If you’ve chosen to ride a golf cart instead of walking your favorite golf course recently, you’ve probably been under a canopy with powder coated steel supports. US Supply Co., Blue Dot–the country’s largest manufacturer of golf cart canopy tops and windshields–has made a major commitment to powder coating both to maintain its strong position in the golf market and to expand into new areas. Blue Dot thinks that powder coating is the key to the company’s expansion.
The company operates two plants: its headquarters in Raleigh, NC and a plant in Thompson, GA, near the heart of the golf cart manufacturing business. While the company, a $20 million operation, has thrived by focusing on the golf cart market, Charlie Weser, VP of Operations, says that introducing powder coating gives the company the opportunity to expand and diversify. “The golf cart business is a seasonal industry,” Mr. Weser said, adding that some 40% of Blue Dot’s employees are seasonal. “Expanding into other areas, such as the automotive and industrial markets, gives us the opportunity to expand our business.” US Blue Dot has grown by about 20% during the past three years and is slated for 22% growth during the next fiscal year.
Blue Dot recently completed installation of a state-of-the-art, computer-controlled powder and electrocoating system. “We basically received a turnkey operation,” Mr. Weser said. “The computers do everything from turning on the system in the morning to shutting it off at night, including turning on the pumps and motors.”
“The environmental considerations were also a big factor,” Mr. Weser continued. He explained that Blue Dot was drawn to powder coating because it is environmentally friendly, making it easier to obtain air and water permits and sparing the company the need to set up costly hazardous waste handling facilities.
Blue Dot’s monorail line includes a powder booth, and the company has the capability of adding a second identical system as business warrants. The room is climate-controlled for temperature and humidity to provide the ideal conditions for application of the powder material. The powder booth has 12 automatic guns with two manual touch-ups plus an off-line batch booth capability.
Blue Dot thinks the addition of the powder coating system will allow the company to pursue parts work for businesses that are transitioning to powder coated parts. Mr. Weser also noted that powder coating gives the company the opportunity to take on projects that it could not handle before. “Having the powder coating capability allows us to do more metal fabrication. We do robotic welding of steel and tube bending and manual welding of steel and aluminum products. Now the company can also take on stamping projects and deliver finished coated products.”
Mr. Weser predicts that the use of powder coating will continue to expand in other industries. “Manufacturers of lawn and garden furniture, and the air compressor industry are going exclusively to powder coating,” he said. “Wet spray systems and plating systems are going away [in these industries],” Weser says. “These systems are moving toward powder coating, and we are proud to be among the leaders in that direction.”