Branding is everywhere. You see it on the kid walking down the street with a swoosh on his chest, the man mowing his lawn on the green and yellow tractor or the woman sipping her iced caffè mocha from Starbucks. You see it on everyone, on every street corner, every day.
All businesses know that branding is essential to the company’s success. And at Pekin, Ill-based Excel Foundry and Machine, the story is no different—branding was important, and for Excel branding was critical for their company to distinguish themselves. In an overwhelming black-product market, Excel needed to find a way to make its parts stand out from the rest.
A History of Quality
Excel Foundry and Machine has been manufacturing and supplying crusher parts and mining equipment parts for cone crushers, hydraulic shovels, electric shovels, rope shovels, excavators, mining drills and drag lines for more than 75 years. Its products are recognized to be among the best available and its customer service is considered second to none.
In 2004, Excel Crusher Technologies (an allied company to Excel Foundry) opened its doors, manufacturing the Raptor series of high-performance cone crushers and specializing in the repair, rebuild and resale of cone crushers around the world.
Aggressive domestic and foreign competitors placed a premium on quality and service, and Excel was doing an excellent job at providing both. Yet, if you placed Excel’s parts side by side with competitors’ parts, they would look very similar.
Excel needed a physical identity so purchasing departments, receiving yards, production workers and even customers could easily recognize its products. The solution was to start coating parts in a recognizable, tan coating that would distinguish them from the competition. Yet this coating needed to reflect the high quality of the parts as well as be able to endure serious abuse, harsh environments, have good rust protection and be able to cover a variety of colors and surfaces, easily and completely.
Moving Into Action
Excel Foundry made the decision to start coating its parts in 1999 and did not have a lot of knowledge about the painting industry. Chris Wade, general manager for Excel Crusher Technologies, went online to research industrial paints. “We first looked at epoxy paint. After looking into regulations, we found we would have to completely reposition our facility because the paint booth needed to be so many yards from welding equipment with epoxy paint. Our layout and space capacity prohibited us from doing that,” Wade says. “So we were forced to stay with water-based but with that, there are a lot fewer problems as far as environment, safety and application, so it has worked out beautifully.” Wade continued his research online looking for suppliers of waterborne paint.
“I sent out five e-mails to five different companies,” Wade continues. “In the meantime, I asked our neighbor who they used, and they used Finishes Unlimited.” Wade then contacted Ken Burton, president of Finishes Unlimited (Sugar Grove, Ill), explaining what they were looking for in a coating.
“Given the environment in which its parts and its new crusher operate, Excel was interested in an air-dry coating with strong corrosion-, UV- and abrasion-resistance as well as excellent color retention. They also wanted a coating that was VOC-compliant and created a healthy working environment along with being non-flammable.” Burton recalls.
One of the key challenges the paint supplier had to overcome was the volatile climate of Pekin, Ill. In the winters, temperatures can get as low as 0°F with low humidity while summer days can be 100°F with humidity averaging 90%. Finishes Unlimited needed to create a coating formulation with acceptable dry time in a facility with this sort of weather change. “This is not an uncommon requirement among our customers,” says Burton, “The company had past experience to draw upon in each instance.”
ABOUT THE COMPANY
Excel Foundry and Machine
Excel Foundry and Machine
Burton recalls other characteristics Excel wanted in its coating, “We [Finishes Unlimited] also were required to formulate a compatible primer and top coat system so that the top coat could be applied over the primer within a very short period of time. We also need to produce a formulation that would allow for re-coating of the topcoat if necessary without a recoat window.”
Burton pointed Excel in the direction of his company’s 72 line of waterborne paints, which met all of the basic requirements. Finishes Unlimited did adjust the basic formula to this line to meet Excel’s specific color and performance requirements, but these changes were minor and were extensively tested before supplying the paints to Excel.
Finishes Unlimited then worked with Excel in developing the paint system they currently use. This included the selection of a cleaner and pretreatment system as well as a pretreatment process and the paint booth operations.
In 2004, when Excel Crusher Technologies kicked off its new finish, deciding who would be the paint supplier was never an issue; they were going to use Finishes Unlimited. The only issue was what colors the Raptor should be painted. Michael Heine, marketing director for Excel, explains “The Raptor was originally designed to be tan with green accents. Everything for it was tan and green and it just didn’t seem to fit. Then one day the president of our company mentioned the Oakland Raiders and the toughness that they are famous for. From that point, it just took off—the tough look of black and silver.” They worked with Finishes to develop two black paints (one gloss and one matte) and silver. After a few years, Excel dropped the matte black and went with simply glossy black and shiny silver.
Still Going Strong
After a seven year relationship, Excel has been very impressed with the impeccable service Finishes Unlimited has provided. Wade says “By the time I had gotten a response from any of the other five companies I had originally contacted, Finishes Unlimited had been down to see Excel, worked with us and supplied us with the product.”
Another example of their customer service was when Wade was at a tradeshow in Las Vegas. “I ran into a representative from the supplier at the show. We were having some problems with the primer’s bond strength, and by the time I had returned from the show, they had already changed the formula and fixed the problem. The response and customer service we have received from Finishes Unlimited has been outstanding.”
Today, Excel has the painting process down. It takes a few minutes to spray each part with approximately a 2–3 hour air-dry time, depending on temperature and humidity. The parts can dry indoors or out in the elements. With the Raptor, they apply the primer and let that dry approximately two hours, then apply the paint. Decals can be positioned as soon as three hours after that but usually they wait a full 24 hours before doing so.
Excel has experienced significant growth since 1999 and the coatings have made its parts recognizable. Now when anyone walks construction sites, pulp and paper mills, grain food and chemical processing facilities, cement and concrete product plants and bulk transportation facilities they see the tan-coated parts and know they are Excel parts.
Heine finishes with saying “Part of our mission is to operate at a recognizably higher level than anybody else in our industry and coating the parts is one way we fulfill that mission.”