Forced Curing of Wood Coatings

7. May 2020 10:15

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

It goes without saying that coatings perform best and achieve their peak performance when they are properly cured. Whether it's a cabinet, furniture item, panel or other products, if they are packaged and put in the field with improperly cured coatings, they are susceptible to moisture, chemical, scratch and mar damage.

Finish or coating failure many times is the result of improperly cured coatings. This is avoided, in traditional, non-UV coatings, by making sure your curing process is delivering something called "forced curing." You have probably heard the term, but it is often one of the most misunderstood parts of the wood finishing process. 

Forced curing is a function of the chemistry of the coating, and the interaction with the wood surface, and relies on reaching a target temperature – a dynamic interaction between the temperature of the wood surface and that of the coating being applied. 

Basic thermodynamics for curing wood coatings

Curing technology actually starts with the board surface temperature, before the coating is even applied. Then it must account for the temperature of the liquid coating as it is applied. The first curing step of the coating after it is applied depends on the solids content, resin, binders, and solvents that make up the coatings. Evacuation of solvent through forced air and heat in combination is the first step after the coating has been allowed to flow out.

Then depending on the chemistry, raising the board surface temperature to the optimum level in the optimal amount of time is the goal. This is where we see many times that the target board surface temperature – the point at which we reach cross-linking, snap curing, polymerization, and other critical chemical reactions – isn’t achieved. For UV coatings getting the solvent out to where the UV light can properly cerate monomer dispersion is critical. 

 

Join Me at IWF 2020 for a Holistic Approach to Finishing Symposium

15. March 2020 20:12

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

We are really excited about the IWF 2020 Holistic Approach to Finishing Symposium. There is renewed interest and passion in wood finishing! We have a vision of the symposium being a time to share information, experiences, technology and offer a process of “A Holistic Approach to Finishing” that will empower the professional wood finisher to keep up with coatings, equipment and processes in a rapidly changing world.

We have prepared a thoughtful program “for the people by the people!” We know that past feedback has indicated that attendees want a “take away.” So, this year if you plan to attend, we would like to hear your questions, thoughts, and concerns ahead of time. Please email us your questions iwpsolutions19@gmail.com by June 30.

So, we are trying something new within the format of the program will attempt to address the questions as much as possible. If a question is non-program related, we will be available to give personalized attention during the show after the symposium as much as times allows.

During our consulting engagements over the past year and half we have noticed several things that we believe wood finishing organizations experience:

  • What new looks, colors, effects, touchable/visual aesthetics, performance in color fastness and scratch/moisture/chemical, can we create that will drive value?
  • What are the best coatings, application and curing methods to repeatably produce these finishes?
  • <https://www.iwfatlanta.com/Education/FIN" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Can these new looks be created through automatic methods?
  • What does the leadership and workforce look like for the next generation of wood finishers?
  • What are the permit implications to accomplish the first two questions?
  • Can I create more value in my finish without adding lots of cost?

Also on the program is a special guest speaker, Robert Chickey, a finishing specialist of national renown. He will be giving a presentation on designing finishes with new coatings. 

We can’t wait to be with you all! Along with the wood finishers we want to invite the designers, marketers, sales, and executive leaders. We will have some great interactive activities and door prizes! See you all in Atlanta at IWF 2020 in August.

Last Word on Establishing A Holistic Approach to Finishing - Step 5

13. January 2020 13:44

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

The other day while on a plane coming home and contemplating the final articles of this series. I was listening to my favorite 80s mix, and the song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by The Clash came on and I was inspired.

While the paradox of the song was about indecision in a romance gone bad it is very analogous to many finishing journeys that are stuck or will be stuck in indecision. In the famous words of Strummer, "If I stay there will be trouble and if I go it will be double."

This is symbolic of how many feel about finishing. It doesn’t have to be that way! It has been the goal with this series of articles to provide a holistic strategy and some of the best questions to create emotional permission and empowerment to move forward and take advantage of the advances in coatings, delivery and curing technology in the wood finishing industry.

So, get ready and go the next level in your finishing journey! 

This last step in the holistic finishing process really is about putting it all together. After having gone through the previous steps the last one is about how it all fits together, sometimes literally. When completing the design of the lines and equipment many times the underlying questions are what are the easiest and lowest cost ways to get into finishing or attempt to make the next step.

 

Meet Joe Baggett August 26 when he
leads the Finishing Symposium at IWF 2020. 

This usually results in the scenarios that have the highest amount of labor or lowest productivity, the lowest transfer efficiency and the longest cure times/cycles. As a general rule the largest amount of real-time and cycle that product sits in the production facility is for finishing. Just recently there was a furniture manufacturer that went from air curing their coatings (1-3 days) to force curing them in a batch oven (8-10 mins).

It shortened their internal lead time by several days. Some of the higher-performing newer coatings that are more compliant with environmental regulations (an example would be water-based 2k) are best applied with forced curing as it significantly reduces cure time. This is an example of how the previous steps in this Holistic process fit together. 

Joe Baggett and a cabinet design engineer at the
Microvellum console and overlooking the plant floor.

After the questions from step IV are answered we suggest significant testing before ordering new equipment or committing to any new formulations.

We also suggest creating buy-in from the coatings suppliers, equipment companies, and the fluid delivery providers, to agree and commit to the anticipated intended results. We suggest taking the formulations and multiple substrates like the ones that will be used in a production scenario and the proposed lines, equipment and fluid delivery system and complete testing in the scenario that will most likely represent the production scenario. Most of the major finishing equipment manufacturers have labs and testing facilities and can make accommodations for this testing. Have a representative from each group, coatings, equipment and fluid delivery present at the testing.

I want to take a moment and emphasize the environment in which the finishing operation will occur. Besides the coatings, equipment and fluid delivery system the environment and most specifically how clean the air is and the temperature of the air in the finishing area and coming into the finishing area is and should be?

