Theta Plate gains new markets with help from New Mexico MEP

Aaron Velasquez, co-owner of Theta Plate Inc., wanted to ensure the future of his Albuquerque electroplating company. The third-generation family business started by his parents in 1976 performs Military Specification and decorative electroplating on precious and other metals that range from platinum to tin. Velasquez saw opportunity beyond the company’s small aerospace jobs and jewelry and musical instrument niche markets if he could prove his company’s work meets the technical standards required for government jobs.

Sandia National Laboratories develops, engineers, and tests advanced technologies, and it categorizes vendors into tiers based on capability and quality control. Theta Plate was already an approved vendor, but at a lower tier than Velasquez wanted. He turned to New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (New Mexico MEP), a nonprofit organization that helps businesses transform their operations to increase profitability through lean manufacturing concepts. Velasquez sought help with forging a path toward registration with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that would give his company a higher vendor tier at the national lab.

ISO registration demonstrates that a manufacturer’s process meets objective quality assurance, safety and efficiency standards set by ISO, an independent global organization that sets standards for various sectors of the economy. Companies that achieve ISO registration receive a badge ¾ akin to but a step up from a “Good Housekeeping” seal or a high Google rating ¾ that gives customers confidence that work will be performed to specifications.

“It tells a potential customer that our system will match their system, their requirements; and they know that we have adequate record keeping and will do what we say,” Velasquez said.

New Mexico MEP Innovation Director Jeff Abrams worked with Velasquez and Theta Plate’s eight employees to analyze processes and make changes that standardized and aligned existing procedures.

“A lot of these systems require a lot of work and more staff just to manage the system,” said Velasquez. “But Jeff looked at what we did and streamlined it in such a way that there was a minimum amount of disruption with no extra busywork.”

Work toward ISO registration is vigorous and typically requires more than a year before a company can start the series of technical audits performed by an ISO registrar, who makes a recommendation to the ISO board.

“Jeff is experienced in ISO auditing; he’s been an auditor, and he knows it inside and out,” Velasquez said about the expertise Abrams brought to his company.

Theta Plate achieved ISO 9001:2015 registration, and customers are confident that its systems will match their requirements. Sandia National Laboratories awarded Tier 3 vendor status, empowering Theta Plate to compete for larger and more technically sophisticated jobs offered by all U.S. national laboratories, not just Sandia.

The work toward ISO reaped another benefit: While working toward standardization, the Theta Plate team developed new processes to plate precious metals on strategic materials vital to modern technology. The proprietary processes, which distinguish Theta Plate from other electroplating companies, are helping the business obtain larger and more demanding jobs in the aerospace and defense industries.

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