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IKON Powder Coating, Inc
“The Powder Coating Professionals”
Finishing Standards and Finishing Specifications In a perfect world all industrial and commercial finishing processes would be performed by qualified professionals following practical written guidelines from the customer that are complete and accurate in every detail. These detailed guidelines would be clearly spelled out in writing by the customer to the contractor, or by reference to the guidelines of related specifications, and written performance standards. The contract finisher would then quote the job fairly based on the scope of work,  provide a first article sample for approval, secure a formal purchase order, complete the processing of the entire project, and certify to the conformance of the agreed upon scope of work.  Upon completion, inspection, and acceptance of all of the work done by the contractor, the customer would compensate the contractor for the contract services in accordance with the terms agreed upon.  Yes, in a perfect world.  Now, back to reality…  Typically, the “customer” as described above is NOT capable of articulating the true requirements from the contractor, generally due to a lack of knowledge or reluctance to invest any time researching options.  Instead, the “customer” will rely on the finishing contractor to suggest processing options.  This can be the good news or the bad news depending on the finishing contractor’s aptitude and capabilities.  On large architectural projects the customer to the finishing contractor may be far removed from the design engineer or architect.  This is where due diligence pays off.  Finishing standards and finishing specifications have been established as practical guidelines to establish a measurable and predictable degree of finishing quality.  The terms finishing “standards” and finishing “specifications” are often considered to mean the same thing, and are often used together to define the scope of work on a particular part or project.  The actual meanings in fact, are very different.  Standard: accepted as a model to be followed or imitated. Specification: a list of materials and work required for a project to be carried out. Reference: New Concise Dictionary Case in point:  If the end-use customer (building owner) on a large architectural finishing project issues a complaint regarding failure for the physical, surface, or environmental properties of a given finish in a timeframe that could be considered premature, the meaning of these terms becomes a topic of considerable and costly debate.  Once the root-cause of the alleged failure is identified, let’s say, loss of color and gloss due to improper finishing chemistry selection, the search begins for the party that will assume responsibility for the problem and possibly liability for the corrective action.  The basic questions to be answered are; what was the process? How does the process compare to standard commercial practices for that substrate? (Standard) and what materials were called out (Specified) versus what materials were used? Suddenly, the concern for accurate and complete documentation between all parties associated with the project escalates to the level of critical importance.    When referencing standards and specifications that are unique to a given architectural project the design engineer or architect should clearly outline, among other things, the correct mechanical and/or chemical preparation of the type of metal to promote proper adhesion of the organic coating and control electrochemical activity at the surface interface.  Additionally, the referenced standard/s and specification/s should define the coating/s supplier, color, gloss, chemistry, application and curing requirements, and number of protective layers required for the product to perform in a given environment.  Performance testing criteria calling out for compliance to testing standards is also a very important part of well written specification.   All too often the details of the actual processing and materials are not given adequate consideration in the planning stages of the project.  When processing and finishing material selections are made in haste due to a lack of time, lack of professional experience, poor due-diligence, or inadequate planning, the decisions made just may lead to catastrophic failures.         Why Standards and Specifications? Standards and specifications are typically combined to establish procedures, properties, and quantifiable quality measurements relevant to the substrate material, finishing processes and end-use requirements. Standards in the coating industry exist in the form of compositional or performance types for coatings and as procedural standards for application and are based on a variety of relevant testing data.  For example, in the construction industry, the procedural specification for organic coating of aluminum extrusions and panels are included with other types, such as electrical, engineering and plumbing and are referred to as "Building Standards".  An example of this type of specification is the voluntary performance guidelines established by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association for protective coating on aluminum extrusions and panels. (Reference AAMA 2603 Good, AAMA 2604 Better, and AAMA 2605 Best).  In contrast the testing standards published by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) are often references by the AAMA specification.  These specifications spell out in detail how to perform certain testing procedures.  In the coating industry, standards and specifications together set the tone for what exactly will be done on a project.  Standard & Specification Police What a different world the finishing industry would be if there were a Federal Department of Standards and Specifications that would police the finishing industry.  Don’t get me wrong, I know that if we receive all of the government that we are paying for now small business would likely not be able to function at all.  That’s a topic for another day.  Fabricators and finishers that knowingly cutting corners on specified projects to save time or increase profitability may someday find that they are in serious trouble with failures due to non-conformance.  Financial pressures top the list of reasons for the short comings, with overseas competition, labor and material cost concerns, higher energy prices and a host of other excuses are among the long list of pricing woes.  Bottom line… there is NO SUBSTITUTION for the VALUE of QUALITY  MATERIALS and PROCESSING.   If you can’t afford to do it right, I recommend that you take the easy way out and go broke fishing. Author: Michael W. Cravens Presidient, IKON Powder Coating, Inc CEO, Powder Finishing Consultants, Inc Copyright 2006