I receive hundreds of calls and e-mails asking for sources of information or advice on how to do things. Everyone needs information and training to sustain their business. The most common inquiries right now are related to new ideas for part pretreatment (fewer stages, lower heat, less chemical use), powder coating on plastics, how to build an oven and sources for training. Different answers apply depending on the exact nature of the question, but I always try to give directions on where to find the needed information.

The season is still cold here in Michigan and Punxsutawney Pete saw his shadow on Groundhog Day. I am beginning to make plans for warm weather and look for additional opportunities to strengthen my business for the future.

I often attend educational events to increase my knowledge of technology and meet industry contacts that can help me. As I look for different resources that can help me in my own business, I often find answers to some of the questions that come up when I am in the office. I have to travel to events frequently, but travel is a normal part of my life when I am doing consulting work. I work with customers all over the United States and in other countries, so I am always open to options to go somewhere to gather information, make a lot of contacts and learn something new. There are some important events coming up this year that can be useful to any coater or anyone who is part of the industry.

On April 10-11, the Powder Coating Institute (PCI) will hold a hands-on workshop at Nordson Corp. in Amherst, Ohio. These workshops offer a great opportunity to learn from industry experts and to gain a hands-on experience in powder application, working in the lab with industry peers.

Electrocoat 2006 will be held in Orlando, Fla., at The Caribe Royale Resort & Convention Center on April 19-21 (see page 08 for Senior Editor Sharon Spielman's full story and conference highlights). I was very pleased with the format and the content in 2004, and going to Orlando in April is not a bad idea. I particularly enjoyed the exhibit rooms where select suppliers showed their products and provided an informal atmosphere to exchange ideas and experiences with other attendees. I am looking forward to the event again this year.

From May 17-19 in Toledo, Ohio, Owens Community College will again work with DeVilbiss and Binks to conduct a Spray Finishing Technology Workshop. This three-day intensive workshop features presentations and hands-on training for liquid spray finishing equipment, including surface preparation, equipment types, evaluation, and spray application. The instruction is excellent and the chance to actually use equipment makes this a great program.

Powder Coating 2006 returns to Indianapolis from September 19-21. The market is ready for this show as the technology develops to do more and more with powder, including much faster color change, application on very large substrates, application on heat-sensitive substrates, application on architectural aluminum extrusions, and many other ongoing developments.

It looks like a busy season for the coatings industry with a variety of educational opportunities. As we continue to work on new ideas to maintain a competitive edge and keep jobs here in the United States, it is always helpful to see what new ideas can make us work more efficiently and stay in the race. I will be at several of these events, and I hope to see you there.