Astro Pak: Using Training to Lead the Way

One of the factors that help Astro Pak stand out from the competition is the skill of the company’s technicians. With the growth in business over the past decade, that could easily be dismissed as “practice makes perfect.” However, the reality is that Astro Pak is committed to providing the best training to its technicians, to ensure that they not only exceed customers’ expectations, but also do so safely.

Intensive Training for High-level Results

The Raleigh, NC, location hosted an intensive two-week Mechanical Polishing and Electropolishing training session in the first half of February. The course included both classroom and hands-on work in the facility’s Mechanical Polishing area, led by Mike Montgomery, the Technical Director of Electropolishing Services. The students came from across the country: Michael Torres-Thompson from Fairfield, CA, Johnathan Novak from Haverhill, MA, and Kory Phillips from Indianapolis, IN. Both Michael and Kory are multi-year veterans with Astro Pak, while Jonathan is a recent hire. Kyle Phillips, also from the Indianapolis shop, joined the class in the second week for a refresher course.

Hands-on and Classroom Training Taught by the Best

In addition to Mike, Senior PL Steve Hardee and PSG Joe Bradford conducted the training. All the trainers have been with the company for numerous years, with Joe and Mike having additional, extensive prior experience with other metal finishing companies.

2012 - Astro Pak added on-site mechanical and electropolishing to its service offerings

Hands-on Learning

The hands-on work was heavily emphasized, with all applicable aspects of mechanical polishing being covered. Trainees started out polishing a 316SS 4-foot half-pipe, bolted onto a workbench and shaped to represent the inside of a pharmaceutical vessel. This format allowed the trainer to advise the student closely as he worked. After disc and orbital sanding, trainees moved on to directional polishing, learning to control and direct the tooling for consistent results. In addition to the vessel simulator, training was done on both smooth and complex surfaces. This was followed up by training on electropolishing techniques, before each student entered the 2000-liter top-entry training vessel to perform repairs as well as learn how to select and wear the proper Personal Protection Equipment for electropolishing inside a vessel.

Classroom Learning

The classroom coursework was just as critical as the time spent hands-on. Confined Space Entry best practices were taught, as was the theory behind mechanical polishing and electropolishing, which included passing along the institutional knowledge about procedures and client expectations. Additionally, because no job is complete without the paperwork, documentation was fully explained with the students filling out PJHAs, DPRs, and PPDs for all work performed.

Going Forward

Mike noted that each student was different, stating, “Some were naturals at mechanical polishing while others excelled at electropolishing large vessels right away.” He stated that he and the other trainers were very satisfied with the students, and they all expect fantastic work from them in the future. He’s already planning the next training session in early May, with quite a number of candidates already lined up. He plans to expand the curriculum to include remote mechanical polishing along with scaffold assembly and competent person training. Training sessions such as these are part of Astro Pak’s commitment to achieving excellence while continuing to invest in its team members.

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