Cold air that is contaminated is an enemy of good finishing areas. Then the environment of the area where the wood substrates are kept before finishing is also important. Keeping the BST (board surface temp at 77-100°F and clean is helpful. Many people go and test in a clean environment without temperature extremes or contaminated air, this must be considered in the final design and decisions.

During the testing bring the leaders and operators that would be operating the equipment and applying the new coatings to be a part of the test. This creates buy-in.

Complete the testing confirming or understanding the difference in the intended outcomes. For instance, if the fluid transfer is projected to be 70% and during the testing is resulting in 60%, discuss this with the fluid delivery rep and the coatings rep and the finishing equipment rep. The purpose of this is to create commitment from all parties, not only that the new coatings can perform as intended but to what level of time to cure, transfer efficiency, productivity in labor, and repeatability.

Once successful testing is done the final design of the line and any finishing are environment requirements can be finalized. Many times, the footprint of an existing building becomes a constraining factor. This will also be an opportunity to work on the curing cycles which usually results in smaller line footprints.

While all improvement is change, not all change is improvement. It is very important to engage the internal members of the organization and the equipment, coatings suppliers and fluid delivery in a way communicates the importance, value and purpose of the new finishing strategy. Usually, the finishing area requires the most and best leadership due the definition and adherence to processes. Because there are more variables to finishing than in most other parts of wood working, a good leader of people who is also technically astute with designing and following finishing processes is key to the sustained success of the finishing strategy.

To create buy-in and commitment we encourage the development of a document describing and defining the operation and performance of the new finishing system and AutoCAD layout of the new finishing system. It is even better is all involved parties commit with their signatures.

After final testing is complete, samples of the new finish system should be made and signed off by marketing, manufacturing and all parties involved. Ordering of the new equipment would occur at this point and the permitting process from step three should be finalized at this point with while being synchronized with the permits to construct the new finishing system by the time the new system would arrive and be installed.

The future isn’t what it used to be! It is common when we engage wood finishers to hear of how long they have been doing wood finishing. Let me say it is good to be proud of what one’s accomplishments. However, because of the pace of change it matters less how long something has been done and more how well it is and will be done. I want to reiterate the importance of this being a cycle and journey and not destination.

In Wood Finishing, there paradigm shifts every 3-5 years. It is a good exercise to go through this Holistic Finishing Process as a cycle every 3-5 years.

We aren’t done yet with finishing,  just stopping for now. We would love to continue the discussion with you and your teams at IWF 2020 as we will presenting this same subject but in more detail at the Finishing Seminar. Good luck, see you all at IWF in Atlanta in August 24-28, 2020!

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process Solutions. With a degree from Abiline Christian University, Joe has 22 years professional plant engineering expertise with a range of wood maniufacturing firms, including Superior Furniture, Conestoga Wood Specialties, Columbia Forest Products, Batesville Casket, Republic Industries, Leedo Cabinetry and Wisenbaker Builder Services cabinet division. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com, 817-682-3631.

 

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A Holistic Approach to Finishing -Step 4

16. December 2019 21:14

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

One of my favorite movies is the old western John Wayne and the Cowboys. There are two scenes in the movie that would hold true to the journey of Holistic Finishing. When the Cowboys which in this instance are truly teenage boys are getting ready to go on the cattle drive, they must turn in all arms to the wagon/trail boss.

One particular young man steps up to turn in his pistol and can barely unholster it due to its size. Surprised by the large pistol from the small boy John Wayne asks him is he had every fired it before, to which he reluctantly replied no. If you know the movie then by the end the young boy learned to use it well and did so to recover the stolen herd of cattle from rustlers and drive them to the end of the trail drive.

The current and developing technology of applying and curing coatings in the wood finishing arena is a powerful tool or weapon if you will allow the analogy. The challenge in most applications is the context in which to use the technology to create strategy and value to win. The application and curing technology have improved commensurately with the chemical technology in the coating that we alluded to as in the formulation phase of step II in this Holistic Finishing Process. To get the most value out of the technology in the chemical development of the coatings many times cutting edge technology in the application and curing is required.

When looking at the application and curing technology that will enable and enhance the formulations from step II there are important questions to ask. All chemical formulations apply and cure differently. Too many times a very general approach is taken to the application and curing. When looking at the total internal cycle time when shops and factories it is common to have the most amount of time in the plant taken by finishing. Sometimes this is due to color changes, no forced curing, space for WIP in between finish lines, the sequencing of work going into and coming out of the finish lines, and coordination of preparation of the coatings based on demand of the product being finished, and the amount of time required for color approval before beginning or continuing finishing of production. The amount of internal cycle time dedicated to finishing can usually be reduced if the right application and curing technology can be identified and implemented. Here are the main questions to ask:

What is the most efficient way to apply the coatings from the formulation phase? 
Transfer efficiency is the missing link in many finishing operations. It is best to set target transfer efficiency and then track performance against the target. This is just as important as the yield of hardwood or plywood in the mill. It is not uncommon to see the application equipment be selected for the lowest up-front cost but the lowest transfer efficiency. If you aren’t currently tracking transfer efficiency, we encourage all wood finishers to start immediately. Many other finishing problems and defects are caused by ineffective transfer efficiency, this is why it is a good metric not only for saving money but as a general litmus test of the overall effectiveness of the finishing operation. It requires good processes and adherence to those processes to achieve and maintain high transfer efficiencies so when the transfer efficiency drops it is usually due to a process failure. Applying the target film builds no more and no less is one of the main performance factors of the successful finishing operations. I want to show how to transfer efficiency correlates to finishing from a holistic approach. If a finishing operation is permitted a certain amount ton in emissions and they improve the transfer efficiency by 15% then usually reduce their emissions proportionately creating the ability to produce more volume without additional permitting or permit amendments. The more that compressed air is used as the atomizing method the less transfer efficient the spray application becomes ( compressed air expands at about a 10:1 ratio as it leaves the gun creating overspray and pressuring spray booths. Also, the compressed air introduces a cold gas into the coating which can increase flash and cure time. Instead of compressed air, heated and ionized nitrogen improves these negative effects in all the spray application technologies listed in the chart below, it also increases the sealer sand ability of sealer and in between coats.

