We all have traveled down many different paths in life, and in our travels we sometimes become misguided. We may have made mistakes and done things that we have regretted. Yes, I've made a few mistakes in my time. But the key attribute in making mistakes is the lessons we learn from them. Through my own mistakes, I have learned that it is better to work smarter, not harder.

Those of us in the finishing industry have felt the pain of the contraction in the global marketplace. Companies are not purchasing capital equipment at the same rate they were five or six years ago. The price for an average pound of powder is at record lows due to the high level of competition in the marketplace. Yet to remain competitive, we have all had to work smarter, not necessarily harder. One way to do this is to listen and learn. When we listen more intently to our customers, we learn of the trials and tribulations that they go through using our equipment. The people in the "trenches" have a wealth of information to offer. They know if the equipment is working properly and if the powder is well charged. They know how to work smarter; they must know to survive. They help us learn more about the proper way to apply powder, the great features about our own products and where there is room for improvement. The experience of the operators is a priceless education that can be applied to the development of new products. New products for today's finishing market are verging on having a mind of their own. These include controllers that can automatically select the proper recipe as the part comes into the booth; accurate and consistent powder transfer methods; booths that can automatically clean themselves; and application equipment that continues to improve transfer efficiency. Wouldn't it be nice to have a powder or liquid spray gun that can achieve 100 percent first-pass efficiency? That would solve so many other problems, such as reclaiming powder or eliminating over-sprayed liquid paint. Product designers continue to test numerous theories with powder and liquid application for improved efficiency. A key factor in working smarter is to develop clear and concise goals and focus efforts to achieve them. Sometimes our goals can be small - maybe even trivial to the rest of the world - but they are important to us. When we reach the small goals, we are proud of the accomplishments we've achieved, and it is this pride that will breed further successes. It is the small successes that will lead us to larger, more substantial goals.

Finishers and designers cannot accept status quo. That says such negative things about us as business people and, more importantly, as humans. If our automobile degrades at half the pace it did before, that is not progress. If we are "not as bad as the competition," that is not progress.

There have been numerous breakthroughs in the finishing industry that have made applicators work smarter, improving efficiency, accuracy and quality. In today's society, we have to do more with less. We must work smarter, not harder. The day will come when we will pick up a powder gun or liquid gun, trigger it and every ounce of powder or liquid will be applied to the substrate in the proper density. Working smarter is going down the right path. Can we work smarter? Yes, we can. Our ambitions are so very small compared to the opportunity that awaits us all.