Technologies that help make paint production easier, more streamlined and more efficient are necessary. The current M&A trend in the industry accelerates this development, says Anders L. Østergård, CEO at Fluidan. Here he states that identifying and adopting automated processes where needed should be done step by step.
What impact is the trend toward increasing digitization/automatization of production systems having in the coatings industry?
Anders L. Østergård: Manufacturing of a paint or coating may seem like a simple process. All you need is to dissolve and mix a bunch of ingredients… but, it is complex, challenging and not always a success at first.
A paint producer may have hundreds of recipes, each optimized for a specific application, with conflicting requirements built into the formulation. When the paint is mixed and samples are controlled by QC, they often need a correction. First-time-Right may be as low as 50%.
Paint manufacturing has, to a large extent, remained a craft for the skilled and experienced operator. Technologies for digitization and automation are being adopted and will eventually allow for a fully automated process, even when raw material quality and customer demands are in constant flux. The current M&A trend in the industry accelerates this development, as the documented best practices of large manufacturers trickle down to those newer to the operation.
Paint manufacturing has, to a large extent, remained a craft for the skilled and experienced operator.
When a coatings producer wants to use digitization/automatization solutions, what are the first steps to take?
Østergård: What gets measured gets done! An old truth maybe not intended for manufacturing, but if you cannot measure a critical parameter, you cannot automate it. This is certainly true for viscosity adjustment. Typically, more than 75% of all batch corrections are about getting the viscosity profile right. Viscosity is measured manually, offline. So, start here — measure the important parameters using online process instruments. This is the core of our business: “RheoStream” from Fluidan is the only way to measure the viscosity profile of paints, directly on the tank, and fast enough (1-3 minutes) to use in an automation loop.
What are typical missteps a coating company should avoid when moving to a more digital/automated business?
Østergård: It is easy to get overwhelmed when all the possibilities stack up — it’s not necessary to do everything in one large project. What are the main obstacles to an efficient, streamlined, and predictable process today? Let a few people focus on solving the most important challenges for the largest volume products. Then, involve the technology suppliers. If your focus is automation of viscosity control, Fluidan is ready to help.