What is the most effective method for curing the coatings?
Curing of coatings is often misunderstood and when typical finish lines run out of budget money the election of low costing curing methods winds up increasing the internal cycle time in the finish department and the plant. Let me say that forced curing it one of the best ways to reduce costs and eliminate problems in the finishing area. Let me also say that when internal lead times increase the cost to cash cycle tying up cash. Curing coatings in the least amount of time reasonably possible holds value in several ways other than reducing cycle time. The forced curing of coatings in the shortest cycles possible using ovens will help in the following ways. It will reduce the amount of time the coating sits wet on the substrates reducing the possibility of contamination of dust and other foreign material. It will get the coating closest to the final appearance before it leaves the factory. Depending on the formulations, the forced curing parameters vary based on the solvent line up and the resins and binders and then the catalyst/hardeners and photoinitiators (if it is UV cured). All solvents including water are volatile (this means they evaporate) the way they evaporate, and how fast they evaporate and how they react with the remaining chemistry is the important first step. The temperature of the wood substrate to which the coating is being applied, the temperature of the coating as it is being applied and the temperature of the air whether it is ambient or forced heated is where the curing process begins.

One of the biggest opportunities to reduce and improve curing is the pre-heating of the substrate and the coating before using forced curing ovens or even ambient curing. It is helpful to heat the substrate up 100 degrees or so immediately before spraying and then curing as well as the coating to the level that is doesn’t begin to pre-cure in the delivery equipment. This will not only reduce the curing time be it will help the coating flow out quickly and flash the solvents out from the bottom up more efficiently.

As an example, water-based coatings typically need to be brought to a board surface temperature of about 118°F to begin to force out the water beyond ambient evaporation pre-heating the substrate reduces the load from the oven to raise the board surface temperature. These physical and chemical properties vary by solvent and coating. Flashing out the solvents in way that allows for flow and good surface tension without pre-cure and bubbles and grain raise is important. This is especially important for UV cured coatings. Then for coatings that are assisted by raising the board surface temperature to higher levels helps cross-link and snap cure (acid cure, and 2K and pre-catalyzed coatings) the curing methods should reach and hold the board surface temperature to enable the best cross-linking possible. This will ensure the highest level of hardness when the parts come out of the curing ovens and cool off as the coating finishes it’s curing process.

What is the most repeatable and productive method for applying the coatings?
It is important to answer the first two questions first as they carry more weight than the last question. Right now, many want to scale their business for growth and alignment with the changing workforce and employment conditions. So, what does this look like in setting up finish lines? The repeatability of consistently putting a finish out that is a game-changer/difference-maker is important. The repeatability includes the ability to produce it in a regular scenario with the same group of people and information and in the same cost. Some repeatably produce a finish but the cost and time to do so vary a lot. The line and equipment to produce it should be repeatable in time, materials and cost on a normal day to day scenario with the same group of people. Finishing lines are sometimes the highest dollar item that is frequently abandoned the soonest out of all the equipment in factory or shop.

Click to opening Complete List and Descriptors of Finishing Systems.pdf (111.77 kb)

If I had a little money for every time I hear “that finish lines doesn’t work” I would have more money in the bank. The next step after achieving repeatability is productivity. What is the most productive scenario for the new finish? The ability to quickly change colors without creating waste is important especially as paints have outpaced stains. The basic lines are in the chart below. This chart deals with spraying, roll coating, and vacuum coating and then the oven and or curing. The sealer sanding in between coats is also an important component to increasing the productivity there are stand-alone and inline automatic sealer sanding technologies that can increase productivity and improve quality. How these integrate with the delivery and curing technology and equipment in the chart below is very configurable to application. That said there is no technological issue preventing the finishing operation from reaching high levels of productivity. Digital Printing is also an up and coming technology to which we will devote a special article separately.

Hopefully, this is empowering with some of the more important questions to ask the context and perspective with which to answer them. For step IV in this Holistic Approach to Finishing we encourage people to engage multiple coatings and equipment suppliers with the same questions and do a significant amount of testing with the chemical formulations from step II.

We also encourage the design of the lines to be done in AutoCAD with process equipment, delivery equipment, operators, carts, material handling etcetera. Then draft the flow of the process giving space to work in process and other process variables. The ovens, lines speeds, cure time, spray rates, sealer sanding and other process constraints should be taken in to account. Establish targeted theoretical costs in material labor and overhead for the finishing operation. This is the best opportunity to make the operation cost-effective during the design phase, this is all about game-changing/difference-making finishing. 

 

A Holistic Approach to Finishing -Step 3

6. November 2019 12:54

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

One personal mission I have is to inform, inspire, equip and empower leaders in the wood products industry to achieve the highest value. Through the introduction and the first two steps I really wanted to provide value information and the questions asking process in regards to approaching finishing from an holistic perspective.

There is so much technology for coatings and application is hard to make sense of it and how it could all fit together for each and every scenario and opportunity. But the good news is there is so much opportunity to put it all together to create game-changing and difference-making coating systems. In step three, the environmental side for emissions and permitting there is the highest level of complication. So much so many times organizations abandon good coatings strategies due to the complication. The purpose of this article is to begin to simplify this step in the process.

First of all, let me say that many think this step isn’t applicable to their operation or organization. Let me say that all finishing operations in all the 50 states is regulated by the EPA and any combination of the state and or municipal environmental regulatory agencies. Even some small shops that qualify for the de minimis clause still should maintain usage records for the exemption. Any time small finishing operations grow and move into the next level of permitting and air emissions regulation these steps will be applicable. Sometimes it seems backward to develop a coating for performance and marketing purposes first but it is better to work backward in this situation. If the process starts with the question of “what can our current permitting process allow in coating formulation?” then seldom will a coating that is difference-making or game-changing be on the table for serious consideration.
This is where the complication starts since each state and municipality regulate air quality and emissions differently it is important to understand what these are. It is well worth understanding the permitting levels and the time and cost involved. Involving an environmental consulting firm that specialized in air permitting is crucial at this point.

