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Variety of orbital sanding machines. Difference not to be ignored.

When we speak about different aspects of the car body repairs, usually we mainly discuss the quality of the materials, especially chemicals. No doubt, the final result of any refinishing job depends on paint, clear or primer used. However, it is of utmost importance not to forget how important is the preparation stage, including such a tedious task as sanding.

Just after the Christmas holidays, during the paint preparation workshop in the company’s training center, I came across an interesting question from our customer. This quite an experienced painter was testing different brands of abrasives together with our technical specialist. While I was discussing something with one of our sales manager, I overheard a heated discussion between the painter and our technician. The argument was about using P400 abrasive disc with 5mm orbit sander. “I only use 5mm orbit, and there is no need for any other model”, the painter said with confidence in his voice. “All these different orbit sizes are just made to make us buying more unnecessary tools”, he added. If you ever had an argument with a painter, you probably know that they are hard to convince about pretty much anything. “Show me the difference “, exclaimed the painter. Therefore, we decided to give it a try.

The rule of thumb

Probably you know the recommendations of tools manufacturers. For the abrasives with grits from P80 to P180 use a sander with larger orbit of 5-6mm, while for the finer sanding jobs with P240-P600 – orbit of 2.5-3mm. Some of the manufacturers also offer machines with rather big orbit of up to 10mm for demanding paint stripping operations; however this kind of sanding tools are not common. What is usually missed in those recommendations, it is the explanations behind this information.

In reality the theory behind is very simple. A large orbit allows the abrasive to cover bigger surface and to remove the “picks” of the uneven surface faster and more effectively. On contrary, smaller orbit covers smaller area, but more densely, leaving smoother surface.

From our internal tests, we found that 5mm orbital sander with the same abrasive and all other conditions the same, removes up to 20% more material than 2,5 mm orbit. This is very important especially in paint stripping or body filler sanding jobs. On the other hand, finer grits load up less when used with smaller orbits, like 2,5-3 mm. This allows achieving better quality surface at less time.

Take away

The choice of tools and materials is a painter’s undisputed prerogative, however we all should not ignore the common sense and facts. Doubt is good only when it pushes one to explore and search for facts. If facts are obvious, ignorance in this case is unacceptable. Using recommended sanders will save you time and money. Proved!

Multi brand paint shop vs a single brand carrier

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while, probably know that I really like comparing how car refinishing industry vary from region to region. It is fascinating how different the business models could be in an industry, where precise (color) match is the main target. What is even more fascinating that there is no right way to do business either. Let me share with you my observations how the paint supplying stores operate in different countries.

Even in the English speaking markets, the name describing automotive paint selling shop differ. Factor, jobber, “paint guy”, distributor, paint warehouse, are just some of the business names I’ve stumbled upon in my career.

Putting the names aside, the look and products assortment usually has a similar pattern. Paint mixing scheme(s) put in the very center of the whole store. Plus a range of clears, fillers, primers, thinners, non-paint consumables, including abrasives, polishing compounds, sealants, aerosols, tapes, and at least basic equipment, like spray guns and sanders. While the number of different auxiliary products brands may vary, what is the main characteristic of a business is whether it carries one or more car paint brands.

Multi-brand store

If you walk into a paint store and your eyes catch more than one mixing schemes from competitive paint brands, then this shop can be considered as multi-brand.  It is important to recognize that the store carrying brands of the same group can hardly be described as multi-brand. For example, if the shop owner has PPG and MaxMeyer mixing systems, he or she probably follows some sort of a corporate strategy in the market. These paint systems could be complimentary. However, if you see Glasurit and Sikkens products side-by-side, than it is a distinctive example of a multi-brand paint supplier.

Pros and cons of multi-brand paint shop

Let’s have a look into the advantages of having more than one paint brand on the shelves. Firstly, if you have a number of paint systems, you can “play” with the approvals, which a particular brand has for certain car manufacturers. If your key customers “require” this or that paint brand because, then you can offer what they require. No need for expensive and lengthy presentations and trials. “You want Spieshecker, here you are”.

Secondly, in reality all paint systems have their strong and weak sides. I mean ALL. For example, X brand may perfectly match Japanese vehicles, while the brand Y does the Americans really well. Having multiple paint brands in store allows a store owner to be flexible.

Thirdly, with multiple brands at your hands, you may cover different customers, based on their price sensitivity.  If a certain customer sprays old cars and have a lot of overall refinishing jobs, then a more economic paint may do the job. There is no need for a high-end, premium paint in this case.

Last, but not the least, the multi-brand store is truly independent business. The owner has more choices and freedom to steer his business towards more profitable solution.

If all the above sound too good to be true, I bring to your attention some drawbacks of having multiple paint brands in your store. The main disadvantage is that no paint producer will view you as 100% partner. There will be always some moaning involved. Usually paint companies will not bring you ready customers to serve, and technical and financial support will be limited.

