Volume 14, Issue 1 - January/February 2013

Guest Column

The Best Advice?
Go Until You Come to the End, Then Stop
by Mike Burk

Begin at the beginning and go on til you come to the end: then stop.” These were the words of advice from the King of Hearts to the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This is good advice except we don’t always know when we have reached the end. I was reminded of this quote while discussing application techniques with a supplier of door and window coatings.

Delving into Coatings
Knowing that the product focus for this issue of DWM was on this very topic, I decided to discover as much information as I could about coatings and the application process. I searched the web, interviewed industry associates and visited supplier booths at trade shows.

As one would expect, the most useful information came from a person actually applying coatings. I watched as he applied decorative finishes to doors, window frames and sashes. The finished products were offered in a wide range of colors, as well as simulated wood grain. His application technique would be better described as craftsmanship. The results were unbelievable – vibrant and durable colors to match any homeowners or manufacturer’s request. I wondered how this application knowledge was transferred to customers.

Could his customers easily and consistently recreate the same quality that he produced? His reply to my questions were brief. “They usually pick it up pretty quick on their own, but we will go out there if we have to.” I don’t imagine that this was the view of the company he represented but, even if it was his view alone, it was a cause for concern.

Check, Check, Check
My insulating glass background flashed past. These processes are common in many ways. You must consider proper surface preparation – the substrate has to be clean. Material mixes and viscosity must be within specification if they are expected to adhere over a long period of time. Product expiration dates must be checked, and out-of-date material must be discarded. Curing time may be critical, so we must ask: how soon can the finished product be packaged and shipped without damage?

Would the customer eventually pick up these requirements “on their own” or is more assistance required from the supplier? We might apply the advice given to the White Rabbit by the King. We will all agree that quality starts at the very beginning of the supplier’s process. The customer purchase order is checked and the component design is confirmed. The correct raw materials are obtained and processed with multiple quality procedures. But the quality process must not stop here. It must continue beyond the supplier’s shipping dock or the customers receiving dock. When the supplier’s component becomes part of a finished product at the customers shipping department, it comes to the end, then we might stop.

Or, do we have to? For better, higher quality results we should consider taking some extra steps. This partnership could include regular on-site quality audits by the supplier to assure the customer’s process meets or exceed requirements. The customer’s safety group must be aware of any hazards associated with the supplier’s product. Customer operators, assemblers and quality inspectors must be trained and developed so they understand how the supplier’s component is inspected, handled and assembled.

In another section of Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” The cat replies, That depends on where you want to get to.” Work with your supplier or customer through the entire manufacturing process. Make sure you agree where you want to get to in order to reach the end – then stop.

Mike Burk is a product sales specialist at Quanex Building Products.


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