Guest Editorial

P is for profit

By Andrew D. Hall

How to increase product quality while decreasing costs

guesteditorialandrewhall1July 2012 - A flat surface is easier to coat than an irregular shape. This simple and logical principle is the basis for the coil coating or precoating method.

As prefinished metals improve in quality and more types of finishes become available, the product’s markets continue to expand.Manufacturers of commercial and consumer products can choose from a variety of finishes on both steel and aluminum. There are even some manufacturers who specify coatings on stainless steel for extremely corrosive environments. Whether it is for protection or aesthetics, prefinished metal has a big future in manufacturing applications.

Manufacturers can choose from a variety of colors and finishes, though vinyl-coated steel allows for the most options, which include woods, marbles, simulated stainless, bronze, brass, aluminum, textiles, metallic, antibacterial, and both smooth and textured solid colors. With this dizzying array of colors, textures and finishes, why post paint?

Eliminate, reduce and improve

Eliminating post-production painting and powder coating can reduce one or more of the following steps in the manufacturing process: handling of material from the metal forming to the paint line, loading of the paint line, unloading of the paint line, transferring the material to assembly, stocking and tracking the paint/powder inventory, and loading, cleaning and servicing the paint/powder line.

Streamlining production can produce savings by reducing inventory, energy consumption, environmental compliance, legal cost, disposal fees and air emissions.

In addition, the quality of the coating can improve both in consistency and appearance through continuous application versus spot application. Automated processes lead to controlled environments that produce a predictable quality. These processes and quality controls ensure consistency in thickness of the coating and reduction in color variation, especially in vinyl-coated metals.

Retool to save

Welding is one of the biggest hurdles for manufacturers when making the decision to switch to prefinished metals. If the only thing between using prefinished metals is welding, then it’s time to jump the welding hurdle.

There are many solutions to replace welding that offer not only the same but in many cases improved bonding, rigidity and appearance. Take a look at your manufacturing process. If you are welding a corner, backing nut, stiffener or support, ask yourself, why? There are many alternatives available, such as TOX, riveting or adhesives, that can save time, money and improve quality.

Reduce waste

Post finishing of metal can be wasteful and costly on a large scale. Using prefinished metal eliminates overspray and disposal associated with post-production finishing. Prefinished metal is produced in large batches combining customers’ orders both in sizes and colors. These processes can allow for greater synergy of resources by grouping orders across different industries and companies to produce a more efficient product. In turn, this type of production process allows for custom sizes, such as first-production blanks, which eliminates drop from standard-size blanks and the fuel to haul the waste to the plant.

Environmentally friendly product

Prefinished metal production or coil coating can help reduce or eliminate air emissions and disposal because it is produced in a continuous, controlled environment and on a flat surface. In addition, this can increase efficiencies and reduce fuel consumption and waste.

Prefinished metal may offer improved LEED ratings for products depending on the type of coating (film or paint) applied to the metal for many products. Also moving from a product such as stainless steel to a simulated finish may improve a product’s overall LEED rating.

Although I am not a LEED-certified consultant, I encourage everyone to seek a qualified professional to review individual products because understanding LEED is important not only for the building-supply industry but also for every manufacturer of a product that goes in a building.

LEED has been embraced by the American Institute of Architects and its members, which means bid packages and building specifications will be filled with LEED requirements that present opportunities for forward-thinking companies.

Of course, not every product can use prefinished products. In those cases, post-production finishing provides many of the features above because leaving the product bare would increase waste through corrosion and deterioration, requiring replacement and a shorter life span. However, if prefinished metals can eliminate waste, increase productivity and profits while improving conservation of the environment, why not use them?  MM

Andrew D. Hall is the vice president and managing director of Lampre USA, Montgomery, Ala., a division of the Lampre Group, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 334/215-4464.

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