Under the Lab Coat Monthly Series
This month meet Peter St. Pierre, Private Eye….
Peter St. Pierre has been around. Texas Instruments. Union Carbide. He’s traveled the world for these companies and others. It might be surprising then, to hear Hubbard-Hall’s Project Manager of Metal Coloring and Phosphate Conversion Coatings describe what he likes most about his job.
“It’s adventurous,” he says.
Some explanation may be in order. Working for the giants meant working in research. Not boring, but not particularly exhilarating either. Working at Hubbard-Hall since 1993 means working with customers to solve problems.
“What I do here is detective work, working with customers on site or by phone to solve their problems and set them right with their process.”
OK, Peter, so what is a recent challenging problem that you helped solve for a customer?
“The most challenging problem is the blackening of stainless steel. There are a wide variety of alloys that require some special preparation. The most difficult? Thin work hardened glossy stainless steel stampings, since they cannot be grit-blasted.
Recently, our client had shown their large customer a blackened part, rather than the normal shiny stainless part. The customer would only order blackened parts from them, but our client had trouble getting the parts to blacken. A small stainless-steel object would be in contact with apparel so no smut or oil could be used. Working with various acid activation and Quick Pik 1 at the correct concentration, temperature and time gave the ideal black color with no smut.”
Despite his aversion to teaching decades ago, teaching is central to Peter’s role – and his clients’ success.
“The problem is never the black.Is it a new part? Is it a new alloy? Have the parts been sitting around, which makes them tougher to clean? Mechanical engineers, after they’re done with chemistry, don’t want to hear about it. Operators, particularly if they’re new hires, may not know about it. We live this stuff, so we can teach the basics – and improve their process – on every level.”
When Peter isn’t helping Hubbard-Hall customers, he’s doing…everything else. He’s a member of the Oxford Flying Club (with a private pilots license), Windjammer Sailing Club and Winterset Ski Club. And in his spare time, he’s a New Haven Power & Sail Squadron Boating Instructor.
Small wonder, it seems, that Hubbard-Hall appeals to Peter’s adventurous side.
“Hubbard-Hall is unique because, as an airline used to say, we earn our wings every day. We don’t have long-term contracts with our customers, so they could change in the blink of an eye. I’d like to think I’m part of the reason they don’t.”