The main players behind the growth are specialists in pigments and colorants, dispersions, color management and the manufacture of tinting machinery.
Not much of the momentum, in terms of providing the tinting hard and software and their accessories, is coming from the coatings producers themselves, who historically have been the ones responsible for establishing tinting in the marketplace.
The current strong demand for anything to do with tinting was evident at the recent European Coatings Show (ECS) at Nuremberg, Germany, where many exhibitors outside the segment were offering technologies or products related to color shading in the final stages of the coatings supply chain.
A major driving force has been the need among coatings producers and distributors to cut costs by streamlining their processes.
With some smaller coatings producers cost-savings pressures are forcing them to abandon colorants manufacture altogether.
Chromaflo Technologies, Ashtabula, Ohio, a leading operator in the European colorants and tinting systems market, distributed at the ECS its own study on profitability of in-house colorants production. This showed that a big financial burden was not just production costs but the expense of the chemical expertise and extensive laboratory testing needed to deal with a burgeoning variety of color nuances and more intricate formulations.
“The core business of paint production generates three times the gross profit margin contribution of colorant production,” the study claimed.
An increasing number of coatings producers are opting just to make the relatively small number of most used colorants which make up the vast majority of the output of a traditional in-house operation. This can cut a significant proportion of storage, transportation and other costs.
“Currently demand for tinting equipment and systems is growing at a double digit rate in Europe,” said Dipankar Bhattacharjee, a key account manager at the Italian-headquartered tinting equipment makers Corob. “A major influence has been the desire among coatings producers to cut storage costs by reducing inventories. Another trend has been a strategy of keeping close to customers through secondary plants with tinting facilities.”
In DIY and professional retail outlets for coatings where tinting machines have already been available at the point of sale (POS), sometimes for decades, there has been a rising demand for more sophisticated equipment combined with color matching and management software and instrumentation.
As a result new tinting machines have been introduced which are highly computerized and automated so that the staff operating them need little training. Many can be operated by tablets via the internet.
Traditionally many POS tinting facilities have been provided and maintained by coatings companies. Now this task is increasingly being done by colorants and tinting specialists.
In contrast to the fragmented approach of many coatings producers to the supply of tinting products and services, some of the leading specialists have been following strategies aimed at integrating all the stages from pigments supply through to the provision of color management services.
A merger two years ago between Chromaflo and CPS Color, previously the tinting business of the Finnish coatings producer Tikkurila, gave the U.S. company a powerful platform in Europe for the expansion of its integrated colorants and tinting systems. Some of which cover customer purchase histories and other market data.
At the ECS Chromaflo added a new tool to its Innovatint software package linking it to the analysis of an even broader range of market as well as social data.
The main purpose of Innovatint has been to bring together data on colorants and their formulations with that on sales, creating what the company says is “a seamless flow of information between paint factory and paint customer”.
The latest extension of the software enables the tinting itself to be more personalized in meeting customers needs by enabling cross-referencing of colorants data with that on demographics.
For in-house tinting plants, Chromaflo was promoting at the exhibition colorant products which ensure batch-to-batch consistency and provide ways of including low-cost colorants to achieve a “good price/performance balance.”
Clariant, the Swiss-based speciality chemicals producer which is another pace-setter in Europe in the integration of colorant, tinting and color management services, announced at the exhibition a new integrated POS tinting system based on matchmycolor’s Colibri color management software and the color management instruments of Japan’s Konica Minolta. The Japanese company already acts as a Colibri distributor.
The system will provide customers with a tinting facility capable of reaching a first-time color match rate of 97 percent with the help of a cloud-based software able to calculate color collections centrally in seconds, according to Clariant.
At the ECS, the company, one of the few tinting specialists which is also a major pigments manufacture, launched a small and fast POS colorants dispenser with 24 canisters in three and six liter sizes able to provide up to six colorants at a time.
“We have been making the final steps in completing the integration of the value chain from pigments to the POS stage,” said Eugenio Saraullo, Clariant’s European marketing manager for tinting systems.
The model being pursued by companies like Clariant and Chromaflo in the tinting segment is not just being applied in Europe but across the world. A major reason for Clariant’s choice of matchmycolor and Konica Minolta for its new POS system is that they already have in place a global sales and support network.
Nonetheless there still seems to be plenty of potential for further growth of tinting systems in Europe, not just in the in-house plant segment but also in retailing.
“It’s surprising how many coatings retailers in Europe are still sticking to the traditional way of stocking pre-tinted cans of paint on their shelves in the belief that this is what their customers prefer,” said Esa Ylimaula, sales manager at Xemec, a Finnish manufacturer of automation products, which launched a fully automated tinting machine at the show. “There is still a lot of educational work to be done among retailers and their customers,” he added.
In addition, as large specialists in colorants and tinting systems spread themselves across the world, there will inevitably be a lot of opportunities for niche players, particularly those able to offer exclusive ranges of colors.