Precision Painting at Precision Entry

Doors get durable finishes in a variety of colors


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Precision Entry is located in Sugarcreek, OH—the heart of the state’s Amish country. In town, there are more horses and buggies than traffic lights. Inside the plant, however, the company operates a paint process that enables it to offer a lifetime warranty on some of its entry doors, including the finish.

Started in a local garage in 1977, Precision has grown up with a culture and values that reflect those of the surrounding community. But the company is anything but quaint. Engineers and production staff constantly develop new products that draw on the latest manufacturing methods and technology to remain (as the company’s tag line suggests) “traditionally the best.”

Precision Entry sells steel and fiberglass entry doors to the home remodeling and do-it-yourself market through retailers like Sam’s Club and the Sears Home Improvement network. Today the company operates three plants with a total of more than 400 employees. The Sugarcreek plant supplies entry doors to 32 states, while a sister company, Sugarcreek Industries, manufactures storm door products. The company’s newest division, Monarch IG in nearby Baltic, OH, produces edge-glazing systems used in the company’s door products.

“At Precision Entry, good design embodies four important qualities: “security, durability, beauty, and energy efficiency,” says design and plant engineer Scott Widmer.

When it comes to paint finish, Precision believes it has trumped all competition. “We have seen their owners manuals, which include instructions for repainting their doors,” Widmer says. “The need to repaint our doors because of normal use is unthinkable. Ours is a finish that will outlast its owner.”

“While some companies talk about a ‘door grade’ paint job, we view it as a ‘furniture grade’ finish,” states Ed Mullet, operations manager. “As the gateway to the rest of your home, the entry door makes a statement.”

Some of Precision Entry’s doors carry a lifetime warranty, including the paint finish. “These doors can be subjected to extreme conditions of rain and ice,” says Widmer. “Our own testing simulates the sun baking through a storm door and reaching temperatures of 240°F.”

Robust Paint Process

The company gives much of the credit for finish durability and performance to the equipment and process used to coat its products. Supplied by Nordson Corporation, Industrial Coating Systems (Amherst, OH), the automated liquid paint line is a key tool to achieving a durable, attractive entry door that is the company hallmark.

In 2001, Precision switched to waterborne paint technology for all of its primer application. “That was a tough engineering process,” Widmer recalls, “but it allowed us to cut VOC emissions virtually in half. We’re now well under our limit for VOCs, and we have a bit more capacity on our permit than we’re currently using.”

Along with the environmental benefits afforded by the switch to waterborne paint, the company partnered with Nordson to install a coating system based on Nordson’s Kinetix electrostatic spray technology and patented Iso-Flo delivery system.

The Precision Entry paint line uses two cross-draft, dry filter booths, each equipped with a pair of Kinetix automatic spray guns mounted on two side-by-side vertical reciprocators. This configuration provides complete paint coverage and blending of the spray gun patterns to produce a uniform, attractive finish without extensive labor costs.

While most doors are sold in four “large run” colors, the company has 13 standard colors like Sandpiper Beige and Winter Sky from which homeowners and decorators can choose. The four most popular colors—white, off-white, burgundy and colonial green—are sprayed in one booth; remaining colors are applied in the second booth. The paint process is the same regardless of whether the door is steel or fiberglass, and all doors receive a base coat that acts as a primer, according to Widmer.

Precision Entry also applies seven stain colors in a manual process. “The staining process is hand-applied and wiped down to get the stain down into the wood grain pattern on the door,” Widmer explains. “Then we brush out any imperfections. So the stain is more of a hand-crafted look than the machine-applied paint.”

Both paint booths feature automated purging systems. “We don’t do any reclaim, Widmer says. “Once the urethane paint is catalyzed we have an automatic purge into 400-gal totes, which are then hauled to a storage and disposal facility.”

Custom Colors, Fast Turnarounds

For customers who want to match their door to a particular color, Precision Entry provides a custom-color-match service. Those ambitious enough to do the painting themselves can also purchase pre-primed doors.

With such a wide range of color choices and a commitment to rapid delivery, the company focuses much attention on production and paint line scheduling. That means multiple color changes per shift for the paint operators. The production department batches parts into color groups from light colors early in the shift to increasingly darker colors later on, with the automated purging equipment providing rapid color change.

The other factor that affects production scheduling is the delivery schedule of the company’s trucks, Widmer explains. “We don’t maintain any stock,” he says. “Everything is made to order, so every door that goes through is already bought and paid for.

“We accumulate orders on a day-to-day basis, and those are scheduled based on our truck routes. We run our own trucks on weekly runs in 32 states. Our promise to our customers is, we’ll deliver to your door every week, on the same day each week. That’s really what drives our schedule.”

As many as 300 doors passing through the paint line each day, plus sidelights and both wood and metal framing members. The product variety and multiple color changes make housekeeping critical to maintaining Precision’s quality standards. The crew is diligent about booth and spray gun maintenance, cleaning the entire booth from floor to ceiling after every production shift.

“We believe the quality of the finished door should be reflected in the quality of the team and equipment used to produce it,” says plant manager Dan Schrock. “There’s a tremendous sense of pride in the paint department, and a feeling that a first-class paint operation produces a first-class paint job.”

The preventive maintenance pays dividends in both paint line operation and product quality. Less than one percent of doors need to be reworked due to a finishing defect of any kind. “This low rework level, perhaps the lowest of any plant in our industry, gives us a competitive edge,” says Schrock. “Having invested in the right equipment, we’re now reaping financial reward with every door we ship.”