Last year was difficult, and the coatings industry was not unaffected by the economic slowdown. Many key markets were down or flat, indicating that new business in the industrial sector was scaled back or postponed.
Despite this, The Electrocoat Association is looking forward to 2003 with cautious optimism. Recently, there have been upticks in some of the leading economic indicators, suggesting that recovery is around the corner. Many coatings-related companies took steps over the past year to tighten business practices, and have actually grown their businesses in these uncertain times. Automotive sales and production had better results than originally anticipated and, due to incentive offerings, are now close to record levels.
As for the E-coat industry, we'll continue our focus on growth. Although still a small part of the coatings market, many potential marriages for E-coat along with other technologies need to be explored. The plating and powder coating markets, two of the Association's targeted coating segments to educate about E-coat technology, show signs of continued interest, spurred on by increasing environmental regulations and the desire to provide longer-lasting, tougher finishes.
One trend that will continue to emerge into 2003 is the use of electrocoat as a primer for powder topcoats to increase life-cycle value. Manufacturers, coaters and specifiers have already recognized that cutting corners on coatings offers very limited short-term cost savings, which ultimately results in larger refurbishment or replacement costs later on.
Emphasis on value is taking on more importance as purse strings for application of coatings become tighter. Manufacturers and consumers want coatings that will protect and withstand the long-term. For electrocoat suppliers, who have been teaching customers about the performance, quality and value of E-coat, that's good news.
For The Electrocoat Association, that's good news as well because a strategy for increasing awareness and use of electrocoating has been implemented and will continue to gain momentum in 2003. A targeted plan to increase electrocoat exposure in vertical end-use markets has been outlined along with a strategy to create awareness in consumer groups. Regional seminars, covering the basics of E-coat, along with plant tours will be instrumental in serving to educate finishing shop personnel.
If someone is interested in learning on his or her own, Electrocoat: A Guidebook For Finishers is available. It provides an in-depth "walk-through" of an entire E-coat operation, outlining all of the components and subject areas of an electrocoating system. Whether the reader is new to this technology or has years of experience, this book is a handy tool for answering E-coat questions. Special features include: detailed illustrations, a comprehensive glossary and troubleshooting tips.
A new E-coat Mark to symbolize and explain why electrocoated products are superior to those without is also scheduled to unfold. The Mark was created in response to membership surveys indicating the need for increased consumer awareness about the reasons many products (such as automobiles) last longer than ever before. When making a purchase decision, consumers want durable products that look good, withstand wear and tear and offer good value. And although the E-coat finish isn't always the topcoat on products, it provides the overall protection required to make products last longer.
The Mark program is designed to aid industry communication, educate people in manufacturing operations, create brand awareness, clearly identify products protected by an electrocoat finish, educate consumers and help manufacturers sell more products. The goal is that educated consumers will choose electrocoated products over non-electrocoated ones.
Our focus on growth will only be enhanced by our commitment to quality, performance and value. We look forward to 2003 and all it brings.