Basic Coating type  

Appearance/Performance
Characteristics

Bleaching Whitewood Color

 Blending agents/processes Tones whitewood colors by removing natural pigments from the surface of the wood. 

Toner 

Tones whitewood color usually with dyes and a clear

NGR 

Dyes in solution used to create color and penetrate the wood grain

Wash Coat 

Tinted initial coat to provided background to subsequent stains and clears tones whitewood color and grain. This is clear mixed with pigment or dye to reduce the blotchy effect in wood color

Wiping stain 

Usually sprayed on then wiped off after drying briefly usually pigmented with some dyes and binder and solids

Spray no wipe 

Dyes with some pigments this creates color usually in one application sometimes two for darker colors. Usually lower solids and binder contents than wiping stains dyes may flip under UV curing light

 

Chart for clears and opaque pigmented finishes (click to open PDF) (note many of the clears can be tinted with dyes or pigments as well) Step III Holistic Finishing tables (1).pdf (278.27 kb)

Some large organizations do their environmental permitting in house which is fine but getting perspective from a reputable environmental permitting firm is usually well worth the time and money. Sometimes new finishing lines are ordered or coatings are formulated without doing this portion. This costs more and takes longer than the doing the environmental discovery on the front end. The value in using an environmental consulting firm is learning and using valuable information that wasn’t known before and then applying it to bring the new coatings formulations that were developed in step I and II. Here is a list of good questions and information to gather for that process. The goal it to get the new coatings system appropriately permitted.
1. Coatings developed from step 1-2 with the regulatory compliance data sheets (100% speciate if your state or local regulatory agency require them.
2. Ask your environmental consultant if your state and local regulatory agencies recognize the exempt solvents list from the EPA. If so ask for the regulatory compliance data sheets designate the exempt solvents.
3. For startup or relocating operations where location is flexible are there any constraints or disadvantages to where the finishing operation will occur geographically?
4. What permits would allow us the most flexibility?
5. If line changes may be required how long before permitting would allow construction for changes?
6. Are there nitrous oxide limits from gas burning for ovens (if gas ovens are used)
7. How often can permits be amended?
8. How can high(er) transfer efficiency maximize our permit and emissions in relation to volume? This one the best ways to maximize a permit and emissions but few people measure and monitor it in a meaningful way. A 15% improvement in transfer efficiency can proportionately increase your permitted emissions into produced volume.
9. In areas such as California with low levels of permitted emissions and tighter restrictions on coating and emissions are water-based coatings truly a requirement or does the level of emissions and the projected volume limit the coating? Polyurethane, UV solvent and water based and 2K water-based coatings may be options here. Discuss the regulatory compliance report with the environmental consultant.
10. Can reclaim from flat lines with a recovery system in liquid form be re-used without having to count it twice towards emissions?
11. Can waste paint and solvents recovered in liquid form be deducted from usages?
Through this discovery sometimes the discussion of a control device such as an oxidizer comes up during these meetings with the environmental consulting and the coatings suppliers while planning the new finishing system. I am constantly asked the question do we need or have to do this or is it worth it? First of all, we must always comply with the law. But whether it is worth it is another question of worth or value. If during the formulation phase and discussions with the environmental consultant the formulations that will make the most difference and be the biggest games changers will not be able to produced at the projected volumes within a permit not using an oxidizer then it becomes a math question of the financial benefit of the new finishing system and the up front costs and on going costs of acquiring and installing a control device. If the new finishing system financially returns more than the cost of the control device in a reasonable period of time then usually it is “worth it”. Sometimes the volume rises to the point that wood finishers are required to use a control device with the existing finishing system not a new one that game changing. In these instances, I also encourage wood finishers to use these situations to revise their finishing system and coatings to be “worth” it.

Sometimes the after the discovery with the environmental consulting firm the processes works backwards one step. However most likely there is a coating formulation that will still be difference making and game changing. Involve the various coatings suppliers that assisted in the coating development. If you state and local agency recognize the exempt solvents, sometimes the coating can be re-formulated with exempt solvents reducing the emissions and not sacrificing performance if needed.

Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

Important formulation components for performance. For build the solids content and inner coat adhesion is important, for flow out and flatness of the solvents must evaporate slow enough to allow the coating to pull out flat before curing. For stains the solvent line up will affect the look of the pigments and dyes and the pigment to binder ratio will affect the look especially on tight grain woods such as hard maple.
The most important part of the environmental permitting side is the provide enough time and volume of use to achieve the marketing and strategic goals of bringing a game changing finish to market. It is common or great coating systems to die during the permitting process.
Many people are using a mediocre coating formulation because they believe they are either constrained from a permit regulation side or another constraint that will cost too much or take too long. It is important to recognize this but ask the questions from a stand point that will allow for the discovery of the coating system that will mean the most.
Here is the chart from step II but with a column as a rough guide for content of VOC/HAP/PM volatile organic compound/Hazardous Air pollutant/ and particulate matter. These are the main air pollutants that are controlled by the EPA and state and local environmental control agencies. Just as a general rule the water-based versions of these coatings tend to be on the low side but some can be on the medium side if they have water soluble non-exempt solvents. There is a common misconception that all water-based coatings are “low” in VOC this isn’t always the case. See the column to the far right. There is one other coating formulation that is important to consider that has come the stage that especially for low emissions applications that is powder coating for wood applications.

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

A Holistic Approach to Finishing - Step 2

8. October 2019 09:36

By: Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

So, here is where it begins to get exciting. The formulation phase is where dreams begin to come true! Once the Performance/Aesthetics/Value are established it’s time to formulate.

