Every Little Thing Matters

This is a sad story about mistakes made, lessons learned, and rework.

To set the scene: it’s late summer at Kaser Blasting & Coatings. A set of parts arrives, the likes of which we’ve coated many times before. It is, by all appearances, a regular Tuesday.

The customer has selected a metallic powder coating. Though metallic powder coating is notoriously finicky, we approach this project with a reasonable amount of confidence: this is a powder we’ve used in the past, with good results. We feel we’re up to the task.

Due to a busier-than-usual busy season, the type of cart on which we normally hang these parts are unavailable (except one).

No big deal; there are plenty of other carts open. We load half of the order on the usual cart (cart 1), hang the other half on a slightly-different type of cart (cart 2), and proceed with our normal pretreatment and powder coating process.

Fast forward to the moment the two carts come out of the oven.

One of the carts is completely flawless, and the other looks terrible. Can you guess which?

Anyone familiar with metallic powder coating will not be surprised to hear that cart 2 – on which parts were oriented SLIGHTLY differently than on cart 1 – needed to be completely reworked. When I say that metallic powder coating is finicky, this is what I mean: even the orientation of parts can have a dramatic impact on the electrostatic forces involved in the spraying process.

I am a stickler for following tried-and-true processes to the letter. This story reinforces that conviction. In hindsight, we should have waited for more of cart 1 to be available. It was a mistake to underestimate the impact that a different cart would have on the outcome, and it resulted in us having to rework an entire cart’s worth of parts.

The cart is one (clearly important) variable in the powder coating process. Anytime you’re changing variables, you’re liable to impact your results in a way that might surprise you. Learn from Kaser’s mistakes: in powder coating as in life, little changes can lead to big problems. 

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