Editor's View

Recently I was touring a powder coating system at a large manufacturing facility. The engineer in charge of the line was explaining how things had changed to improve productivity and efficiency, eliminating nonvalue-added steps in the coating and assembly process and reducing work-in-progress. These "lean-manufacturing" principles have been forced on them due to a large drop in sales for their products and a need to reduce cost and increase profit margins. This is a repeating theme in America and some other developed nations today as more and more competitive pressure is brought to bear from developing countries and the buying public's insistence on purchasing everything at the absolute lowest price.

The combination of years of low inflation in pricing and a mounting number of low-wage manufacturing workers in other countries is a major challenge to manufacturers in developed countries to be more productive than ever before. We are now seeing improvement in the manufacturing sector, driven largely by productivity gains. In the coating industry, like other businesses, gains in productivity come from process improvement and adoption of new technology. Process improvements can be found in almost any system. Materials handling, scheduling, color-change habits and maintenance are examples of areas that are commonly not maximized.

In this issue we look at subjects that can lead to big gains in output and cost reduction through technology. Understanding the options available and ways of using them can be the difference needed to succeed in the present economy or join the long line of unemployed who have seen their jobs go to another country or another domestic manufacturer.

In "Choosing the Right Technology," we discuss the various coating technologies and when it's appropriate to invest in each one. In "Turning on a Dime," we look at how one company differentiates itself from its competitors and remains as flexible as its smaller competitors.

We also take a look at the changes taking place in powder coating booths and recovery systems to meet the demand for faster color changes and improved efficiency. Important strides are being made in these areas to make powder more flexible for companies that make frequent color changes.

It is critical to success in business to stay up-to-date on technology and to continually look for ways to improve. The cost of remaining with the "status quo" is, at best, limited profits, and at worst, unemployment.

Everyone understands that a large number of jobs have been lost in the past two years and that many of them have been lost because of lower-cost manufacturing in other countries. Still, many American manufacturers are alive and well because they have reacted by actively working on their skills, processes and equipment. This makes them smarter, better, stronger and faster. And that is what it takes to succeed in the face of global competition. Read about the technology. Review options that will set you apart from others who can do what you do. A solid education and commitment to continuous improvement will provide an edge.