The good news is that coatings manufacturers have been hard at work so much so that standard offerings of formulations have seen more development the last 15-20 years and especially in the last 5-10 than in the previous 100 years. From the first varnishes and Shellacs to today’s modern lacquers, varnishes, polyurethanes, UV, polyesters, and water-based coatings have higher performance applicability. Also, the technology to apply these coatings has been developed commensurately with the chemistry and formulations.

It is important to draw a linear distinction in this process; the formulations must fit the strategy and requirements of step I. Often people go buy a finishing line because it is good deal, but are then constrained with the coatings it applies well or they run coatings it wasn’t designed to run inefficiently.

Establishing the formulations that meet the discovery of the requirements in step one is critical. If the finishing journey doesn’t follow the sequential process there will be greater challenges down the road. So many will not find themselves at the starting point or with a clean slate in their finishing journey. That’s okay because following this process sequentially will help finishers get the most bang for their buck with their existing equipment and processes while planning for the future.

Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

I don’t profess to know all the coatings that are being developed at this very moment (seems like I’m learning of new ones all the time) so I would like to begin with a rough guide but also supply the context and questions with which it may be applied in the midst of constant coatings development. I have been blessed to work directly with some great chemists and application specialist and they have helped shape the context in which we can ask questions.

 Each chemistry of coatings has different chemical and physical properties that lead up to its final performance and appearance in the plant and the field. Many of these coatings now come in water-based and solvent-based versions even if they aren’t designated as such in the chart below. Also, for the record all water-based coatings aren’t the same nor are solvent-based coatings. Too many times in their coatings journey I hear people discount testing water or solvent-based coatings by over-generalizing them.

The chart below is meant to serve as a guide to ask questions in each category the rating and comments are meant to serve as a discussion point. I’m sure there are outliers in each category but please be encouraged to ask questions from a context. Some of the best formulations in wood coatings are the brainchildren of asking the best questions.

Basic Coating type  

Appearance/Performance
Characteristics

Bleaching Whitewood Color

 Blending agents/processes Tones whitewood colors by removing natural pigments from the surface of the wood. 

Toner 

Tones whitewood color usually with dyes and a clear

NGR 

Dyes in solution used to create color and penetrate the wood grain

Wash Coat 

Tinted initial coat to provided background to subsequent stains and clears tones whitewood color and grain. This is clear mixed with pigment or dye to reduce the blotchy effect in wood color

Wiping stain 

Usually sprayed on then wiped off after drying briefly usually pigmented with some dyes and binder and solids

Spray no wipe 

Dyes with some pigments this creates color usually in one application sometimes two for darker colors. Usually lower solids and binder contents than wiping stains dyes may flip under UV curing light


Chart for clears and opaque pigmented finishes (click to open PDF)
(note many of the clears can be tinted with dyes or pigments as well)

So now we can take the discovery of step I and begin to apply it to the coatings that match up with the strategy we established for the Performance/Aesthetics/Value. It is important to select coatings and test them and develop hard samples that all functions in the organization can agree to and even sign off on in certain circumstances. I would encourage again that this selection and testing of coatings be done with several different coatings suppliers. At this point an organization creates the real-life versions of the finishing system that will be game-changing and difference-making!

The next step in the holistic process will environmental permitting. This will also have an impact on the formulations but it critical that the finishing system determine what will make a difference and not just be an improvement. If the formulation journey starts with the environmental permitting many times some of the best formulations aren’t considered or developed when they should ask what do we need to do from an environmental standpoint to use the best formulations.

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

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Adopting A Holistic Approach to Finishing - Step Number 1

18. September 2019 17:14

By Joe Baggett, Innovative Wood Process Solutions

Before we get started with Step One in the finishing cycle, I want to emphasize why this is the starting point. Two reasons:

  1. Finishing usually creates the most perceived value in finished wood products, and
  2. A strategy at the outset should align with creating a finish that can be branded and marketed, and that gets your customers excited so it is imperative that it must occur at this point. If it occurs later on, there most likely will be issues with permitting or application.

Step One is about creating the performance, aesthetics and value in a finish that gets people excited. The big starting point here is what comes first.

I would encourage this part of the discovery and development process not be connected, or disconnected as much as possible, from the current state of any competitor or other wood finisher. It should be based solely on creating a coating system that is game-changing and difference-making.

The main questions to develop this strategy are below. I would encourage this discovery to be planned and executed as a project involving Sale/marketing, Engineering, Finishing, Production and Executive Leadership.

As the questions are answered I would also suggest developing a one-page document of the coatings strategy that references hard samples supporting the answers to the questions below.  I am very grateful for KCMA for their leadership in developing finishing performance standards. These standards are a great starting place and for many is great place to establish coating performance that meets their strategic needs however some coatings strategies demand higher performance than KCMA standards.

 Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

 This is great place to start and will help give context to answering the questions.

Performance: 

  • What scratch/abrasion resistance would create more, better or new value to current or future markets? Typically, a nickel mar test is the starting point for this standard but there may be a higher demand for high performing coating needs.
  • What film build would provide that “feeling” your customers would love when they touch it? This can be objectively measured by dry film build gauges in mils. Along with the film build how soft to the touch does in need to be?

Moisture/Chemical Resistance-

  • Does the KCMA spec suffice or is there added value to higher resistance to moisture and chemical exposure? This the typical edge soak test or in come cases being able to clean it with strong solvent such as acetone.

Elasticity/Adhesion/Creep-

  • As wood expands and contracts the coating needs to have some elasticity and creep without breaking the coating especially around sharp corners and profiles. What level is needed for the targeted coating? Also, sharp corners and profiles present an issue here for any coating. Defining the level the edge can be slightly broken in the whitewood goes hand in hand here with coating development. Usually a .020” rounding on sharp corners and edges is a minimum to prevent the coating from breaking in the field. Maintaining inner coat adhesion and adhesion to the whitewood is the goal here.

Color fastness/period of time-

How long do the stains, paints, clears need to maintain color after exposure to light especially UV and other elements light before they yellow, fade, flip, or turn amber?

