Building Powder Coating Equipment
Q. I’m an engineer working for a nonprofit in the southern Philippines, tasked with helping establish small-scale production (50 units/month) of inexpensive rugged wheelchairs, with possible future expansion. I need to find some resources for building tanks, spray booth, ovens. There is a local powder coating industry, both for providing powder coating as a service, and for building a booth and ovens. I am reluctant to outsource finishing because it interrupts workflow (in between welding and assembly) and I have had serious quality control/schedule problems with outsourcing. However the quoted cost for paying a contractor to build our line for us exceeds available budget. Since we have a couple of engineers on staff, a bunch of good metalworkers and equipment, CAD software, and time, I think we can build our own line. Due to the local industry, equipment and consumables are available. Can you recommend a course of action for obtaining guidelines or blueprints for tanks, racks, booth (with powder collection/recycling) and oven? Any advice you’re willing to lend is much appreciated. Thanks in advance and best regards. M.M.
A. I have a current Passport, as I am sure that several of my competitors do as well. Short of hiring an experienced consultant, I recommend that you buy a system from a reputable supplier in your Country. I have never seen anyone build their own equipment for cheaper than they could buy it. This is especially true if the design is exactly the same. I hear some people often say how much they saved making their own equipment. However, when I examined these homemade components closely, I see that they did not adhere to all the applicable codes, industry requirements and the equipment does not meet minimum construction requirements for long service.
The equipment suppliers have been doing this for a long time. They have intimate knowledge of what is necessary to build the equipment properly. Their engineering time is reduced, since they have numerous “like” systems to copy. They get discounts for raw materials and purchased components that you may not be able to find. They provide after sales service and warranties that you would not otherwise have, as well. And finally, their profit margin is usually 15–30% above their costs. This isn’t much of a savings, considering that you can’t buy the parts as cheaply as they can.
I have often said, “Just because you can build something that has four wheels and is painted red, doesn’t make it a Ferrari. It may only be a Radio-Flyer wagon.” Having a child’s toy wagon instead of a Ferrari can put you at a distinct disadvantage when you are trying to win a race, and let’s face it—winning the race is important.
Now that I first defended the manufactures, it is time to chide them a little. You should buy a system locally (at least in your country), since shipping costs can be unbearable. Secondly, you should carefully define your requirements and discuss these with the supplier before buying a system. Write these requirements into a cogent, well-defined, process performance specification that includes an acceptance test. Pay the final payment only after the supplier proves the equipment passes the final acceptance test, usually performed over a 5 to 10 day production time period. To save money, buy only what you need to perform the job, and not all the bells and whistles the supplier wants to sell you. Going back to my red wagon analogy, don’t buy the Ferrari when a Ford will do nicely.
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