Diversity and corporate culture define Top Shop

Hohman Plating qualified as Products Finish Top Shop seven consecutive years.
Photo credit: All photos by Products Finish

Hohman Plating (Dayton, Ohio) is no stranger to Products Finish Best Shop Benchmarking Program. The company has qualified as a Top Shop every year since the program launched in 2015. Hohman’s proven recipe for success is based on a number of factors, from its short lead time between part arrival and delivery to its average uptime that has been consistently above 95% across all of the company’s 15 finishing lines, even amid the challenges of the COVID pandemic.

Hohman was kind enough to invite PF for a visit coinciding with the company holiday party and we were honored to be there to join in the festivities.

The day was filled with a family-style dinner for all Hohman staff (served in rotation with COVID precautions in place, of course) and an emotional gathering to celebrate the 50and birthday of the company’s CEO, Bill Miller, who humbly prefers the title “engineering director”. There were lots of laughs and more than a few tears as Miller and a dining room full of employees took turns sharing stories of their time working together.

electroplating, metal finishing

Hohman CEO Bill Miller recently celebrated 50 years with the company.

Miller wears his love for the company on his sleeve. As he accepted a plaque commemorating his years of service, he spoke of his early days in the business with a mixture of humility and humour. “I’ve had almost every job here,” he teased his employees, “That’s why I almost always have a comment on how to do it better.”

Such an event is a testament to the type of company that Hohman Plating is – a close-knit, customer service-oriented company that takes pride in its work and cares about its employees.

electroplating, metal finishing

Hohman’s offerings include over 50 processes, including plating, electroless plating, anodizing, conversion coatings, vacuum coatings, and spray finishes.

Diversity is key

Founded in 1918, Hohman Plating has been part of the plating industry since the formative years of the industry in the United States. The company specializes in a multitude of services including plating, electroless plating, anodizing, conversion coatings, vacuum coatings and spray finishes for its customers. Over 50 processes and services are used to meet over 1,000 specifications in a wide variety of industry sectors including Aerospace, Defense, Nuclear, Automotive, Medical, Construction, HVAC, Drilling petroleum and others. The company is Nadcap Accredited to AS9100D including ISO 9001:2015 and Nadcap Accredited for AC7108 Chemical Processing and AC7109 Coatings.

According to Kevin Harnish, director of sales and marketing, variety is a key part of Hohman’s business model. A diverse client list and working in a wide range of markets has been one of the keys to the company’s success. “No customer represents more than 6% of our annual turnover,” he says.

And that mix of customers is impressive, to say the least. Hohman’s customers include companies such as GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell, ATK, Raytheon, Pratt and Whitney, Hamilton Sundstrand, General Dynamic, Goodrich Aerospace, Harris, BAE Systems, Parker Hannifin, Northrup Grumman, NASA, the United States. Department of Energy, Cessna, Unison, Messier-Bugatti and Eaton Corp., among others.

Hohman was one of the first stores to offer physical vapor deposition (PVD) coating in the 1970s. Process technician Eric Fike explains that the facility performs PVD of aluminum bronze, nitride titanium, lithium disulfide and has been used to coat high performance aerospace applications. Some examples include bearings for satellite mechanisms, motor bearings for the space shuttle, and bearings for the wheels of several Mars rovers for NASA – most recently the Perseverance rover that landed on the red planet in February 2021.

Hohman’s diversification strategy has helped the company stay relatively stable during tough times. Harnish says that during the COVID pandemic, even with about 65% of its customers serving the aerospace market (which still has a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels), the company was not off-budget only by about 7%.

electroplating, metal finishing

Hohman’s gold plating process meets MIL-DTL-45204 Type II Grade C, as well as ASTM-B-488 Type II Code C.

Certainly, there have been challenges for the company. In the spring of 2020, Hohman completed the installation of an automated gold plating line aimed at producing large volumes of small parts such as pin plating on electrical components for aerospace. The timing, of course, was unfortunate due to the slowdown in aerospace activity as a result of COVID. Harnish says the line’s business will grow as the aerospace market recovers.

Plus, like everyone else in manufacturing — heck, in the working world — Hohman has seen a decline in his workforce. It is reduced to approximately 173 employees. Harnish says it’s usually around 195. Given staffing shortages in nearly every line of business, Hohman considers himself lucky in terms of employee retention. But luck has nothing to do with it. It all depends on the loyalty of the company’s staff.

A winning culture

It may sound cliché to say that the measure of a company can be determined by how it treats its employees, but it’s simply true. Visiting Hohman on the day of the company’s year-end party offered insight into how the team respects and supports each other. You can’t go through a given department without someone giving you a thumbs up.

By visiting Hohman, you begin to grasp the amount of parts that are handled and the variety and quality of the company’s offerings, but you also get a sense of community shared by those who work there. And that spirit of community is infused into everything Hohman does, including the way it treats its customers and partners. These are the true characteristics of a Top Shop.