But for Beacon Products, a division of Hubbell Lighting, a move into a new 150,000 square foot facility made a review and finishing line overhaul worthwhile. A ‘one-stop’ resource for architects, landscape architects, engineers and lighting designers, the Bradenton, Florida, company manufactures marine-grade, copper-free cast and extruded aluminum architectural outdoor lighting and associated products for commercial and governmental projects worldwide.
Prior to the move, Beacon’s finishing process was in a state of flux. Liquid coatings were still being used for some products, and powder finishing pretreatment utilized a chromate (caustic) system. Powder coating finish quality was a concern as warranties are critical for Beacon’s customers. When designing the new facility, the company conducted a vigorous audit of its finishing process – they knew there were improvements and efficiencies to be found.
New thinking + new partners = new results
As part of its relocation, Beacon initiated a partnership with Sherwin-Williams that converted all finishing to powder coatings, helped change the finishing operation’s pretreatment procedures, and improved the existing powder coating process.
“We were working with an outside consultant to see how we could improve overall results while still using our existing coating suppliers,” said Perry Romano, vice president, Product Development. “Unfortunately, we were getting poor results for salt spray tests. We called in Sherwin-Williams, and they helped us a lot, beginning with the pretreatment process. They helped us tweak the process so that it was perfect.”
Beacon’s existing powder coating pretreatment procedure used a sandblasting and chromate process to improve coating adherence. While effective, the process was also expensive, and required removing the residue for off-site treatment as hazardous waste. Beacon sought a more sustainable solution. The answer was a five-step, chromate-free dipping process in which parts – some 20 to 25 feet long – are moved via overhead crane along a line of 40’ immersion tanks and dried before entering the powder coating booths and ovens.
“With the new pretreatment system, we don’t need to have the residual liquid hauled away,” Romano said. “All of the excess water goes into a large cylinder, where sediment settles to the bottom. We have a permit that allows us to put the leftover water directly into the sewer system. I would estimate that in the first year, this saved us approximately $50,000, and we’ve grown since then. I’d have to say it’s probably a savings of several hundred thousand dollars annually today.”
As a partner to Beacon Products, Sherwin-Williams provided training to improve powder coating techniques. The finishing line’s powder coating transfer efficiency was increased, and film build was made more consistent through the training process and enhancements to the line’s procedures. The primary coatings used are Sherwin-Williams Powdura 4000 and 5000, which are color matched to products in the Beacon catalog for next day delivery from Sherwin-Williams’ Tampa facility. Custom colors that include mirror finishes and certain patinas of green to simulate an aged copper look are matched to Beacon’s specifications.
Sherwin-Williams also developed a textured finish.“We wanted a certain type of texture to the finish,” Romano said. “When you’re dealing with castings, you want to be able to cover up some of the imperfections. The textured finish really helped us.”
Certification provides competitive edge
The finishing line upgrades have paid off. Confidence in the quality of its finishing process allowed Beacon Products to achieve AAMA 2604 and AAMA 2605 certification for its Beacote-V and Beacote-X paint finishes, warranting the finishes for five and ten years, respectively, based on proper installation, maintenance and appropriate product specification.
Sherwin-Williams worked with Beacon to complete the AAMA certifications, beginning with training and a line audit to ensure each stage of the process met or exceeded AAMA standards. Powder coating booths, grounding methods, spray guns and testing procedures were adjusted to ensure even coating and finish thickness. This was followed by line trials and finished parts submission for final testing.
“Customers have purchased products because we are certified,” Romano said. “If a project specifier puts in the spec that the lighting has to be AAMA certified, that gives us an edge.”
And when Beacon – a pioneer in LED lighting – announced that 100 percent of its lighting products would utilize LED technology, AAMA certification became even more important. LED lighting is known for its ability to last for years, even when operated 24/7. The finishes on commercial outdoor LED lighting products must match that long life in terms of gloss and resistance against fading.
“We’re located in a coastal environment, so we understand that the finish can be a big issue for specifiers,” Romano said. “We wanted to be able to protect the outside and inside surfaces of our products because we know what salt air can do to finishes. But our products are used worldwide – for example, they may be specified for a project in Abu Dhabi, where a finish might be subjected to blowing sand. UV exposure may be an issue elsewhere. Our AAMA certifications help with that type of customer.”
The road to finishing line improvements never ends. Sherwin-Williams and Beacon meet on a regular basis to discuss any issues that may arise and work together to resolve them.
“If we have a situation with a powder coating process, Sherwin-Williams works through it to determine root cases,” Romano said. “For example, we had some outgassing issues on a particular casting; they helped us work on our preheating to eliminate most of the outgassing before powder coating.”
Beacon estimates that even though its business has increased, the efficiencies gained in the finishing line have allowed the company to complete its work with just one shift per day.
“We have been able to increase the number of parts that we move through the finishing line while maintaining quality, Romano said. “Sherwin-Williams has helped us increase our throughput.”