Aesthetics: Stains, Paints, Clear Coats

  • Stains- Does the stain need to be more transparent/translucent or opaque, does the stain need to have depth in itself? People perceive stains differently depending on the market. Is the stain to cover up white wood color, change/tone whitewood color, bring out the grain, cover the grain, can any sanding marks be visible.
  • Paints- Do the paints need to have clear depth on top of them or can the depth of clarity exist with a colored final coat? Does the feel of the painted parts in the hand need to be super soft to the touch especially with high gloss? Specifically, how long would the parts be warrantied not to yellow or flip colors?
  • Clears- How much film build is needed to create the target depth of clarity on top of stain or paint this should be objectified in DFT mils (dry film build)? The dry film build will always have an impact on the moisture/chemical resistance and elasticity. Too little will allow moisture to enter in areas beginning in corners, joints etc. too much (beyond the coatings rating in WFT/DFT and the coating may crack or craze after final curing and temperature/humidity change (this is also applicable to paint). How clear does the film build need to be?

Gloss/SheenWhere will you set the target for gloss and sheen? Usually a 60 scale is used for this but establishing a sheen or gloss level is important. Sometimes people perceive the finish solely on the gloss level. But this is changing. The gloss level needs to be defined on a scale such as the 60-scale set within a range. Just as a reference high gloss is 90 plus, medium gloss is 20-30, and dull or low gloss is 0-10.

Depth of clarity- What is the target depth of clarity for the coating being developed? This how far the clear part of the coating sits on top of the stain or paint in dry film mil thickness. It may be determined by visual acuity but set in mils of DFT dry film build. This can also be measured with a dry film gauge in between coats. 

Once all the questions have been answered, make a strategic summary in a one-page document. The main question here is what is or would be important enough to the customer (end user, builder, architect, distributor etc.) that would drive the value of the coating to be game changing/difference making? Sometimes they don’t know what that is until you put something great in their hands. I know sometimes there is a perception that a market will not bear the cost of high performing coatings but taking a great coating system to market is how that changes. In the following articles of this series we will cover how high performing coatings systems can be applied in a cost-effective manner. 

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

A Holistic Approach to Finishing

27. August 2019 10:38

By Joe Baggett

I am reminded of a scene from the old movie Unforgiven where Clint Eastwood looking to exact revenge walks into a saloon and asks who owns it. The bar tender raises his hand and claims to be the owner, and Eastwood shoots him dead.

Gene Hackman who plays a corrupt sheriff exclaims that Eastwood just shot an unarmed man, to which Eastwood replies, “He should have armed himself.” To remain cutting edge in finishing we need to always “be armed” with the best information and questions.

In the first couple of articles we focused on the “How" questions we ask and the ways they shape our worlds. We also noted how some parts of the woodworking industry have become so specialized that they are their own world.

Don’t get stuck unarmed in an obsolete world. Let’s remember the best answers come from the best questions, and the best questions provide the deepest understanding.

We will start with finishing as it always seems to be the most popular area of concern. The future isn’t what it used to be. Industrial wood finishing in regards to chemicals and equipment has changed more in the last 25 years than it had in the previous 100. You can expect it to continue to outpace the rate of change for other parts of the wood industry due to increasing environmental regulations, demand for higher performance, usability, and the effort to lower costs.

In the last five to 10 years there have been major coatings and technological developments in curing and application, so the future will most likely never be what it used to be. That's why you should adopt a holistic approach to stay abreast of technological developments that can create the highest value for your wood finishing processes.

Some may question if there is a high-level holistic process that really applies to all wood finishers. I would say yes, unequivocally.  Let me say that every year I hear or experience first-hand wood finishers who order equipment or make plans to move to a new coating and don’t do the environmental due diligence and or don’t develop a coating that performs at a high enough level to meet the customer's expectations.

Sometimes the equipment waits for long periods of time before it can be used due to environmental permitting. If the finishing journey doesn’t start at the starting point, eventually the environmental regulatory agency or the customer will bring it back to that starting point.

That said, to be a leader in finishing and create the highest value, every question in regard to a successful finishing journey is best asked from the standpoint of what would be game-changing and revolutionary in regard to creating the highest value for the organization and the customer. 

A finishing journey that starts by asking how others are succeeding in finishing and then seeks to emulate them,  assumes too much.  The value of another’s experience is to give us hope not, to tell us how or whether to proceed.

Holistic Wood Finishing Process Cycle

No great finishing system was ever created by copying another finishing system. That said, many small- to medium-sized wood finishing operations who want to scale up don’t start at the starting point. Sometimes they don’t even realize the environmental permitting they follow. I have seen shops make major coatings plans and investments before considering it. This occurs with larger wood finishing operations as well though less often.

The good news is there have been more innovations in coating formulations, coating application and curing technology and environmental controls in the past few years. Harnessing these innovations using a holistic approach is the key. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that following a holistic process like this with good questions and understanding will take too long and cost too much. If that is a concern, I want to share a few good reasons for why it is better to use holistic approach:

a. Most wood finishers don’t know their target and true transfer efficiency or track it on a regular basis. Just like rough mills live and die by hardwood yield the best finishing operations live and die by transfer efficiency.

b. An estimated 80% of the perceived value in finished wood products comes from the performance and aesthetics of the finish. The average amount of time, effort, understanding and organization in wood finishing operations isn’t proportionate to the perceived value.

c. The majority of accounts/customers that are lost due to quality are issues are classified as finishing defects.

d. Finishing equipment has the highest rate of obsolescence in cost and time compared to other woodworking machinery.

e. More wood products are being sold unfinished than ever before or are being purchased as pre-finished components then sold with other components and larger assemblies.

f. Ignoring environmental regulations and permitting thinking that it costs too much will always result in higher costs and potential other business/operational problems down the road.

g. The highest value finishes are the ones that help create a brand and have the value and performance that get and keep customers excited. This isn’t a cheap fast process.

Let’s look at how to get started with the holistic process in the graphic above. Let me first say that this process is most successfully done with a combination of leadership and technical knowledge and that is why there is an abstract picture of leadership in the middle of the graphic.

