Crude awakening

May 12, 2006

With the cost of energy rising faster than the coming summer heat, as well as tightening environmental regulations, the entire coatings industry is under pressure. These two issues, more than anything else are pushing the industry forward, or back on its heels depending on how you look at it.

Now hovering around $70 per barrel, the rising cost of crude oil is impacting all manufacturers of products that get their start in those barrels of high-priced oil.

Just a few weeks ago, President Bush said, "Energy experts predict gas prices are going to remain high throughout the summer, and that's going to be a continued strain on the American people."

While the rising cost of crude oil is beginning to hit manufacturers hard, so far paint companies are resisting the urge to pass along the increases to their consumers as much as possible in order to stay competitive in the market.

Companies are possibly under even greater pressure to prove their value to their customers in order to justify inevitable price hikes in the future.

Innovative concepts and solutions are the only way to move forward and prosper in this harsh economic climate.

Walking the e|5 show floor last month in Chicago, I saw many innovative ideas on display and individuals eager to offer them as solutions for this industry's dilemma. Still very much in its infancy, the UV and EB technology frontier holds great promise for companies looking to increase production cost efficiency, improve product quality and most importantly, introduce enviornmentally-friendly products to the market.

In this month's issue of Coatings World, I spoke with leading manufacturers and suppliers of low- and zero-VOC products regarding the market for enironmentally-friendly paint and coatings (page 33).

The first AIM Coatings regulations were implemented back in the late 1970s and since that time, the regulatory landscape of the coatings industry has constantly been evolving. VOC levels in paint have dropped significantly and quality is improving with each new generation of products.

The question is, "Will technology be able to keep pace with future regulatory developments and consumer demands?"