Most manufactured products receive a protective or decorative industrial coating in the factory. Coatings application is often one of the last steps in production, and the result of this process can be the first thing noticed by the end user. Your industrial coatings supplier’s batch-to-batch consistency is central to a successful production operation. When you engage with your coatings supplier, you need assurance they understand the importance of consistency. And consistency is critical to keeping your line running smoothly. A smooth line keeps orders moving out the door.
Internal quality processes and appropriate record-keeping standards are a key part of batch consistency capability. Has your company experienced the pain of coating imperfections? Consider the 5 following items and ask yourself the question: Are my company's products manufactured with strict attention to batch-to-batch consistency?
1. Formulation in the Lab
With industrial coatings, formulating in the lab often starts with simulating the end product’s environment of use. For example, the coating for equipment which will sit outside in freezing to 90 degree temperatures is going to be tested differently from a coating developed for hardware used in an office environment. Therefore, laboratory tests are created to reproduce key weathering or exposure conditions. Results are measured, and test protocols are standardized and approved with you, the coatings user. Once the test methods are determined, ongoing production batches should regularly be tested against these established standards. Results should be reviewed by all parties for consistency.
2. Consistency in Raw Materials
Once a formulation is approved by the user, the coatings manufacturer establishes specs for incoming materials. Raw materials used in the product are verified by the paint manufacturer’s own lab analysis or via certificate of analysis by the material supplier. Sometimes, samples of key materials are held in storage to confirm stability and quality over time.
3. Scales of Batch Sizes
Coatings manufacturers must take care when establishing production batch sizes. Product viscosity, mixing characteristics and process flow rate all need to be adjusted to insure consistent and repeatable results. Standardized batch sizes and standardized equipment routing help assure consistency of process and result. Audit your supplier to approve their approach.
4. Production Equipment
In a typical paint and coatings factory, the production equipment is capable of producing many different products. Some mixers handle low viscosity (thin) material, while others can be used for much higher viscosity (thick) coatings. Pigment dispersion, if needed, can be accomplished in a number of different ways. All this variability is best controlled when reduced to a simple, standard flow process. Process details should be certified to the user, and consistently applied.
5. Testing Procedures
Coating suppliers should conduct rigorous, 100% QC testing on their products. Testing might include a multitude of parameters, among which are the following:
- Density, or weight per gallon
- Pigment dispersion, often measured as fineness of grind
- Color, including gloss, sheen, hiding or other characteristic
- Viscosity, controlled within a narrow range for maximum application effectiveness
- And a wide variety of other specifications
Finally, detailed test results must be retained, along with a small sample of the finished product. This information is kept on file to certify performance and consistency, and to allow deficiencies to be investigated with responsiveness.
When manufacturers use off the shelf coatings, designed for a wide variety of applications, it may be because they do not realize that a custom industrial product can be developed to their exact specifications. Once developed, though, be sure to take control with your supplier over the matter of batch-to-batch consistency, which is critical to your production operation.
If you have ever experienced an inconsistent batch of coatings that affected your product line production time and cost, which of the five items above could have solved the issue? Share your thoughts in the comments!