Western Coatings Symposium Review

By Kerry Pianoforte, Editor | December 11, 2013

The three-day event featured technical presentations, tabletop exhibits and panel discussions from experts in the paint and coatings industry.

The 31st Biennial Western Coatings Symposium was held October 21-23 at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Organized by the Western Coating Societies, the conference serves the people, companies, clients and customers of the coatings industry, addressing issues and concerns through oversight, advocacy, expertise and information sharing.

This three-day event featured technical sessions, tabletop exhibits and a panel discussion. The Symposium was well attended with an attendance of 1,140 with a breakdown of 930 attendees, 130 exhibitors and 80 speakers.
“The general feedback we have received so far has been excellent with several emails to the WCS Board thanking us for putting on a great Symposium and Show,” said Hal Harlan, member of the Western Coating Societies Board.

Technical Program
The technical program featured two keynote addresses.  The first day featured a keynote address “U.S. Economic Outlook” by Dr. Robert Fry, a senior analyst at DuPont.  Fry expressed cautious optimism for the future of the U.S. economy.

“U.S. recovery remains disappointing,” Fry said. “Employment has grown steadily, but too slowly. It will take us a while to get back to pre-recession levels. U.S. consumer confidence has come down due to the government shutdown, but I think that it will be temporary. The U.S. avoided a 2013 recession thanks to pent up demand for housing and automobiles. The economy has grown despite fiscal contraction.”

The second keynote address was given by Cyriac Alexander, vice president of technology and purchasing at Behr Process Corp.
“In 1975 there were 100 coatings companies in the U.S., today there are only 31,” said Alexander. “Still the coatings industry has adapted and changed to meet the demands for high performance, cost effective coatings. This has helped the coatings industry achieve success despite the economic crisis. The industry continues to innovate.”

The technical program featured four sessions running concurrently. Presentations covered a broad range of topics and included both paint manufacturers and raw material suppliers. Presentations included “Powder Coatings in the Defense Industry,” by Beth Ann Pearson of Sherwin-Williams; “Supersticky Waterborne Primer,” by Peter Schmitt of Bayer MaterialScience and “The Challenging Landscape of Alkyd Emulsions for Architectural Coatings in North America,” by Neal Rogers of Arkema Coatings Resins.

The WCS also featured a Leadership Panel: Let’s Talk about Money, which was moderated by Patrick Kelly of Dowd and Guild and featured insights from a variety of experts in the coatings industry including Vince Anderson of the Horn Company, Eric Fernandez of EP Minerals, John Gilbert of Behr, Sheryl Southwell of Specialty Polymers and Wilhelm Wessels of BYK Chemie.

The Panel offered insight on a variety of topics. Sheryl Southwell was asked what were the lessons learned from the economic downturn? “When times are tough it is really important to focus on teamwork, never give up and communicate,” she said.

John Gilbert was asked “Based on your experience where are the opportunities for growth?” He said, “Most of the opportunity is in creating new goods and services. When there is slow growth in an industry, you have to create value by developing new products. It is very important for companies to keep up with R&D. There certainly are opportunities in a slower economy, people have more time to undertake DIY projects.”
Another highlight of the event was the presentation of the Samson Adler Distinguished Service Award to two industry veterans. The WCS selected two recipients for this honor. The 2012 recipient is John Buckinger and the 2013 recipient is Jarry Moore.

Buckinger has had a long and successful career in the coatings industry. Prior to retirement, he converted Miller Paint to a wholly employee-owned company by establishing an ESOP (Employee Stock-Ownership Program).
The  2013 Samson-Adler Distinguished Service Award recipient, Jarry Moore, had a career in the coatings industry that included 25 years at Ribelin. He was also one of the founder of the Arizona Society for Coating Technology.

Exhibits/Student Posters
In addition to the technical presentations there were 130 exhibitors, offering their latest products and services for the paint and coatings industry. During the exhibition there were also a Student Poster session where students from the California Polytechnic University displayed their research.

  Plans are already in place to expand and improve on the Symposium for 2015.
“We are always looking into new features and ways to improve the Symposium,” said Harlan. “One such new feature we had this year was having four of the college students that submitted posters for our poster session speak about their posters during an open forum. We plan on expanding on this by having a University Student Research Track at the next Symposium where students speak about the poster submission. We are looking for an all day track if enough students submit, but it probably more likely will be a morning or afternoon track.”

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