Single brand shop

On the other side, a paint-supplying store with the only one paint brand (group) inside, can be described as a single brand shop. Often, this kind of business is called, unofficially, by the name of paint brand. Sikkens shop, Standox stocker, Axalta jobber, Glasurit guy, etc. Besides being identified as a famous brand, carrying a single paint system has also a number of benefits. Firstly, you enjoy a full support and area protection from the paint producer. Secondly, often a “mother” company brings you good customers to serve. Literally. Thirdly, stock management is much easier. Less stock, means less frozen money. Sounds great to me! Nevertheless, don’t jump into conclusion so fast. What if the idealistic relationship may stagger? You may loose a key supplier overnight. What if your preferred paint supplier is too expensive or weak in certain important aspects? What if your paint supplier decides to leave your market? Yes, it happened in the not-so-distant past. No jokes.

Conclusion

As you realized, both strategies have strong advantages and potentially dangerous disadvantages. I usually do not advocate for any particular way of doing business. Your decision though should be based solely on your own interests. Don’t be trapped by any sales manager, however capable he is. The managers come and go, while your business is here to stay…

 

UV or not UV?

Those of you, my dear readers, who have taken part in a trade fair as an exhibitor, know how exhausting it could be. However, trade fairs are still the best way to meet new people, catch up with colleagues and learn new things about your industry. Today, when the Collision Repair Expo in Melbourne closed its doors, I look back and think, apart from meeting new and old friends and colleagues on this fair, I definitely take with me the understanding of one future defining technology – UV curing coatings.

While UV technology is not something completely new to the collision repair industry, yet it is now, when all the major automotive paint producers actively market it. During the last three days in the Melbourne Exhibition Center I had an opportunity to get some deeper knowledge of the UV-curing products’ advantages over the conventional 2K coatings, and the challenges, which follow this trend.

Some of you may ask the question: ”Why do the major players in the automotive refinishing industry start marketing UV-cured products now?” Well, benefits of such materials have been known before – ultra fast drying, zero sinking (shrinkage), no heat curing (great for sensitive areas), one component materials (no hardeners required). Yet, what are the challenges? Is adopting UV technology an easy ride? There are a few obstacles though – high initial investment in equipment, products cost (UV materials are expensive) and resistance to change from the painters, when especially the benefits are questionable. Let me analyze what I mean.

Initial investment

One of the largest obstacles for any new technology is the cost and complexity of the associated equipment involved. On this direction I can clearly see some development for last couple of years. For example, I saw some new players entering UV-curing equipment, like the UV-curing brand Lihtan. Australian designed Lihtan brand attracted many visitors in Melbourne Collision Repair Expo this month. Milton Da Silva – cofounder of Lihtan – told me during our conversation in Melbourne that the interest for the UV technology is at its pick; this is why he works closely with all major paint brands to offer affordable and reliable UV light systems. Already many premium automotive coatings manufacturers approved Lihtan UV equipment (www.lihtanuv-a.com). It goes without saying that the more manufacturers of the related equipment appear, the better.

Cost of UV materials

This is probably one of the most important obstacles at the moment. With an aerosol UV primer retailed at more than 70 Euro per can, these products could hardly be described as affordable. What the suppliers of UV-cured materials need to do first – is to explain really well and in details how an ordinary bodyshop will benefit while paying such a high price. One could really claim, for example, that difference in drying time is not that big to justify the premium paid. If, on average, with IR lamp a spot primer would dry in 6-7 minutes, a UV primer would require about 2-3 minutes. Is the 4-5 minutes difference serious enough argument? The question should be answered by each sales rep selling UV stuff. On the other hand, if the UV technology really takes off, manufacturers will achieve economies of scale, and the prices may go down. Time will tell.

Resistance to change

By nature, a human being is reluctant to leave his comfort zone. This applies to all aspects of our life, including our work life. Therefore UV technology will have to go through painters’ and shop owners’ hyper-criticism, skepticism and doubt. However, there is nothing new here. Waterborne paints were met with a lot of criticism too, and now more and more collision repair shops switch to “water”.

I am sure that UV-curing materials will find their place in modern bodyshops only if the paint producers will explain and communicate legitimate, not just on PowerPoint slides, benefits for both painters and business owners. Those benefits must outbalance the expenses and costs of the materials for most of the bodyshops out there, and not only for the very top ones. Only if an average smash repair store profits by the novelty, we would be able to say with assurance that UV-cured technology found its place in the sun…

 

 

The Evolution of Automotive Coatings

4+1 World Centers of Automotive Coatings Industry

 

I never hid the love for travelling in my posts. I am privileged to to travel for my work, and, in spite of all hardships one journey may have, I feel enthusiastic when I enter an airport terminal. At the beginning of every year I take my time to set up my travel schedule for the year ahead. Melbourne Collision Repair Fair, Autopromotec in Bologna, SEMA show in Las Vegas, and then trainings, presentations, meetings… Russia, Turkey, Georgia, France… While I was looking at the map, I realized that all of the automotive coatings industry has its roots grown mainly from four countries: USA, Germany, Japan and, surprisingly from the small Kingdom of Netherlands.

