the perception is that all the vendors provide the same quality, then the usually considered variables are price and delivery.

Let’s take a closer look at the mechanic. Your car was repaired in a day—perfect. The bill was reasonable—that’s great. Your car runs fine for three months … and then, wham! Back in the shop for more repairs. My guess is that it won’t go back to the same mechanic, because you lost faith (aka trust) in him and now know the quality of his work is suspect. But what if you sold that car after three months and the breakdown was on someone else’s dime? Does that matter? Would you still think the decision a good one? That’s a harder question, but none the less, speaks to the point of this blog.

Often, I hear from customers that all anodizers are alike and produce similar quality because when the customer (you) gets the parts back, the only judgement on quality is “how does it look?” If they look good, it’s fine. Remember the house painter? The house looked great, but peeled in a year or less. The problem here is that most buyers of anodized product do not know how to judge quality. It’s not their fault, and it’s not a knock on buyers because often, quality assurance people aren’t sure how to judge quality on anodized products. There is confusion on what to test for to see if they have a good product. Once in the field, poor anodize performance is seldom reported, and often, the field people think this is what is supposed to happen to anodize after a year or two. Again, lack of knowledge about what makes a good anodic coatings is to blame.

Given the examples above, I believe it is critical and smart to understand how to choose a good anodize vendor.

10 Considerations for Choosing a Reputable Anodize Vendor:

  • First, ask about any accreditations they have—that is: are they ISO 9001 registered, etc.?
  • If they provide certs, can they prove that they have submitted their test panels monthly and passed? Passing qualifies them to issue certs.
  • Inquire if they belong to any anodize organizations where they will be kept apprised of new technology.
  • Find out what type of anodizing they perform: type II or type II and III, etc.
  • If they do type III, how do they process the parts: by current density or voltage?
  • Do they know how to effect hardness?
  • Ask about the type of chemistry controls they have in place.
  • Ask if they have a reliable system of recording chemical titrations and additions.
  • Inquire about quality controls: Do they measure, have on-time delivery, customer return rates, first-pass yield, and other quality metrics?

There are many other things that can be asked of your anodize vendor or one you are considering. The bottom line is, if they do not have a good quality system and control and measure their performance and output then maybe there are other things that go uncontrolled or unmeasured. Choose wisely.

I hope that this offers guidance on the issues that I see as a long standing member of the anodize community and a person who works within that community to advocate for the industry and its customers.

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