In any successful business there is an interest, and often a formal effort, to control cost. For meaningful cost control, a company has to have a thorough understanding of its business and the details of what drives expenses. Cost control should never be about buying the lowest price material or equipment. It should be focused squarely on value. The issue is not how much an item costs, the issue is how will it affect efficiency and output. In reality, many companies evaluate raw materials and equipment by how much they cost, not what they can do. Unit price is seldom a good indicator of real cost, it is a component in calculating the cost of production.
Cost control starts with education. The more we know about the materials and equipment that are used to make our end products, the better equipped we are to select the most cost-effective options. For example, one coating material may be less expensive than another but does not cover as well. More coating is required to achieve proper hiding, so the less-expensive coating (by unit price) turns out to be more expensive in cost per applied square foot. Or a manufacturer can provide a less-expensive piece of equipment than his competitor but it turns out that it is inadequate for the job. The cost to upgrade it turns out to be more than the competitive product with the higher initial cost.
Where do we get this education to make us better decision makers? Experience is good but flawed if you are relatively new to the industry. Learning by trial and error can be very costly because the test comes before the lesson. So until people have had the time to hone their skills with on-the-job training, they need some guidance.
We need to seek information from as many qualified sources as possible. Books, magazines, seminars and experienced individuals are great sources of information. Reading, attending educational programs and asking questions of qualified experts can help us avoid bad use of precious resources.
We can do it right the first time or spend time and money fixing it. To do it right the first time, we need to know the things that are important. Review the basics that every coater has most likely heard many times.
• The part must be clean and dry.
• The coating material must meet customer expectations and be properly applied.
• The cure oven must have adequate time and energy to provide 100% cure.
• There must be enough time and space for each process.
These are simple statements, but many times companies do not have the right process to accomplish these simple goals.
So dig into the magazine and see what you can learn. This month we have a broad group of stories and columns to provide information. The annual R&D survey reveals how coatings manufacturers are allocating their research dollars, the motives behind spending and much more.
Our review of cure ovens provides some insights into current technology and how you might be able to apply it to your operation. Our story on Caterpillar illustrates how the company was able to consolidate two major paint operations into one, substantially reducing both costs and space requirements. And another story shows why handing over the responsibility of maintaining and verifying compliance under Title V regulations to an outside expert can save time and money.
You can never know too much or be too wise. There are no dumb questions.