Execute the Basics All the Time, Every Time for Ultimate Success

It’s the little things you do that make the big things in life easier to handle. Most of us have heard the stories of John Wooden, coach of 10 NCAA national championship basketball teams at UCLA, beginning each season teaching the team about putting socks on properly and tying your shoes right. Wooden says, “If you want to win championships, you must take care of the smallest details.” The same holds true in plating. Executing the basics properly and taking care of the smallest details first without short cuts makes all the difference in the world when it comes to executing the perfect finish and making your finishing line profitable and successful.

There are many basics in plating, including racking, rinsing, cleaning, finishing tank process parameters, post treatment, part handling and storage, and system control. To start, take a look at your finishing department. What are the basics you need to focus on for repeatable success each day? Focus on those basics so that regardless of the type of finishing you’re preparing, the process matters.

Racking, Rinsing, Pretreatment, & System Control

To start on your path towards process improvement, you’ll need to master these basic concepts. We’ll also cover basic questions you should be able to answer when finishing metal.


How is the part racked? – There should be a sufficient skeletal structure of the rack and rack fingers to carry the correct amount of current to the part for pre-treatment and finishing. There should be positive pressure on the part and it shouldn’t be dangling and jumping around while in the tanks. Check for parts shadowing one another, total surface area on the rack compared to anode, clean rack tips, etc.

Are your rack tips and fingers stripped regularly? – Rack tips and fingers should also be checked regularly for coating leaks, positive contact to the main structure, and bends in the racks. In barrels this may be dangler maintenance and connections, hole size and clarity. Make sure to ask: Are the holes mashed shut with material and are the load sizes too large or too small?


What do your rinses look like? – Do you have cloudy mixtures, soil on walls, stagnant OR clear, flowing, agitated, and clean walls? Check for soil contaminants both visually on the surface (oils slicks/iridescence on surface) and chemically with pH measurements and/or alkaline or acid titration checks.

What are these results compared to the incoming water source? – I have discovered many waste treatment departments shutting off rinse waters temporarily during operating times of the line. The finishing line should not run if the rinse water is not on.


Do you have a water break surface entering the plating tank? Check the temperatures, times, concentrations, and agitation (if applicable) of the pretreatment steps. Ask: Are they at their optimum levels? What soils are being introduced to the line? What are your parameters to determine when the cleaner is not working? Are there visible soils on the surface of the pretreatment solutions or on the tank walls? Observe the chemical additions to determine if there have been changes to the additions.

System Control

When we consider the basics of system control, we are considering the chemical process, the operating/system process, and the environment. Ask: What are your current system controls? Is your finishing processes repeatable and consistent? We’ve already addressed many of these questions before, but they are critical and need to be reviewed.

These parameters all need to be relatively consistent from day to day and week to week. Times, temperatures, and concentrations for all of your process tanks should be measured and recorded. If your line is manually controlled, is each operator running the processes the same? Operators from shift to shift may know certain parts run different ways. Have they shared this information with the other operators, quality, or process control staff?

Finally, ask: Are there environmental elements you have not considered controlling or observing? Air quality, part storage before and after finishing (location, environment, containers, etc.), and handling (before and after finishing) are all critical basic items to consider when creating a consistent, reliable finish.

There are lots of basic task and detail items to think about when working on your process. In basketball, it was Wooden’s belief it starts with the socks and shoes. In sales, your basic behaviors determine the outcome of your sales for the year. In metal finishing, consider the basics in racking, rinsing, pretreatment, and system control. Are these consistent, measurable, and controlled? If they are, you most likely are on your way to a championship system.