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My Plant Has a Paint Line. Is There a Better Solution?

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Telltale Signs You Need to Consider Prepainted Metal

If you are a manufacturer who post-paints articles in-house, you may be wondering if there’s a better way to get the painting job done. If you are reading this as a member of the coil coating industry, and you will surely encounter manufacturers that are post-painting, for whom you wish to introduce the concept of prepainted metal, this article is also for you. Read on to learn why.

Vertical integration has its benefits. Doing so allows one to compress the value chain, and this provides a number of advantages. Many manufacturers see advantages to operating their own paint line for any number of reasons. They may see finishing operation as a tiny portion of their business, as might be the case for those producing structural steel or castings for flywheels or engine blocks. In many other cases, however, the concept of in-house painting is simply a habit carried over from generation to generation. There are many reasons, however, to consider outsourcing the painting process, and one simple solution is to convert to the use of prepainted metal. Although it is produced as a painted coil of metal, and, under all circumstances, is fabricated after the painting application, the metal substrate and the organic coatings are formulated to be compatible with toughest fabrication processes. Of course, if your facility already has a paint line, the benefits of outsourcing the painting process are often overlooked.

Here are the telltale signs that it might be time to consider switching to prepainted metal. Converting from in-house post-painted metal to outsourced prepainted metal can save manufacturers money, time, and hassles. Here are some indicators that a manufacturer should consider using prepainted steel or aluminum:

1) In-house paint shop expenses are growing

If your in-house paint line maintenance budgets are growing—especially if capital expenditures are needed to comply with EPA regulations—prepainted metal is often a cost-effective alternative to in-house paint lines. Many manufacturers are searching for ways to lower operating costs to remain competitive. Through outsourcing the painting process by opting for prepainted metals, factories can eliminate costly in- house painting operations and the associated expenses of manning the line and complying with EPA regulations. Maintaining the inventory of paint (whether it is a liquid coating or a powder coating) adds to the cost of working capital. When handling solvent-borne coatings, there are numerous worker health and safety compliance issues that can be eliminated completely when converting to prepainted metal, as are all the waste issues associated with a paint line.

2) Plant capacity must be increased

By outsourcing the painting process, plants are able to eliminate or greatly reduce the footprint of in-house paint shops, generating more floor space for other uses. Many delays in the plant are due to in-house painting issues, such as the necessary wait time while parts are painted, dried, and cured before moving to the next stage of assembly. These bottlenecks can be eliminated with the use of prepainted metals.

3) Coating quality needs to be improved

Coil coated metals are uniformly cleaned, pretreated, painted, and cured as a flat surfaces, so the edge-to-edge and side-to-side variability is virtually eliminated. The prepainted part has two coats of paint tightly bonded to the metal, as compared to a post-painted part, which generally has only one coat of paint. In most cases, the prepainted part has paint on both sides, which enhances protection against corrosion, as compared to the post-painted part, which is typically coated only on one side.

We do not mean to suggest that it is a trivial consideration to convert from an in-house paint line to outsourcing to prepainted metal. Perhaps the capital used to establish the paint line has been fully depreciated. If painting quality has not been an issue, a vertical integration model is understandable. Converting to prepainted metal requires a complete change in manufacturing mindset, and timing is likely important.

The following conditions may present opportunities to consider eliminating or repurposing you paint line and outsourcing prepainted metal:

1) Downsizing and/or combining of plants is taking place

While other major manufacturing changes are being made is often an excellent time to consider a switch to coil coated metals in place of in-house painting. Manufacturers can reduce expenses significantly and increase paint quality greatly by outsourcing the painting process. Coil coated metals can be handled effectively, cut with superior corrosion resistance, joined with welding and adhesives, and formed for many uses—all with a beautiful finish.

2) New product models are being considered

Many times when design changes are being made, a prepainted metal can be specified, making the new design more cost-effective to produce.

3) The paint line requires a substantial upgrade

Capital expenditures can be avoided and long-term cost savings enjoyed when you choose prepainted steel and aluminum rather than refurbishing or replacing a paint line.

4) New fabricating or material-handling equipment is being evaluated

When significant changes are made at a plant, it creates an opportunity to improve other aspects of the manufacturing process, including switching to prepainted metal.

If any of these telltale signs and considerations apply to you, you are probably ready to consider a change. In-house paint lines are considered part of a vertically integrated manufacturing facility, but prepainted metal should be considered as an alternative when it comes to increasing efficiency, reducing expenses, and improving quality of the fabricated metal.

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