1. Start every question in the context of what is game-changing and difference-making; first ascertain the value, performance, aesthetics, and cost that would make a great finish for the wood products that are being brought to market. What finish would help make a difference in the brand? If the new or revised finish doesn’t do these things it probably won’t make that big of a difference.

2. Have discussions with several coatings suppliers, equipment suppliers, and other design and technical specialists. Engage the marketing, brand, product development, and manufacturing leaders in the organization to develop key insights. Use third-party labs to perform tests. Sometimes for high performing finishes, these test results can be used as marketing materials. What we want to do is develop a winning strategy for finishing.

3. Make up a one-page document that states how the winning finish will perform, aesthetically appear/feel and what value it will have in cost to manufacture and what the customer would be willing pay for in the context of experiencing a great finish. It helps to make this as objective as possible.

When this process isn’t used many people just ask how can we do what we have been doing better? Very seldom does an improvement of an existing finishing system in simple formulation or application make a big enough difference to be a difference-maker or game-changer.  I encourage everyone who has a stake in creating game-changing/difference-making finishing systems to create something new! The next four articles will dive into specifics for each step in the holistic process from the graphic above.

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

Questioning How Your Plant Operates Is Hard, and Why the Answer to How? Is Yes!

4. July 2019 22:42

By: Joe Baggett,  Innovative Wood Process Solutions  

The best answers come from the best questions. And from the best questions come the deepest understanding.(although sometimes we won’t like the answers to those "best questions.")

Let's take a look at how we can learn to ask the best questions. As the skills for each area of wood manufacturing (fabrication, finishing, programming, etc.) become more specialized, managers must adopt a type of strategic learning to be able to tap into and harness the specialized skills of department managers. In other words, you have to figure out how to become a temporary "expert," while asking the right questions to guide the conversation and discovery, in the context of the actual “world” of wood manufacturing.

It seems there is always a noteworthy business that is closing down (like Wood-Mode) or shifting to Mexico (like MasterBrand ) or even exiting the business (like Masco).  Somehow under new ownership or at a new location, these businesses are able to start fresh and succeed, or else they never re-open, like Cardell. 

And that is largely because the former leaders have not asked the right questions - or didn’t want to. While that may seem harsh or even irrelevant during this strong economy, it is important for organizations that endeavor to create strategic learning organizations that constantly reinvent themselves. Wille Peterson in his book Strategic Learning says “failure is seldom caused by what the environment does to us; it is caused most often by what we do to ourselves”.

According to an old friend and industry colleague (he’s wood industry leader John Huff), people will believe 25% of what they hear, 50 percent of what they see, and 100 percent of what they want to believe. John and I often joked together about how biased our own thinking processes were, and we struggled with what we could do to overcome our own preconceived ideas and beliefs.

In all these queries, l realized the outcomes on projects are more of a product of the questions we ask - even when we don’t always consciously understand that those questions actually come from our pre-conceived ideas and assumptions. Most of the things we ask or assume come from thought patterns that were based on “What to Think” behavior. These were formed from the way we see the world in which we work and live, day-to-day.

But that view of the world is a product of our own background. It is the sum of our education, exposure, belief systems, and culture. In re-engineering or starting up a plant, we have to be open to set that aside. Here’s a good example and thought exercise on that concept:

I’m a big fan of the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies. In a scene from “The Return of the Pink Panther.”  Sellers was checking into a hotel and saw a dog sitting next to the front desk manager. He asked, “Does your dog bite?”

The manager looked up and said, “No.” Sellers reached down to pet the animal, which promptly bit his hand, pulling off his glove. Shocked, Sellers immediately retracted his hand and exclaimed, “I thought you said your dog did not bite!” The hotel manager looked up and said, “That is not my dog.” Context is everything for asking the right questions.

In my last blog, I mentioned most wood manufacturing companies have a “dungeon” – the place where equipment that is not in use or is obsolete, is stored. I asked if we had to write a report about the equipment not in use or obsolete, what story would it tell? In general, I believe it would tell about how there was a failure to derive increasing simplicity from increasing complexity.

The wood industry has become increasingly specialized and more complex while making some traditional methods seem “easier.” This increased specialization has caused some wood products manufacturers to keep it simple, while not taking full advantage of possible improvements and game-changing technology.

The average woodshop may not want to acquire the maintenance, operator or leadership talent to adopt and utilize the technology. Some manufacturers risk acquiring the technology, but don’t have the organization or strategy to apply it in a successful manner, and end up discarding it for simpler methods and machines. Some are investing in the organizational talent, culture, strategy and learning to apply as much cutting-edge technology as possible,but are is still years removed from what could be and should be the current state.

I recently visited a cabinet shop and was required to sign an non-disclosure agreement because they had switched to a new wood coating. While we observed the operation, we couldn’t help but notice the coating was a modern but typical post-catalyzed conversion varnish. This type of wood coating has been around for well over 30 years. It was new to them (their world) but in the actual world of available wood coatings, this is an older technology (in the actual world of woodworking). 

The increased specialization in the woodworking industry has created these two worlds. This is a good thing because we need to be constantly developing cutting edge technology but, to successfully apply it, we also need to put it into perspective and context. Strategic learning is the key to harnessing this specialization for its value and asking the right questions in the context closer to the actual “world” of wood manufacturing.

It starts by re-envisioning the way we ask our questions. Peter Block does great work in his book, The Answer to How Is Yes, in re-envisioning the way we ask questions. As Block puts it: 

There is depth in the question “How do I do this” that is worth exploring. The question is a defense against the action. It is a leap past the question of purpose, past the questions of intentions, and the drama of responsibility. The question ”How?”- more than any other question - looks for the answer outside of us. It is an indirect expression of our doubts.

Block gives us six typical questions that shape manufacturing operations, equipment and products more than any others and the way we could ask them differently that would have a profound impact.