Please note that the information I used here comes from the official websites of the companies. If I missed something or made some mistake, please feel free to correct me by commenting on this post. It would be great to learn more about all the leading companies in automotive coating industry.

 

Why there?

Initially, let me explain to you my thinking. I guess that some of my dear readers may not agree. First of all I took into consideration pure numbers, and as they say “numbers don’t lie”.

65% of the market of automotive OEM and refinishing coatings is shared by only five global corporations. Not ten, nor twenty, just five! Here they are: PPG, BASF, Axalta, Sherwin Williams and Akzo Nobel. It is worth adding also two Japanese giants with continuously growing presence across the globe: Nippon and Kansai Paints. Clearly, the vast majority of automotive coatings are developed in only four countries: USA, Germany, Netherlands and Japan! Let me elaborate upon this with a bit more information.

United States

Undoubtedly, American coatings manufacturers are undisputable leaders in the global market of automotive coatings. Three out of four biggest producers have their headquarters in the US.

PPG 

PPG Industries (Pittsburgh Plate Glass) was founded in 1883 as a plate glass factory, while in 1900 PPG entered the coatings business. In 1960s the company is already supplying paint to car manufacturers, becoming one of the leaders in this industry. PPG was the first company to introduce in 1986 water paints to OEM, while with acquisition of ICI Autocolor (now Nexa Autocolor) in 1991, PPG strengthened its position in waterborne paint technology launching first waterborne refinish system in 1992. Acquisition of ICI Autocolor was also the first step for the European expansion. However, PPG didn’t stop there, and in 1997 the company acquired Italy’s oldest paint manufacturer (founded by the Swiss entrepreneur Max Meyer in 1895).

Axalta (former DuPont Coatings)

Another global automotive coatings leader is Axalta, which until 2013 was known as DuPont Performance Coatings (as a division of American conglomerate, which was founded in 1802). DuPont was the first company to introduce in 1920 quick-drying multicolor paints. However, the past and modern history of Axalta was influenced by acquisition of two iconic German automotive paints brands. Spieshecker a renowned German brand, founded in 1880, probably is the oldest brand, dedicated to vehicles, since it was created to supply varnishes for coaches from the very beginning, while refinishing products were already available in early 1900s. In 1999, a German brand – Spieshecker, part of Hoechst Group was acquired by DuPont Performance Coatings. Another German brand, Standox, established in 1955 as a brand name of the German factory with long history– Herberts from Wuppertal merged with the American giant.

Sherwin-Williams

The company with a distinctive logo – Earth covered with paint – was founded by two businessmen in 1866, just after the end of the American Civil War. Henry Sherwin and Edward Williams were pioneers in what is now American paint industry. Sherwin-Williams international expansion came quite late though. While the brand was well represented in Americas, in Europe it was completely unknown. In 2000, Sherwin-Williams acquired the Italian company from Aprilia, called ScottWarren. However, the acquisition didn’t bring to the American brand expected results, and after a few years the production site was shut down, and about two years ago Sherwin Williams withdrew from Europe all together. It was a bold move, which left many distributors very unhappy. Nevertheless, Sherwin Williams made, from my point of view, a checkmated move when it announced a merger with another American paint behemoth – Valspar Corporation.

Valspar

Valspar is one of the oldest paint companies in the USA. It is fifth largest in the North America, with long history, which begins in 1806. Samuel Tuck, the founder of what is now Valspar, opened paint dealership under the name “Paint and Color” on Boston’s Broad Street. In a decade, the company started production of paints itself. In 1870, business with a name “Valentine & Company” moved to New York, and began to specialize in vehicle finishing varnishes. It is worth mentioning that among various brands in Valspar’s portfolio, there is an iconic “House of Kolor”, which was founded in 1956 by the legendary Jon Kosmoski. Since 2016, Valspar                                                                 Corporation was absorbed by Sherwin Williams, this acquisition was called by many experts as the deal of the new millennia in automotive paint industry.

 

Germany

BASF

BASF history begins in Mannheim in 1865 by a goldsmith and entrepreneur Friedrich Engelhorn under the name “Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik”. Chemistry was always the lifeblood of BASF. Automotive coatings history of BASF is based on two historical names: Glasurit and R-M.

