What would you say to paying 30% more for your waterborne primer and topcoat? Most purchasing agents and COO’s would look the other way and continue on their current path. What if paying 30% more would result in a 20% operational cost reduction? You’d have to look twice at that proposition and likely with great skepticism. Read on if you want to learn more.
Case studies are usually informative but are viewed as unique events that may not pertain to many beyond those directly involved. When a case study is repeated many times, it’s no longer a unique event and really shouldn’t be considered a case study but that’s where we’re going to begin. The event we’re going to share illustrates a process that has been repeated so many times for those seeking to simply get it right and achieve the success they’ve been targeting for years.
Van Technologies began a relationship with a very large wood component manufacturer as a technical resource. They were experiencing great frustration with their current supply of waterborne primer and paint due to lack of viscosity control, out of specification color and gloss, slow drying with associated blocking of components, and other inconsistencies. Furthermore, their current supplier seemed to lack the ability to correct these issues in a timely manner, if at all. Van Technologies was asked to review the overall situation and to provide an assessment of the current state of technology. The company simply wanted to know if they were expecting too much or, conversely not enough from waterborne technology. A full process audit was made and it was concluded that the company should be satisfied with waterborne technology provided they identify a supplier with a primer and topcoat that provided the specified properties on a consistent basis. Knowing that Van Technologies was an industrial coatings manufacturer as well as a technical resource, they asked if we had anything to offer. We did, and we provided samples of our waterborne primer and topcoat. A few weeks went by and the company called and stated that we seem to have caused some issues within their operations and it was necessary to meet face to face.
During the meeting, the wood component manufacturer was quick to point out that the issues they faced were based on a conflict within their internal operational procedures. First, they are frequented by most every coatings manufacturer looking toward the opportunity to supply the company with primer and paint. Second, they have an internal group seeking the best primer and paint in the industry with a mandate that if they find it, they must use it. Third, they only work with recognized large industrial coatings manufacturers so as to avoid potential supply pitfalls should a small manufacturer fail. They then declared that Van Technologies manufactures the best primer and topcoat they have ever tested and it prompted many repeat tests to confirm consistency.
At that time, the industry viewed Van Technologies primarily as an R & D company and not necessarily as a recognized manufacturer of performance industrial waterborne and UV curable coatings. Van Technologies simply didn’t fit their supply chain criteria at that time, thus, the need to meet face to face.
To Find a Solution is to Compromise
The wood component manufacturer had and continues to operate multiple facilities internationally. It was decided, pricing aside, to carve out a slice of their operations and dedicate it to our primer and topcoat. If the system proved effective, another slice would be allocated, followed by another whereupon sufficient experience would be obtained to provide the “strategic comfort level” to management. Van Technologies was strongly advised to “take care of each slice” and good things can happen.
This compromise permitted the company’s internal conflict to be resolved and permitted an effective series of production trials of what confirmed to be the best primer and topcoat system they’ve ever observed. In the background, however, was the short-term goal that, once the system proved itself, pricing could be renegotiated to more closely match what they had been paying for coatings from the previous supplier.
The initial “slice” of business consisted of a very professional finishing operation that processed approximately five million lineal feet of components or moldings per year. Management of the facility was obviously skeptical as they mentioned more than once, “We’ve been down this road before” but they nonetheless complied with corporate’s instructions. This is a situation that is very familiar to most all industrial coatings manufacturers. The introduction of a new coating is usually met with reluctance as past experiences don’t usually produce the desired level of overall performance.
The process consisted of automatic loading of moldings through a pre-sanding station, spray application of primer, primer drying using an IR lateral transfer oven, profile sanding, and spray topcoat application followed by drying using a second and similar IR oven.
The implementation process began by thermal profiling of both IR ovens followed by the necessary adjustments to make sure the conditions would accommodate the drying process of the primer and the topcoat applied. Optimal spray gun tips and air caps were installed and primer and topcoat fluid and atomization air pressures were established to deliver the specified wet mil film thickness in a highly uniform manner. Importantly, the finish line personnel are comprehensively trained in the use of our coatings. This is consistent with our “P3” concept or “Product (coatings) united with “Process” guided by “People”. This integration is essential to making a smooth transition.
No one likes to admit there are negative production issues but once a level of comfort developed between parties it became evident that there were serious concerns regarding:
- Primer and topcoat quality
- Surface finish appearance
- Inventory management as coatings were not shipped on time
- Finished molding rejects were costing time and resources to rework
Admittedly, the finishing manager started each day hoping operations would go smoothly. After the transition, however, the manager started each day confidently knowing that operations would go smoothly. The value of knowing what outcome will result is incredible and six months later when the plant manager was asked how things were going, he remarked that finishing issues haven’t been a subject of discussion for quite some time as opposed to being a hot topic in past meetings before the transition. He also shared the fact that in spite of the increased cost for primer and topcoat on a per gallon basis, the resulting operational improvements are on track to provide an annual savings in excess of $100,000. Furthermore, the finish quality is far superior and reject ratios are below any level of concern.
These results have since been repeated four more times and what’s more remarkable is the fact that we don’t have a permanent representative on location at any of their facilities. The products are engineered to work, are qualified in our lab where components are finished before shipment, delivered on time with the lab finished component. There is no need for onsite adjustment of color, gloss or viscosity and, therefore, nothing for anyone to do but charge the finishing line and let production run.
From our perspective, we don’t hope our coatings work for our customers, we know they will because we’ve already used the same material according to the same conditions that our customer uses. This is essential in the process of “Getting it Right” the first time.