Time for a change in the surface industry
The surface industry lacks new methods to take the industry forward and offer new innovative products. Nobody wins by competing on price and delivery terms alone. Most companies are competitive on these parameters today. However, if you are trying to develop new technologies that can solve specific tasks that no one else can, then you are facing a much stronger competition. This article is written by Frederik Nielsen, CEO in Clemco Danmark, a leading Danish company within the industry of surface treatment. Frederik Nielsen gives some examples of tomorrow's surface industry.
Today the surface industry is composed by a series of actors, which are distributed on painting and blasting contractors. These industrial companies are specialized in surface treatment and industrial companies, where the surface treatment is processed internally. Everybody wants to provide a surface that is able to withstand the influence of the surrounding environment for a number of years.
Given that our process parameters are relatively similar within each corrosion classifications, the industry lacks new methods to offer innovative products.
As a supplier of equipment for surface industry in metal, wood and concrete, we often hear that development must come from equipment manufacturers, which is completely true. They should have with the knowledge to help the surface industry to reach a next level. In Denmark we are subject to numerous assumptions, which mean that it is hard competing solely on service, price and delivery against producers in other countries that have a completely different basis for environmental requirements and labour costs, which are high in Denmark. We have faced these conditions for many years now, and they have been further reinforced by the decrease in construction and in the industry as a result of the financial crisis. Factors such as labor and environmental standards, we naturally find difficult to change, unless you think of the option relocation to other countries.
Away from price competition
It is not because we want to override development in the surface industry. But it is clear that there is a need for the surface industry to develop on this basis of which we are very strong in Denmark. This refers to our constant search for new ways of doing things to be able to compete with foreign countries. Therefore, we should develop new technologies that allow us to ‘go away’ from the competition on quality, price and delivery which are the parameters most companies are competing on.
If you are trying to develop new technologies that can solve specific tasks that nobody else is capable to think or develop, is then of course you are standing much stronger in the competition.
Everybody wants the same
The big question is how to take such a step? To find a real competitive advantage might not be so far away as it might seem. If you seek to find obvious competitive advantages through enhanced collaboration with your suppliers of equipment and coating systems, it is likely that these will listen very carefully to the tasks and challenges in the offered products. All producers are interested in exactly the same thing; to add value for the end user so that profit increases and market shares can be won.
In the steel industry, corrosion protection is a standardized process to facilitate the work of those who are surface treating steel components, and that provides high security for the end user.
Standardization has a wide range of obvious benefits. However, it also gives little opportunity to innovate the processes around surface treatment and developing new coating systems. A good saying from the days before the financial crisis, when all development activities were driving on high spikes, was : "Better small and innovative than large and standardizing '. It is important that we consider the standards within the surface treatment industry as a description for the surface treatment’s positive end result, and do not see standardization as a limitation in the development of new products and processes within our exciting industry.
Create development groups
Today there is a wide range of governmental services for product development, which can inspire for innovative ideas concerning the development of new products and processes. To exploit these opportunities, it might be a good idea to create a small group of companies with a supplier of components, a manufacturer and an end user, and possibly a distributor who has access to the market. These groups often achieve a nice synergy and is more than recommendable if you want to gather the knowledge that is essential for the success of the product.
Each business can contribute to the process and benefit from the result.
Despite all the hectic activities during the everyday life, It is important to invest some time thinking about what is required of new ideas and to carry out the concrete actions possessing our companies real competitive advantages. How many of us have recently had a meeting with a supplier discussing product development and cooperation rather than discussing prices and terms of delivery?
Price and delivery is a truism, but new products that can create benefits for the end user should also be a point of discussion. We owe ourselves to take this discussion if we want to be market leaders in the surface treatment industry.
CLEMCO Danmark A/S
Author of the article Frederik Nielsen is the CEO of CLEMCO Denmark A/S.
CLEMCO Denmark is selling machines and systems from selected European suppliers in sandblasting, metallization, painting equipment and abrasive as well as zinc wire. The competences of CLEMCO Denmark are ranging from establishing process lines and automated systems for the sale and service of equipment for blasting, metallization and painting.