We are considering installing an electrocoat system for our product (automotive brackets) but do not have enough of our own product to justify the system. How easy or difficult is it to find other customers? K.R.
You obviously have discussed this issue with an equipment or coating supplier and know that an electrocoating system can process a very large number of parts. Several things must be considered before becoming a custom coater (job shop). The automotive accessory industry has quite a few custom coaters near large automotive companies (or Tier One suppliers), and the business is very competitive.
Location is an important issue, as freight can become a determining factor in part pricing. You need to be located near your customers and sometimes their customers. Access to the interstate highway system is also beneficial. A variety of customers (large and small) is helpful, since they will not all be busy at once. At least a few customers should be non-automotive for the slow periods in the automotive industry.
A commitment to your customers is also essential, as they will demand a tremendous amount of customer service. There will be constant demand for schedule changes, quick turnaround, partial runs, price reductions and packaging changes. Your own product may have to take a back seat to that of your other customers. Expect to work some weekends. It is unlikely that you will be able to have a plant shutdown, if you currently schedule one.
Variable and changing quality standards are part of life as a custom coater. Registration to ISO and/or QS quality standards will be required. If the above has not scared you off, the best way to break into the automotive market is to find and use a good sales representative group that understands electrocoating. They have access to the industry with a variety of contacts. Make sure you have a system that is flexible with regard to part size and quantity.
If your product is unique with regard to substrate, size or required pretreatment, expand on that feature and find other sources of similar product. This may require working with your competitors. You need to assure them that your custom coating operation is separate from your fabrication operation.