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Pioneer Series: Mike Klinge, Keco Engineered Coatings, Inc.
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 Mike Klinge of Keco Engineered Coatings, Inc. KECO has been applying Teflon™ Industrial Coatings for over 28 years and is one of only a select few applicators in the United States with an industrial applicator license. KECO's coating catalog consists of hundreds of fluoropolymer formulations including Teflon™ PTFE, FEP, and PFA designed to offer a wide range of nonstick attributes.
Q: When was your company founded?
Q: Who founded the company and why?
A: I founded the company. My interest started when I was working in a sales position for my grandfather’s industrial painting business that provided military aircraft applications. While serving on an executive committee for the Indianapolis Chapter of Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), I heard some of my peers talking about Teflon™ coatings. So I did some market research and worked with some of those committee members, and I found that I could make a business case for applying Teflon™ coatings. My grandfather was very instrumental in helping me achieve that goal. He could have easily reinvested in new infrastructure and personnel and expanded his business to provide Teflon™ coating applications, but at 80 years old, he supported my idea of starting the business on my own. With his support I started KECO Engineered Coatings.
Q: What was the first significant piece of equipment you purchased?
A: With a $25,000 second mortgage on my house, I purchased a used spray booth, small batch oven, cabinet sand blaster, and fax machine (instrumental at the time!).
Q: How would you describe the changes in the company now from when it was first started?
A: From a footprint standpoint, we purchased the building we were originally leasing, and we increased our infrastructure from 5,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet. We enhanced our regional footprint in 2008, by making an acquisition in North Carolina and adding the Teflon™ coating process to the facility. We increased our capabilities in Indianapolis, in 2010, by purchasing the real estate and assets of Industrial Coatings Services (ICS), as well as, rehiring the key legacy employees of ICS to enhance our production, quality, and process engineering team. One thing that hasn’t changed in the last 35 years is our belief that we are only as good as our team members.
Q: What would you consider significant milestones in your company?
Q: How has the coating industry itself changed over time?
- Receiving the Teflon™ Licensed Industrial Applicators (LIA) status in 1987.
- Becoming ISO 9000 certified in 1987.
- Becoming an IndyCar series sponsor in the 1990’s, enabling KECO to create company awareness and provide a platform to entertain customers and suppliers.
- Co-founding the Racing for Corey charity.
- Launching KECO’s first website in 1996.
- Opening a KECO Coatings office in Arizona, in 1998.
- Making the North Carolina acquisition in 2008.
- Purchasing the real estate and assets of ICS in 2010.
- Receiving the second Teflon™ LIA in North Carolina, in 2013.
A: Obviously the coating industry is a huge category. There are certainly more companies applying Teflon™ coatings today than in 1980; however, we are a firm believer that having competition is healthy, and enables us to constantly improve our service.
Q: When did you get your LIA license from DuPont?
A: Over 25 years ago.
Q: What is your favorite Teflon™ coating?
A: We use various coatings, but significant amounts of Teflon™ S, FEP and PFA. I don’t have a favorite. Teflon™ coatings account for 30 percent of our “bundled” orders. The Tefzel® process is something that we would like to explore deeper in the future.
Q: What excites you about the future of the coating industry?
A: From my lens, there is a real opportunity to reintroduce the Teflon™ coating portfolio to companies who are currently using this technology or have used the technology in the past. Identifying new applications and markets for Teflon™ coatings is challenging, however, it’s exciting as well. We believe that increasing the understanding of the technology and the added value, while reducing costs for customers, will provide organic growth for companies like KECO as well as the category in general. We get excited when we see this happen.