Members of DuPont's first 20-Group participants from its Star Coater Program get ready to embark on the evaluations of their host company, Burkard Industries, Clinton Township, Mich.
If you could have a group of non-competing powder coaters walk through your powder coating plant and offer an honest opinion about the way you do business, would you want them to?

Twice a year, 20-Group members converge on a location to do exactly that. The idea behind this group, which is offered as a potential benefit of membership of DuPont's Star Coater program, is to bring 20 or fewer non-competing companies together in an information sharing group. Jay Burkard, president of Burkard Industries, a powder coater job shop and electrocoat service provider located in Clinton Township, Mich., is one of eight members in his 20-Group (see sidebar for membership list). Burkard says it was the 20-Group part of the Star Coater program that convinced him to enroll his company, which is primarily geared toward the automotive sector.

In April this year, Burkard Industries hosted the bi-annual two-day event, where all members of this particular 20-Group, which has been going strong for two years now, convene for what is considered a "brutal" evaluation of the host company. Of course, each venue precipitates a different agenda, and Jay Burkard shared his from the April event with Industrial Paint & Powder. Most visitors arrived the Thursday evening before the event for some socializing and then resting up for an early start the next day. On Friday, April 8, at 8 a.m., members were presented with an introduction to Burkard Industries. Burkard says it was the same type of presentation he would give to potential customers, offering an overview of the company, processes and products. Because Burkard Industries offers electrocoat services - the other 20-Group members do not, but may want to in the future - the members were given a guided tour of the e-coat area. Burkard says, "The primary function of all our current members is powder coating, but because we are non-competing, we can share all aspects of our companies and processes. Our goal, as a group, is to help each other with ideas to improve and grow our individual businesses."

Participants of the April 20-Group evaluations at Burkard Industries line up for their picture to be taken. The group meets twice a year to evaluate each others' facilities and share information.

It's a Free for All

After the e-coat tour, what is called the "free-for-all" ensued. During this two-hour span of time, members are allowed to walk through the plant unescorted with clipboards and evaluations in hand. A typical evaluation form for this event is about four pages long and offers a numerical grading scale (from 1 to 5 - 5 being the best, 1 the worst) for several aspects of the plant. There is also plenty of room for comments after each segment. The form for Burkard's evaluation included the following items:

  • Conveyor Line and Racking - Conveyor, Hangers/Racks, Cleaning Methods, Ground
  • Part Preparation and Treatment - Record Keeping, Nozzle, Risers, Pretreated Parts
  • Coating Area - Cleanliness, Air Supply, Filters, Lighting, Personnel use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Coating Equipment - Guns, Hoses, Booth, Spray Settings, Spray Techniques, Line Speed
  • Oven - Dry-Off, Parts, Cure, Recorder
  • Quality Control - Incoming, Finished, Frequency, Adequate
  • Powder Storage - Storage Area, Climate, Cleanliness, Labeling
  • Safety - Awareness, Equipment, Culture, Housekeeping, Material Handling Equipment
  • Overall - Housekeeping, Visiblity of Supervision, Efficiency of Personnel, Proper Staffing for Jobs being Processed

During the walk-through, host-company employees wear name tags that include their position title and number of years with the company. Visitors are allowed to ask them anything. As Burkard points out, "Sometimes the president of the company does not really know all the details. But if you talk to the guy who is doing the final thickness inspection, you can ask him how many parts does he check, where is he logging it, and what does he do with the data? The information evaluators learn during unguided walkthroughs is invaluable for both themselves to take home, and the host company." After all the information is gathered, the results are presented to the host company on the following day. That gives a DuPont representative - in this case, Trena Benson - just enough time to import the findings into a PowerPoint presentation on Friday evening.

After the free-for-all, members take a lunch break and then it is back to business. There were many other agenda items at this particular event, including a 15-minute overview of the DuPont European Study Tour; Powder Coat Application Equipment - maintenance of existing equipment, new technologies; Class A Powder Coating - How do we get there?; Developing backup sourcing plans per GM requirements; Pretreatment of mixed metals, including aluminum, galvanized, etc.; utilizing other 20-Group members for outsourcing of business; Customer Expectations for Lead Times and Dealing with it - being last in the value chain can lead to unrealistic customer expectations, with a discussion on how each member company deals with this; and finally, an open discussion.

On Saturday, Burkard Industries was given its evaluation. Although we are not privy to the findings, Burkard says, "The 20-Group members are very detailed and strive to find areas where we can help each other improve. This is not a group that will walk through the plant just to tell you what a great job you are doing. They are going to open up storage room doors, walk through washers, peek in ovens, and ask employees about the operation of the business. The compiled information is shared with our Management Team on Saturday where we can ask individual evaluators for detailed input. After that we will take the compiled information and present it to our floor powder coat employees and use it as a tool for continuous improvement." Saturday's time also is used for benchmarking of performance and financial information, setting up the next meeting, other 20-Group business, and any final open discussion.

When asked about DuPont's Star Coater program, Burkard says, "Each company has to decide what is important to them. For instance, we use the purchasing power, where Dupont negotiates with masking companies, etc. That is important to us. On the other hand, there is business consulting, which we haven't used, but is valuable to others. The 20-Group, though, is the one benefit that got us to join the Star Coater program." Burkard continues, "Our 20-Group members have really developed a strong rapport with each other, and we are not scared to share info or let people walk through our plants and see what we do. We know who we are and we are not competitors, so we really help each other out. But it is important to get 100 percent participation. It is a unique opportunity to visit other facilities, and for the host it is like having seven consultants tour your facility and give feedback."

To add a company to the group has to be a unanimous decision. Geographically, that can get difficult, so DuPont is underway to starting a second group. Burkard says that there are members from the first 20-Group who are willing to help with the startup of this endeavor. If you think your company might benefit from this program, contact Trena Benson at DuPont Powder at 713-996-4679. To contact Burkard Industries, call 586-791-6520 or visit www.

Sidebar: Equipment at Burkard Industries

  • ITW Gema powder application equipment (and newer booth from Gema).
  • Two (2) Jervis Webb conveyors, one installed by Therma-Tron-X (TTX) and one by Ramco, which is no longer in business.
  • Two (2) burnoff ovens from Pollution Control.
  • Stanek Racks.
  • DuPont powder.
  • Therma-Tron-X installed Burkard's e-coat line, which uses DuPont e-coat.
  • Therma-Tron-X 60 gpm waste treatment system.

Sidebar: 20-Group Membership

Burkard Industries, Clinton Township, Mich.

Source One, Lincoln, Neb.

Profile Powder Coating, Rogers, Minn.

MicroFinish, St. Louis, Mo.

Cost Effective Coating, North East, Pa.

Advanced Industrial Coatings, Stockton, Calif.

Plastonics, Hartford, Conn.

The Finishing Company, Franklin Park, Ill.