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Industry Pioneers: Bruce Nesbitt, Orion Industries
This series is intended to highlight the long-standing careers of devoted Teflon™ coaters and their accomplishments in the industrial coating field. These pioneers in the Teflon™ coating industry are early adopters of the coating and have helped to shape the way Teflon™ has grown and evolved as a reputable industrial fluoropolymer. With the pioneers' vision and ingenuity, Teflon™ coatings continue to be regarded as the elite fluoropolymer of choice.
Our interview series continues with a spotlight on Bruce Nesbitt of Orion Industries.
"The endless possibilities of product improvement using Teflon™ coating excites me"
Q: When was your company founded?
A: It was in 1964, in my parents’ basement.
Q: Who founded the company and why?
A: I did. While I was in the hospital recovering from a broken ankle, a friend brought me a magazine that had an article about LeMans racecars. The article discussed how Porsche used a special coating on its engine parts, helping to win the 24-hour LeMans race. Intrigued by what I read I sent away for some samples of the special coating, Molykote, and learned how to spray it on racecar parts. That was the “primordial goo of Orion.” I used my mother’s oven in the basement to cure the coating, and although those initial coatings did not involve Teflon™, I began my relationship with Teflon™ shortly thereafter in 1966.
Q: What was the first significant piece of equipment you purchased?
A: An air compressor and an electric oven. Both got worn out.
Q: How would you describe the changes in the company now from when it was first started?
A: Far more documentation now. NO more collegial transfer of tribal knowledge. We now document everything and bar code all labor and materials. However, never have I found a way to lose money on a job and prosper, so we avoid losing jobs, or as the late Pedro Diaz of Boyd Coatings so eloquently said years ago, “Avoid dog customers.”
Q: What would you consider significant milestones in your company?
A: Moving from the sixth floor of a building to a ground floor location in 1969. In addition to a larger working space, I also made changes to expand the business. I purchased two Teflon™ LIA businesses, Fluorocarbon Company and Ekco Industrial Coatings. Ironically, Ekco had offered me a job in 1969 and by 1982 I was buying them. In addition to these events, several staff members have added to the company’s growth, too numerous to mention. This is a really unusual industry, so creative and clever staff have made all difference.
Q: How has the coating industry itself changed over time?
A: Wow, much more regulation, especially government regulations. Heightened government regulations have made for fewer marginal coaters but have also increased overseas competition (especially for large housewares jobs). The industry is more efficient, with tighter controls, allowing for more automation and electrostatics.
Q: When did you get your LIA license from DuPont?
A: 1973 or so.
Q: How has being an LIA affected your company?
A: The LIA status initially provided plenty of leads and assistance from DuPont's sales force. Today, the LIA offers more technical assistance from The Chemours Company when needed. The LIA network is really much smaller but with many more good firms.
Q: What is your favorite Teflon™ coating?
A: 958G-303, 420G-104, and the 851 acid primer series, which we use on a consistent basis
Q: What excites you about the future of the coating industry?
A: The endless possibilities of product improvement using Teflon™ coatings excites me. I also look forward to the next phone call or e-mail with a very unique question about “how will Teflon™ coating help my product do this or that.” After 50 years, I still get amped up over the new and next opportunity. I meet the brightest folks imaginable with imagination and that’s great!
|Left to right: Bruce Nesbitt, Mike Patterson, and George Osterhout of Orion Industries at the 2013 DuPont Plunkett Awards