Ambitions realized
Asset acquisitions, growing product line, equipment investments help one company leap into the future
BY corinna petry

upersize, modernize and optimize—these seem to be the connected goals for Vorteq Coil Finishers LLC. The coil coater recently closed on a major acquisition, the second inside of two years; has rebuilt a major operation in Tennessee; and is automating functions where it makes the most sense.

The acquisition of Western Metal Decorating, Rancho Cucamonga, California, closed in October 2019. This followed the May 2018 acquisition of Wheeling Service & Supply Inc. and the October 2016 purchase of Prior Coated Metals Inc. With seven facilities and nine coating lines, Vorteq now has the broadest geographical reach of any independent coil coater in North America.

Now called Vorteq Pacific LLC, the former Western Metal Decorating produces coated aluminum and steel products serving pre-painted markets across the western United States.

“Our strategy is to add geographic reach, additional capabilities or incremental customer base into new markets,” says Vorteq CEO Jim Dockey. “Pacific gives us the geographic reach that will now allow us to service a national customer base in the West. We have a national footprint now covering the largest region of any independent coil coater in the United States. From Los Angeles to Philadelphia and from Milwaukee to Chicago and south to Memphis, we have coating assets east to west and in between.”

Vorteq relocated its corporate headquarters from Wisconsin to Pittsburgh. The Oconomowoc plant will remain a major production center.
We have a national footprint now. We have coating assets east to west and in between.
jim dockey, vorteq coil finishers

Vorteq Pacific runs two slitters, a coating line and has embossing capabilities, says Dockey. The Rancho Cucamonga plant has a rail spur and is located near the Port of Long Beach, which allows the company to have imported coil brought directly to the plant.

“We are taking freight costs out of the equation wherever possible,” Dockey says.

“The expanded reach gives us an ability to service West Coast customers who haven’t worked with Vorteq before. We bring our Vorteq brand and our customer portal.” Called Quest, the portal enables customers to access all inventory functions and reporting. It has modules for production reporting, shipping/receiving and other customer-driven features and is also formatted for and accessible from mobile devices.

Vorteq factory
Modernization at Vorteq is aimed at gaining efficiencies. The company also sees diversification and product development as part of its growth strategy.

Dockey says the assets and personnel of Wheeling Service & Supply has enhanced the Vorteq portfolio with two slitters and a cut-to-length line. “The integration of those assets is going very well. The purchase allowed us to optimize our product mix in the Midwest between our Chicago and Milwaukee coating lines,” he says, referring to facilities in Franklin Park and Woodstock, Illinois, and Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

Vorteq rebranded and relaunched one of Wheeling’s bestselling products, PVS (polyvinyl steel) as PolyDuqt. “This is a proprietary coating that goes into spiral duct, and we are growing that product line,” says Dockey.

The coating is suited for demanding underground, corrosive fume or environmentally challenging exterior aesthetic jobs. It’s certified by UL and prevents mold growth, flame spread and smoke damage.

Vorteq, when it was still Wismarq Industries LLC, bought Prior Coated Metals Inc., Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2016. That acquisition increased Vorteq’s gauge range capability for a broad offering of applications, allowed the company to more readily access customers in the Northeast corridor, and gave it additional value-added downstream processing and precision slitting capabilities.

Rebuild project

Over the past couple years, Vorteq has completely rebuilt its Jackson, Tennessee, coating line, according to Dockey. “We just finished a complete upgrade of the entry end and installed a quick-change coater. We redid all the electrical drives and motors. That was a significant capital investment.” Separately, Vorteq installed a quick-change coater in Oconomowoc.

“Whenever you have a quick-change coater, you minimize downtime when changing paint colors. Depending on how many paint changes you do per hour, it can increase capacity and productivity significantly. We invested in Wisconsin and Tennessee, and we have one each in Pittsburgh and California.”

Automation is a long-term goal for the sake of productivity, quality and greater capacity. “We are as automated as we can be but there remains manual labor involved in pre-paint processing,” Dockey says. “Our modernization is aimed toward efficiencies. We will continue to do that as opportunities present themselves. We have a disciplined growth strategy. We want to improve market penetration, and we are looking for market opportunities through diversification and product development.”

Vorteq relocated its corporate headquarters from Wisconsin to Pittsburgh. The Oconomowoc plant will remain a major production center. “We won’t do anything to disrupt Oconomowoc operations,” Dockey says.

“I have lived in Pittsburgh since I became CEO. We have had a satellite here with sales and administrative offices. Accounting and finance were in Wisconsin. So I was splitting time between the two. With Pittsburgh being the center of the metals industry and recognized as such, it makes sense to make this our recognized corporate headquarters,” he says.

With the move, the company “didn’t eliminate any jobs or force any transfers. Functionally, nothing changed. As we become a more significant nationwide metals processor, it’s strategic to be here.”

Vorteq won’t be taking a long time-out from further growth opportunities. “We remain ambitious about investing in our existing assets and evaluating future growth opportunities,” Dockey says. Despite 2019 being a “bit choppy in terms of demand, we are optimistic about 2020. We would love to see stability in trade policy, but the fundamentals of the economy remain pretty good.”

Vorteq Coil Finishers LLC, Pittsburgh,