 

Glasurit

Glasurit’s recognizable symbol –the colorful parrot – for over a hundred years stood for quality and innovation. It was founded in 1888 in Hamburg by Max Winkelmann. The tradename Glasurit, by the way, came from “Glasur” (enamel). Glasurit was taken over by BASF in 1965. Nowadays many German car manufacturers recommend Glasurit as their preferred refinishing brand, due to the unsurpassable color matching properties and quality of all Glasurit products.

 

 

 

R-M

R-M was established in the USA by entrepreneurs Herbert Mason and Fred Rinshed in 1919 and soon became the largest paint supplier to the booming Detroit automotive industry. Notably, R-M was the first to introduce metallic colors in 1931, a mixing base system to its customers in 1948, and waterborne paint in 1970. In order to enter the US automotive coatings market, BASF acquired R-M – the company with rich product portfolio and history, in 1985.

 

 

 

Lesonal

Lesonal was established in Germany in 1858 by a pharmacist, who soon decided to produce paints. The company was among pioneers of cars paints, which it started producing in 1920s. In 1980s the brand was acquired by Akzo Nobel, and nowadays it is marketed as value-for-money and user-friendly paint system.

 

 

The Netherlands

Sikkens

In Netherlands or also known as Holland another titan of automotive coatings industry is located. Of course, I refer to Sikkens, the flagship brand of AkzoNobel coatings division. Sikkens counts more than 200 years of experience. It was founded by Wiert Willem Sikkens, who built a paint factory in Groningen. Notably, AkzoNobel is the largest paint-manufacturing group in the world.  Actually, the name of the chemical giant AkzoNobel was born after the merger of Akzo Coatings and the Swedish Nobel Industries. Besides Sikkens, AkzoNobel owns another prominent German brand, named Lesonal, which I referred to already.

DeBeer Refinish

De Beer Lakfabrieken was founded in 1910, and the factory has been producing car refinish paints from 1951. The brand was internationally recognized and, probably was the most successful independent and privately owned company. In 2004, it was acquired by Valspar Corporation, which merged with another American mammoth – Sherwin Williams.

Japan

Japan is the home of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer – Toyota Corporation. Besides Toyota, the land of the rising sun, gave birth to such names as Nissan, Honda, Suzuki, Mazda, Daihatsu, Subaru, Mitsubishi … Taking into account Japan’s preference for locally manufactured products, it is not surprising that local automotive coatings producers would appear. Japan’s leading automotive paint suppliers so far were more concentrated on their region, however it seems that they will also push into established markets, like Europe. Will they disrupt status quo in Europe, for example?

Nippon Paint

Nippon Paint was established in Tokyo by Moteki Jujiro in 1881. The company is considered the largest coatings producer in Asia. It has production sites all over Asia, including China and India. Nippon is among 10 largest coatings manufacturers in the world.

 

 

 

 

Kansai Paint

In some sources Kansai Paint is referred to as Asia’s largest paint producer. In any case the sales figures of Nippon and Kansai are very close. Kansai Paint was founded in 1918 in Amagasaki, Osaka’s suburb. In 1987 the company launched a new brand name – Alesco, which is well known in the Asian region. Kansai also have numerous production sites across Asia, Africa and Americas. Unlike Nippon, Kansai has started expansion to the European market by establishing production site in Turkey, and most recently, by acquiring Helios Coating Group from its Austrian owners in December, 2016.

Italy

I couldn’t finish this article without mentioning Italy. Although Italian paint brands never got close to their much bigger rivals from Germany, USA or Japan, I have to admit that Italian coating industry, just like Italian cars, always played an important role in the global market. Lechler, Palinal, Duco, ScottWarren are just some of the Italian independent brands, which all have a great history and benefited automotive paint industry by their inventions and incomparable Italian style.

Conclusion

From the above information, one could draw the following conclusions.

  • Historically automotive coatings industry has been developing near the centers of car manufacturing (USA, Germany and Japan)
  • Chemical companies have a competitive advantage by controlling and developing raw materials (see BASF and Akzo Nobel)
  • Research and development is a key component for success, therefore all the countries I mentioned before have highly skilled human resources available
  • Car refinishing coatings manufacturing is an integral part of the automotive industry in general, meaning that geographical location of the R&D and production will be dictated by the demand. Asia Pacific will overtake the Europe’s second place in demand and consumption within coming years
  • Africa will also be growing due to the lowest cars per capita ratio in the continent. Perhaps local companies, fuelled by the local sales growth (see Egypt), will have increasing role not only in Africa, but in other regions as well
  • Certainly, my list of the companies is not exhaustive. There are other big or small independent automotive coatings producers around the globe. I concentrated on those who, whether we like it or not, control the majority of the market. In addition, I mentioned only those companies, which have paint in their range, not the numerous brands with auxiliary products. It is another story, with a much broader geography.

 

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