Aug 18 2016

The Challenge With OEM Approved Powder-Coaters

Powder Coat Sample

Have you ever stood by helplessly as a disaster unfolds in front of you. You stare in horror knowing nothing you can do or say will change the events.  This week we are watching helplessly as a disaster hits our customer and there is nothing we can do.  Schedules are delayed, costs are escalating, and everyone is frustrated – including us.  The sad part is that this could all be avoided.

Many months ago we were approached by a new customer with the opportunity to build sheet metal production for them. This is nothing new, but we were of course honored.  The only problem is that the customer approved a powder coater based in Wisconsin.  “What there a special material or a special process?” we asked.  “No, another division approved them, so we are going to use them.” they replied.  We even asked if we could qualify a second source and the customer was not interested in taking the time or energy to do that.

So sheet metal prototypes were made, sent overnight at the customer’s expense to the powder coater, and the assemblies were qualified. We were then released to build production and we knew there was going to be a problem when we saw the pallets of parts to be shipped to Wisconsin.  No way could our customer make money shipping back and forth here to Wisconsin.  Not to mention the additional week in transport costs.  Finally we all agreed to have the powder coater individually wrap and box the units, saving time and maintaining quality.  Or so we thought.

The first production shipment from the powder-coater was a disaster. Everything took longer than expected and when the individually boxed parts arrived, everything had to be taken out and inspected (more $$$).  Guess what happened – many failed our inspection.  Now our customer’s shipment is in jeopardy and the rejected parts have to get shipped back to Wisconsin for strip, recoat and return (more $$$).  There has to be a better way.

The next production run, at our expense, we sent our engineer to the customer’s approved vendor to inspect the lot. He found more rejects but at least this time the parts were fixed before the lot was shipped out.  We also took the vendor out of the individually boxed requirement to make is easier for them.  During shipping, still more damage occurred and another return, repair, re-ship sequence ensued (more $$$).  What a disaster!

Luckily we had the foresight to send some earlier sheet metal samples to a local powder-coater who agreed to power-coat them on the hopes of getting qualified. Once the quality issues started happening, our customer was motivated to qualify our source and just last week he was approved.  This supplier has local pick-up and delivery plus a proactive staff that will call if they are at all worried about quality.  Finally we can all sleep at night without the nightmares.

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