Productive Processes

Jeff Alexander, President of the National Coil Coating Association in the US, discusses the market, the economy and opportunities for coil coaters and pre-painted metal.

Productive Processes
Productive Processes

The National Coil Coating Association (NCCA) in the US was formed in 1962 and will celebrate its 50-year anniversary at its annual meeting in April this year. It numbers approximately 100 member companies, comprising coil coaters and suppliers of key inputs to the process: paint, metal, pre-treatments, materials and equipment. Its non-coating members include chemical companies, resin manufacturers, engineering firms, equipment manufacturers etc. The non-coating segment of its membership is very diverse.

Objectives and targets

“Our primary goal is to increase the use of pre-paint and to make NCCA members better able to compete against other materials and methods of coating. We accomplish this through marketing programs, development of informational and educational tools, provision of statistical data on trends, sharing of technical and regulatory developments and networking with industry peers,” NCCA President, Jeff Alexander, told ISMR.

The National Coil Coating Association has logged previous success in areas such as HVAC and office furniture over the last several years but believes that there is still potential to convert more. It provides a variety of resources and technical support to members to promote the benefits and cost advantages of using pre-painted material to manufacturers.

“We have been focused on environmental performance of pre-paint as a process and are participating in a joint project with a related association to develop a lifecycle assessment of metal building panels. The coil coating process is broken out separately in that report,” Alexander elaborated.

“We continue to refine our marketing message and a new website with a focus on the advantages that pre-paint provides for various end uses should be launched later this year. We have several new informational tools under development as well,” he added.

The association has improved its statistical program by developing an import tracking report to accompany its shipment report. These market data tools are only available to member companies.

“Perhaps our biggest initiative is a search for a technical director to help coordinate industry technical positions,” Jeff Alexander told ISMR. “The technical director will also work to resolve perceived obstacles to the use of pre-paint in different industries where penetration should be greater given the benefits that pre-paint provides.”

Markets and segments

Due to its rigidity, metal can span greater distances than many other materials, allowing more design freedom. Colors and patterns can be applied via the coil-coating process. Pre-painted metal can even provide the look of wood grain, copper patina, aged slate, rusted metal and more. Almost any color, pattern and texture can be applied via coil coating.

Construction has always been a core area for market penetration of pre-painted material – with residential roofing offering opportunities for pre-painted steel and aluminum. The NCCA supports the MRA (Metal Roofing Association) and continually looks for new opportunities try to convert post-painted applications into pre-painted applications. However, construction markets are already mature and using coil-coated products. They have also been heavily hit by the global economic downturn so the challenge is to continually pinpoint new market opportunities.

“We have seen some recovery in construction markets over the past two years,” Jeff Alexander told ISMR. “While residential continues to struggle, post-frame, architectural, pre-engineered and appliance/HVAC segments have shown some strength. We believe 2012 will show slight growth over 2011.”

He also highlighted another concern voiced by his members in the US.

“The member companies are very concerned about pre-paint imports into the US market. These products, while cheaper in cost, often do not meet the performance criteria that end-user customers are led to believe,” he told ISMR.

An eye on the environment

The coil coating industry has long embraced the green revolution. There are real environmental and cost benefits to using coil coated products as opposed to other finishing and post-finishing applications. It may help a manufacturer to eliminate a spray booth or a powder operation further down the line. There are huge cost savings in inventory management, too – if a manufacturer converts to a pre-painted product (with the help of his coil coater or service centre), he can manage his inventory down to a much lower level, using just the amount of material he needs in the right colors with no excess metal on the floor. There are also labor cost advantages at a plant, as downstream operations are eliminated by using pre-painted material.

“Coil coating has embraced many green initiatives and there are more to come,” Jeff Alexander explained. “Incineration is used today to eliminate harmful pollutants, but there is also a movement away from chrome. Formulations containing lead have also been greatly reduced over the past five years.

“The move to reflective coatings has become very important over the last few years. Most coatings produced in the US today contain reflective pigmentation. This allows for greater energy efficiency within the building and can qualify for energy tax credits.”

The NCCA helped to highlight the true cost of coil coating by introducing a tool – a cost calculator – which allows companies to quantify and decide on the actual costs of manufacture on a pre-paint versus a post-paint basis. It looks at all the costs, including hidden ones (environmental/chemical costs, labor etc.) to identify the true cost components and highlight the savings that can be made. The NCCA typically holds two major events a year, an annual meeting in the Spring and an Autumn technical conference and trade show. Its next annual meeting, including the 50th anniversary celebration, will be held in Tucson, Arizona (23-25 April 2012). Its Autumn conference and trade show will take place in St. Louis (1-3 October 2012). The two Keynote speakers for the 2012 Annual Meeting are Alan Beaulieu, a popular economic trends expert, and Bob Weidner, President and CEO of the Metals Service Centers Institute.

Myth busters from the NCCA Coil Coating Institute

MYTH: Outsourcing your painting operations would be an added cost.
FACT: Eliminating your paint shop can dramatically reduce cost, time and hassle.

MYTH: Pre-painted metal can't be formed.
FACT: Pre-painted metal can be formed...and with no loss in surface quality or beauty. In fact, the paint system can be designed to have greater flexibility than the metal.

MYTH: Pre-painted metal with cut edges doesn't weather well.
FACT: Pre-painted metal, even with cut edges, outperforms post-painted metal.

MYTH: Coil coated metal can't be joined without aesthetic and performance problems.
FACT: Coil coated metal can be joined with adhesives and spot or projection welding, whilst keeping the superior coating intact.

MYTH: You just can't handle coil-coated metal without marring the surface.
FACT: Handled properly, pre-coated metal maintains a flawless surface not achievable by post-paint.

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