3 Ways to Increase Throughput & Decrease Costs in Your Finishing Line

Learn how OEMs can lower the total cost of their paint line while also maintaining operational standards using these strategic methods.

Row Of Construction Machinery (1)
Sherwin-Williams General Industrial

Let's face it. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a paint and coatings provider, and pricing is one of the big ones. We all want to get the best deal possible and it’s easy to assume that getting the lowest price means saving the most money. But that’s not always the case.

The paint itself is only a small fraction of total applied costs when compared with almost every other element of your finishing operation. So, what else can you do to lower the total cost of your paint line while maintaining your operational standards?

1. Identify Hidden Costs

Often, there are operational inefficiencies that lead to costs not found on invoices or in traditional spending models. Sometimes, these hidden inefficiencies are normalized as limitations of the facility.

Consider your finishing process. There are a lot of steps and each one takes time, labor and product. When building your paint line, put yourself in your employees' shoes to make sure that each step is optimized for efficiency. Labor typically accounts for the largest portion of total finishing costs, so ensuring a smooth and timely finishing operation at every step is critical.

Even minor inconveniences can have a huge impact. Something as small as getting paint from the container to the spray equipment can slow employees down, increasing labor costs and decreasing throughput.

A smooth, continuous flow is what you’re aiming for. Are there times during the day when your line is shut down? Even a short pause can cause a major disruption on the finishing line. Not only do you have a break in production but, depending on the pot life of the product you’re using, your lines may need to be flushed and product will be wasted.

Think about how to reconfigure your process to minimize disruptions. Instead of running your line at full speed then stopping production intermittently, you could employ an alternating schedule. Using a lighter crew to run the line at half speed during those pauses can keep things moving and prevent your lines from needing to be flushed. It can take a little bit of trial and error to figure out the best line speed and staffing needs but use your resources. A good coatings partner can be a valuable resource in helping you find the right balance to optimize efficiency. In fact, many complex businesses look for engineering and process improvement assistance from their coating supplier.

2. Think Farther 

A lower unit price up front may end up costing more in the long run. Pay attention to the details of the product you’re purchasing. If the cost is lower because it has lower pigment concentration or lower solids, it’s going to need additional coats to achieve the right hide  meaning more labor and more product than you would have needed with a higher quality coating.

A typical liquid coating has around 30% to 35% solid content. That means roughly 70% of each gallon is evaporating during curing and only a third of the product gets delivered to the part you’re painting. High solid coatings range from 50% to 60% solid content, which means less volatiles, more coverage and more hiding power, as well as less waste. Higher solids also tend to have better durability, with coverage lasting 5 to 10 years instead of the traditional 3- to 5-year range, as well as decreased VOC emission. New developments with polyurea and polyaspartic formulas are also entering the market with ultra high, or even 100% solid content. These formulas offer incredible hiding strength and cure quickly at room temperature, reducing energy costs while sometimes still offering a pot life that extends beyond an hour.

Higher solid formulas also provide sustainability advantages — another important element to factor into your long-term plan. Less solvents means lower VOCs and less waste accumulated. At the same time, your product life is extended. In the heavy equipment market, where assets are subject to harsh environment and working conditions daily, improved durability can be a game changer. Allowing machines to get an extra two years in the field before needing to be stripped and recoated can lead to a significantly lower total cost of asset ownership over time.

Your production settings can also impact costs. Obviously, you want to run your line as fast as possible, but that doesn’t mean you need the highest possible settings. Sometimes it’s necessary to dial things down to optimize speed and profitability in your transfer rate.

The tools you use make a difference here, too. Spray guns are not one size fits all, especially in a powder coating booth. The wrong particle size can cause a lot of wear and tear on a powder gun and can lead to impact fusion. Considering the nozzle size and configuration of equipment, it’s very easy for these machines to get clogged.

3. Explore New Technologies

Stay aware of market trends and innovations. Technology has greatly advanced in the paint and coatings industry, and there are options that can work within your existing operations to streamline steps and improve cycle time.

New formulas in powder coating can eliminate steps by combining the topcoat and primer into one, increasing throughput by saving time, labor and energy. For the heavy equipment and transportation markets, these formulas can be combined with an epoxy or zinc primer to achieve optimal performance. If you’re considering a zinc coating, pay attention to content percentage. Some companies offer formulas as high as 65% zinc, which can put you on the next level when it comes to durability.

There are similar solutions in liquid coatings that support an advanced ‘wet-on-wet' application. New primers in the market require just a quick flash off period, allowing the topcoat to be applied almost immediately. Not only do these solutions make your line faster and increase throughput, they also reduce energy consumption and can help you manage labor needs.

When looking for tips on cost savings in your finishing line, it’s important to remember that each facility is unique. What worked for one company may not necessarily work for you. Use your resources. Some coatings suppliers go beyond simply delivering products and act as an industrial finishing partner for your business. These companies have field support teams that go into your facility to help identify cost drivers and implement solutions to minimize them. Being fully entrenched in the coatings industry, these experts can help educate you on the latest technologies and give specific advice on what would work best for your operation.