Trailblazers in Green Chemistry: Valley Chrome Plating
Valley Chrome Plating of Clovis became successful in California by marketing its bold, stylish line of chrome truck bumpers and accessories to America’s big-rig truck drivers.
“Truckers love chrome,” says Ray Lucas, president of the firm run by four sons and two daughters of a steelworker dad who bought into it in 1961.
Now the family business is becoming a national industry leader by using safer chemicals in its manufacturing process with no loss in revenue.
Last year, with encouragement of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Valley Chrome became one of the first sizeable decorative plating firms in the U.S. to abandon carcinogenic hexavalent chrome in its manufacturing process and switch to less toxic trivalent chrome.
The shift is a key component of Green Chemistry. Replacing dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives protects workers, consumers and the environment while creating new business opportunities.
Valley Chrome, with 80 employees and $10 million in annual revenue, occupies the top 25 percent tier of U.S. metal plating firms.
“I think in 10 years the majority will do trivalent chrome,” says Lucas, who served in 2007 and 2008 as president of the National Association of Surface Finishing, a trade group for the $4 billion U.S. industry. “In my opinion, decorative platers will get more pressure about hexavalent chrome.”
The switch improved Valley Chrome’s bottom line, Lucas said. The substitution cost $170,000 up front, but saved $140,000 by avoiding cost of a hexavalent chrome fume scrubber required by the California Air Resources Board. Trivalent chrome, which doesn’t require buffing after the manufacturing process, eliminated the need for two employee positions. Trivalent chrome also coats metal surfaces more efficiently than hexavalent chrome. As a result, the company’s product reject rate has fallen to 2.6 percent, compared to an industry average of 7.5 percent.