The Little Things: Keeping Order in Your Job Shop
This is the last blog in the series from our sister brand. IFS Coatings, but is filled with awesome tips on keeping your powder coating line in order. Enjoy!
A job shop can be a hectic, at times chaotic, place to work. Depending on how big your shop is, there can be a lot of people on the floor at a time, multiple parts being run through various stages, and all sorts of jobs lining up to be done. No matter how much experience you have running or working in a job shop, you probably have a good idea of how quickly problems can arise – and not just rejects, mind you. Malfunctioning equipment, bad communication, and irregular maintenance will all cause problems, big and small, down the line.
Which brings us to this guides topic: maintaining a good line and keeping your job shop in order. We have put together some all-around great advice for just how to do this! Heads up, some of this may seem basic, especially if you’re old hat in the industry, but the more you know the better prepared you will be for unexpected issues.
Housekeeping and Preventive Maintenance
Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you, or something to that effect. Preventive maintenance is perhaps the best way to keep things running smoothly. Hoses, pumps, wear parts, box feeders, and fluidizing hoppers all need to be taken care of frequently and consistently.
Previously, we have covered how easily cross-contamination can manifest, especially when dark and light powders are put through the same equipment. This is why blowing out the hoses, gun, pick up tubes, checking the fluidizing membrane, and cleaning the fluidizing hopper (if your shop uses one) properly is essential when changing between different colors or chemistries; it also helps stay atop of impact fusion. Also, when blowing out equipment like pumps, detach the atomization hoses otherwise powder will get blown back up into the controls. Pumps also need to be monitored for wear and impact fusion, and never cleaned with abrasive tools like scours – it will do more harm than good.
Top Tip: One cannot just drop a pickup tube into a box feeder and leave the box wide open. All sorts of nonsense can blow inside, from dirt to bugs. A contaminated coating can easily lead to a reject, and contamination can come from not cleaning the hoses and pumps properly as well. If your job shop uses fluidizing hoppers and/or box feeders, something that needs close attention are the O-rings in the pumps. These must be monitored closely, especially if they are conductive as if these go bad the gun will start surging.
What else does preventive maintenance cover though? The pre-treatments! As pre-treating is one of the most important steps in a job, keeping the equipment and supplies in order is vital. Check all the stages, ensure that you are complying with chemical suppliers requirements concerning concentrations, check the nozzle pressure, the temperature, the dwell time, all of that. It is also a good idea to keep your water tanks on a dump schedule. The fresh water you refill these tanks with should also be tested dissolved solids. Another thing that should be checked frequently for plugs or wear is the nozzles on the washer risers. Hard water can also cause issues by causing scale to form, so the risers and nozzles need to be checked frequently as well.
Top Tip: A daily checklist should include turning on the pumps and checking that the nozzles are spraying properly. Plus, if you are going to be doing pre-treatments that day, all the equipment and such should be given a thorough once-over. This includes checking the titration for the pre-treat system.
Ovens need to be maintained too. If you don’t have an oven recorder, then one of the best ways to test that an oven is reaching the temperatures it should is to use a handheld infrared thermometer – which is not overly expensive. Cleaning ovens and application areas is necessary to avoid cross-contamination as well; powder is like sand, in that it gets everywhere you don’t want it to.
What other equipment needs to be cleaned on a regular basis? The racks! Racks with powder build-up may not provide a good ground. Whatever cleaning method you choose, burning, grinding, what-have-you, set it up to happen on a regular schedule. Bad ground causes a plethora of annoying issues.
Top Tip: Coaters, listen up! Do not spray anything but powder in your spraying room. No liquids, no aerosols, no WD40. These items can potentially contaminate your current work and future work if they come in contact with an open box of powder or your powder application equipment.
Overall, when it comes to housekeeping and preventive maintenance, having a clear daily checklist for how to go about it all, including changeovers, is important; someone needs to be accountable for this process.
We have said it before, and we will say it again: powder must be stored in a cool, dry place. Proper storage makes all the difference, especially with the more sensitive powders. Ideally, powder should be stored in temperature controlled areas, 80 degrees or less with 50%± 10% humidity. Remember, the more moisture in the air, the quicker clumps, lumps, and bumps will form in the powder. If you prefer to use box feeders, powder really must be kept in optimal condition, otherwise, you’ll start to get impact fusion and gun spits.
Top Tip: Proper storage does not have to be an elaborate setup. A simple storage room with a wall unit works, so long as the air filters are kept clean. Do what works for you, really.
Do you know what powder you have, how old it is and how long it’s been there? Is it still good? Is it labeled correctly? To avoid problems down the line, and make the most of the powder you’ve bought, keep detailed records of your supplies. Supplier, product name, description, code, batch number – if available – and date of purchase should all be noted down. If you have a problem with a powder these records will certainly help, as will snapping photos for image records.
Other important records to keep tight hold of are the Technical Data Sheet and SDS. Sticking to the numbers provided on these sheets will go a long way to ensuring coatings come out of the oven as they should. Also, be sure that your oven can reach the temperature on the sheet. It is also a good idea to buy a gauge that can measure the thickness of a film.
Top Tip: Make sure you have both a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and a Technical Data Sheet. Your powder provider can send you these electronically or physically if you don’t get one with your order.
How much powder you use is another detail to keep track of. Keeping inventory between jobs, weighing the powder box before and after spraying is a simple way to monitor your expenses and manage your power output. Sudden spikes or drops in output can hint at problems with your equipment too!
What else should be tracked? Well, creating references, especially for ongoing or repeat jobs, by recording gun settings, kVs, powder settings, micro amps, pre-treat, oven settings, and such, will be extremely beneficial in the long run. You can even draw back to these records if problems crop up during a job to double-check that everything is set as it should be. Keeping these records, and other things like the housekeeping we mentioned above, available for your operators is handy.
Top Tip: Keep records of maintenance checks and repairs/replaced parts and job requirements. It may seem tedious and redundant, but clearly laying out what is going on, when, and how, goes a long way to keeping order. It all needs to be tracked to some degree.
Color libraries are a useful tool. At IFS Coatings, we provide free samples of color cards, brochures, and sample panels. Job shops can keep these on hand as references for themselves and for customers. Of course you can pass these materials off to your customers so that they always have some resources from you on hand all the time. Most suppliers will have a range of samples on hand; there are lots of materials that are available to job shops that are free, all you have to do is ask.
Wallboards are available too – you can grab one of ours for around $250. These are a great idea for job shops of all sizes and work hard for you; they make your walls look great and display your color capability really easily. These boards display around 400 colors and special effects, as well as having space for color cards or brochures and straight away the customer can see what your job shop is capable of and how the final coating will appear.
Top Tip: Color cards are great, but building your own color library is hugely beneficial! Every time you get new colors or products, spray up some extra panels – this is also an easy way to test out new products.
To wrap up…
Whew, that as a lot. Right? So, while there might seem like a boatload of things that you need to watch out for and do, it can only benefit your job shop. Keeping detailed records, staying on top of preventive maintenance and housekeeping, having proper storage, and building a color library are all fantastic ways to keep order of the chaos. Plus, most of our suggestions above don’t cost a dime. In fact, it will probably save you money – and a fair bit of frustration – down the line.
Any more questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!