  1. How do you do it? This the greatest assumption. The biggest question is what is worth doing and what matters the most not how it is done.
  2. How long will it take? The question how long drives us to oversimplify the world.
  3. How much does it cost? The most common rationalization for doing the things we do not believe in that what we really desire either takes too long or costs too much.
  4. How do you get these people to change? What would empower and create the environment for the needed organizational transformation? Also, what does it mean for me? 
  5. How do we measure it? Many of the things that matter most defy measurement. Our obsession with measurement is really an expression of our doubt. What measurement would have the most meaning to me and our organization?
  6. How have other people done it successfully? The value of another’s experience is to give us hope not to tell us how or whether to proceed.

If you look at the rhetoric in the woodworking industry you can see how the questions of “How?” proliferates in our thinking.  We constantly see "How To" advice in much of what we read, hear at conferences, attend and listen to in the woodworking Industry.  How to set up a profitable finishing operation, how to select the right software, how to select the right machines. 

If our default for developing great questions remains heavily on the “How” we will continue to be susceptible to the missteps resulting from the increasing specialization, and from other opportunities and threats. The best strategic solutions often require learning and knowledge we have yet to experience. The solutions take longer than what we want, cost more than what we want, require more or better people than we have. And they deliver results that we don’t currently measure.

I love the woodworking industry and want to see it rise to new heights, both on the national scale of manufacturers as well as the global scale. I want to see the small and medium-size shops realize their dreams and be recognized. I want to see the large manufacturers invest in technology and become even more strategic leaders in the global woodworking industry.

I truly believe that the most important contribution a leader can make is to make more leaders. It is my purpose in these writings to inspire and provoke new thoughts and passion, and evoke thoughtful but decisive action. I keep coming back to a need for us as leaders in the woodworking industry to revise some common thinking processes, an area we will continue to explore. 

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process  Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz

Before You Make Any Technology Investments, Let’s Visit the Dungeon

28. June 2019 11:45

By: Joe Baggett,  Innovative Wood Process Solutions              

Editor's Note: This is the first blog in a series by engineering consultant Joe Baggett

After years of leading engineering and technical service operations at major cabinetry and wood products firms, I determined that I would like to take what I had learned and use it as the basis for starting an engineering and consulting firm. So I began by thinking back on my career so far. In setting up this consultancy, I wanted to do something – and create something - new and different. 

On the equipment side, I did a quick survey of the machinery, infrastructure, and information technology for which I had been responsible. It shocked me when I realized that I had specified, acquired, installed and commissioned over 100 million dollars worth of equipment.

Then I asked myself what I had learned from all this. That’s what I plan to share with you in this series of articles about plant operations.

A question that has long plagued me was why the average shop or factory floor doesn’t look more like the show floor from IWF, AWFS or Ligna? I used to think it was for lack of funds or financing. So I asked myself if each wood manufacturer that attended these shows had a blank check, with no obligation funding to buy machines each year, would it really make a big difference in our industry’s operations overall?

The more I thought about it, the more I concluded, it would not. Yes, more machines may be bought and installed; but would it result in the average woodshop/factory being more profitable, stronger organizations, etc.? I would have to say no. Let’s explore why.

First, just ask and answer some blue-sky hypothetical

  • If the organization you are currently leading had 10 million in obligation free capital to invest in equipment, could you increase profitability by 5 to 10%, or more?
  • Would such investment strengthen your organization?
  • Would it bring health to the culture of the organization?
  • Would it fit with a holistic company-wide strategy?

I’ll go deeper into what’s behind my opinion on why investment is not the magic bullet in later articles. But suffice it to say for now, that after giving it a lot of thought, I determined that the most valuable contribution I could make to the woodworking industry through a consulting engineering practice wouldn’t be merely offering technical expertise, but to address, instead, the strategy – in regards to strategic thinking or what I call “holistic organizational thinking” - in which to apply it.

In re-engineering or green-fielding a plant, asking the right questions and in the right context is everything - especially as increased specialization and the creation of worlds within the industry such as Finishing, Bar Code Scanning, Shop Floor Control Software, etc. , come into play.

Let’s return to our questions about that hypothetical ten million dollar investment. One thing I noticed is that most wood manufacturing companies have a “dungeon” – the place where equipment that is not in use, or is obsolete, is stored. Sometimes that equipment isn’t very old, and not infrequently, there is a lot of it. Also sometimes it hadn’t been in service long enough to pay itself off. (Just think about what that $10 million in potential investment could buy.)

During this same time, I was beginning to take note of this phenomenon: the downturn in the economy was beginning. At first, I thought this accounted for the growing inventory of machines in those dungeons.

But there was another force at play. So let me ask another non-rhetorical question: What’s in your dungeon? If we had to write a report about the equipment not in use or obsolete what story would it tell? The story usually has less to do with the equipment itself and more to do with the organization, strategy, permitting and the market life of the product it was purchased to produce. If we did a postmortem on the equipment in the dungeon what story would it tell us?

Now, this where I would suggest that the obligation free investment in equipment wouldn’t have that big of an impact on the average woodworking organization if it was available. I would suggest that it would proportionately grow our dungeons.

I can’t tell you how many times we have resurrected a piece of equipment from the dungeon but in the context of making it work for the current application and needs. Always with the “it doesn’t work” as the starting place. This reaction is the anecdotal verbalization of this phenomena from “what to think” instead of “how to think.” The downturn in the economy only exacerbated the underlying problem. Holistic Strategy is the key to changing how we approach equipment acquisition and application.

Will Peterson says it best in his book, Strategic Learning:

“As strategic leaders, we have to derive increasing simplicity from increasing complexity. Information is universally accessible and becoming free to all. The internet offers it to us on a plate. No longer does the world belong to the ones with the most information, but to those with the highest ability to make sense of it; no longer to those who know more but to those who understand it better.”

Next time we’ll look at the idea of “asking the right questions," and why that is so hard to do.

 Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process   Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com,    817-682-3631. www.iwps.biz