NCCA Roundtable
Friday | 13 April, 2018 | 12:42 pm

Balancing act

Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: Current areas of research include color-shifting paints that add interesting aesthetic appeal. Shown: Paint line.

Like ballet dancers, companies must sometimes stand on their toes and reach for the stars while maintaining their equilibrium

April 2018 - Logistics, forecasting, regulatory compliance, the development of new tools and technologies, green trends and broader applications are some of the topics that shine a light on the near- and mid-term future for the coil coating industry.

Modern Metals asked members of the National Coil Coating Association (NCCA) to address the foremost challenges and opportunities in the market today. Our participants are as follows.

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What is the most challenging development in the balance between supply and demand for coil coaters today? Capacity restraints? Excess capacity?

Lanza: The most challenging aspect right now might be logistics. The movement of material from mill to coater to customer has become less linear, with more time and money involved. This is due to consolidations at all levels of the supply chain and due to the general trucking conditions in North America. In addition, customers are demanding a more just-in-time approach to inventory, requiring shorter, more frequent run sizes. Balancing the logistics can be a challenge.

Deakins: The amount of excess capacity is the largest challenge, and staying competitive across all facets of the business is critical to gain and keep market share. The fluctuation of imports also increases the capacity problem. The challenge is intensified for both bare and painted imports due to an uncertainty about the outcome of pending trade cases.

Small: One of the most challenging areas for a high-speed continuous coil coating line would be the forecast of need versus the actual reality of what is truly shipped and the timeframe that is actually taken. First, the coil coater is taking in chemicals, which they don’t make; paint, which they don’t make; and metal, which they don’t make. They coordinate the arrival and investment in these ingredients, and then schedule same. Having an accurate forecast of the tons that are to be used, and when, is extremely important toward the ability of the coater to serve and to be as cost effective as they can be. If forecast tons are significantly less than the actual need, the coater can suffer multiple costly set-ups and additional costs for incoming ingredients for which they were not necessarily planning. If forecast tonnage is more than the actual near-term need, then the coater suffers storage cost, delayed return on investment and, worst case, potentially obsolete parts.

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The building and construction market is very strong and growing, particularly residential metal roofing.

Describe any new standards or regulation the industry is facing through 2020.

Lanza: We are up for our EPA MACT Risk and Technology Review. [MACT is an maximum achievable control technology standard meant to reduce air pollution.] As an association, we are preparing our members for the type of paperwork and disclosure that is necessary to respond to that. We find that customers are demanding more transparency from members. Requests for Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) are common. This is in addition to requests for proof of compliance to a my-riad of regulatory bodies, particularly in the building and construction sector. NCCA prepared several Tool Kits to guide members and customers through this process. Tool Kits can be accessed on the Education page of our website.

Deakins: Trucking regulations are increasing pressure throughout the entire supply chain. Trucking has not only become more expensive, but far more difficult to secure.

Small: The application of the Electronic Logging Device rule will likely impact coaters and everyone else who moves goods. It will surely mean that most of us will fine-tune and others will totally overhaul procedures and protocols for the pre-staging of trucks and the physical loading of trucks to take as little time as possible while executing deliveries consistently and safely.

Please describe any research or pilot programs going on right now that may soon be commercialized and available for your industry.

Lanza: NCCA is currently partaking in a huge study to determine if we should continue to use HunterLab’s system as our primary tool for color measurement. This study will be a long process and we are just in the infancy of discovery. However, in recent years the ASTM has continued to move away from this measuring tool in its standards, and having standards that the entire industry agrees upon is paramount to our quality policies.

Small: Advancements made in the area of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) will positively affect our commercial efforts related to continuous coil coating. The amount, timing and specifics of the upstream and downstream process and part-specific data is amazing. Personnel on the shop floor can have their on-site, inbound and/or outbound inventory literally at their fingertips. The next inbound load’s progress toward your plant can be monitored by both the shipper and receiver door-to-door. Potential data that explains the metallurgical and/or chemical values of a purchase order or a part can be used to set the [processing] schedule or the machine settings accordingly.

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Probably the fastest-growing sector of prepainted metals is insulated metal panels, which meet green building standards.

Describe end-use markets that are growing more than the rest, and discuss why.

Lanza: Probably the fastest-growing sector of prepainted metals is insulated metal panels.  The combination of a strong construction sector, the availability of some very pleasing coating aesthetics, and the continued move toward more green building solutions are the most likely reasons for this. The fact that both steel and aluminum building panels are made from recycled and recyclable materials and the coatings can be Energy Star, LEED and ASHRAE compliant is a strong motivator in the use of these prepainted products.

Deakins: The building and construction market is very strong and growing, particularly residential metal roofing. Durability, lengthy warranties and aesthetics seem to entice homeowners.

Small: This question could be answered differently depending on a particular coater’s location or the part of the world they’re shipping to. Across the continental United States, we see expanded interest in both aesthetic and topographical alternative coatings. [We see] more prints and some very interesting  image-to-coil transfers on the drawing board. There is some desire for coatings that provide both a different visual perspective and different touch perspective.

How can coil coaters remain competitive on cost and service despite the risk of product or process substitution?

Lanza: Prepainted metals are an ideal solution for many, many applications. Unfortunately, we’ve become such a throw-away society that many people don’t design for the future. The service life of metals—prepainted metals in particular—is really second to none. With the millennials becoming decision makers and their focus on the greater good, hopefully this throw-away trend will end.

Metal can be produced and coated cost effectively. It is often produced from recycled materials, has an extremely long service life, and is fully recyclable at the end of the product life cycle. How many other materials can make those claims?

Deakins: We can remain competitive by becoming more environmentally friendly throughout the manufacturing process, especially compared with materials that are product substitutions for prepainted metal. Also, the increased development and focus on cool roofing and other building products continues to gain interest from end users as being both environmentally friendly and cost efficient.

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End use markets for prepainted and coated coils include the beverage can industry and appliance manufacturers.

Describe new applications for coated coil that you think will be developed by 2025.

Lanza: Several recent developments are likely to be commercialized between now and 2025. Two products in their infancy that will continue to grow are textured coatings and color-shifting finishes. These are exciting products that add a more natural appearance to metal, making the products that are coated feel less sterile. There has also been some interesting work done in self-healing coatings. I hope that by 2025, we will see applications where coating that has been scratched or dented can heal itself and continue to protect the substrate underneath.

Cocuzzi: Current areas of research involve color-shifting paints that add interesting aesthetic appeal, self-healing coatings where small scratches will self-repair, graffiti-resistant coatings that minimize—and possibly eliminate—the amount of time and effort to remove graffiti, and textures that add interesting patterns to prepainted metal.

Deakins: Graffiti- and scratch-resistant coatings are being developed that should be of interest to various end-use markets. Continued evaluations on converting post-paint applications to prepainted coil will help organically grow the market. n


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