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Jason Loehr, Product Manager at Datacolor, discusses the latest trends from digital colour management systems to waste recycling software
Two years after the onset of COVID-19, it is no surprise that the paint and coatings industry is still adjusting to its sweeping global impact. The industry has been moving toward increased digitalisation for some time, but major market shifts in 2020 and 2021 accelerated its embrace of fully digital workflows from formulation to production. This growing reliance on new technologies is likely to expand in the coming months as brands and manufacturers continue implementing digital solutions throughout the supply chain to overcome pandemic fuelled challenges. Here are some of the trends and technologies the paint and coatings industry can expect to see in 2022.
A digitised supply chain
The historic supply chain challenges that emerged in 2021 forced paint and coatings professionals to consider new methods of streamlining production without sacrificing quality. To keep pace with changing demand, companies have widely adopted modern colour management technology that reduces spending and increases speed to market amid supply chain price hikes and delays. Although many paint and coatings companies already had the right technologies and tools in place prior to the pandemic, pandemic-fuelled changes have further highlighted the need for effective colour management processes to ensure consistent, repeatable colour across global locations. In addition to measuring colour, modern colour management solutions also analyse, communicate and assess colour information to deliver fast and accurate colour matching while minimising batch corrections and overall costs. The implementation of a digital colour management system ensures confidence in the quality and accuracy of colour data being communicated across the supply chain. Today, as technology advances, some companies and manufacturers are starting to deploy automation processes in their labs, enabling efficiency in product development and making it possible to get products out the door even faster.
This year, raw materials shortages largely resulting from labour shortages and climate change, will continue creating major obstacles for brands and manufacturers, forcing them to rethink production strategies. As the industry searches for new ways to become more efficient while keeping up with demand, we expect to see more digital solutions designed to optimise workflows, increase agility and remove excess steps in the production process.
The global shift to remote work in 2020 had a lasting impact on the paint and coatings industry with many professionals now opting for hybrid or fully remote work schedules, creating a growing need for a more flexible way to manage colour. Colour professionals working away from their desks during the pandemic lost access to necessary colour measurement tools, spurring an industry wide need for portable equipment with excellent interinstrument agreement (IIA) to support colour work away from the office. As expected in 2021, we saw a rise in the use of portable technology to allow for flexibility in remote or home office settings. Now we are also seeing increased usage among dispersed workers spanning multiple locations across the supply chain. To streamline global communications in today’s remote work environment, many companies have embraced cloudbased solutions, which facilitate virtual colour communication, allowing paint and coatings professionals to share colour measurements straight from the job site and enabling communication of these measurements between key decision makers from anywhere at anytime.
Colour data stored in the cloud can also help predict trends and balance inventory, making it possible for manufacturers to quickly shift production based on material shortages, while also saving money by eliminating the risk of overbuying. Since technology is advancing quickly to support the hybrid work model, we anticipate an industry-wide increase in the adoption of cloud-based software over the next few years, especially as part of a fully digital colour management workflow.
Just like many other industries that have increased adoption of automation over the past two years, the paint and coatings industry is still learning how to best leverage and utilise the cloud to manage colour data. As the pandemic evolves in the coming months, untapped benefits of automation are likely to emerge. Cloud-based technology will certainly allow the industry to become more mobile and responsive to the changing needs of the marketplace, which is more important than ever in these unpredictable times.
Eco-friendly colour management
Global lockdowns in 2020 heightened awareness surrounding the positive benefits of sustainability, leading to increased public demand for waste reduction and raising industry-wide interest in the environmentally-friendly benefits of cost-efficient digital solutions. By using a digital formulation system, paint and coatings manufacturers are ensuring accurate colour recipes and already decreasing the number of adjustments, in turn reducing waste. Another digital solution that gained traction in 2021 was waste-recycling software. When off-colour materials or mistints occur, this specialised software can recycle this content into new production batches or shade it over to the desired colour, helping save materials that would otherwise be wasted.
Waste recycling software significantly reduces the amount of unused resources often created during the manufacturing process while also lowering added costs associated with off-colour materials, making it a valuable resource for companies in a market where cost-efficient and eco-friendly practices are critical. We expect the use of this technology to continue growing in 2022. Through automation and digitalised matching software, modern colour management technology helps streamline the colour development process to minimise negative waste impact. Even colour standards companies are now shifting toward the use of digital colour standards, which simplifies the colour selection process and decreases waste. Additionally, manufacturers are limiting the use of raw materials known to negatively impact the environment, which has prompted a movement toward more eco-friendly natural and mineral-based pigments.
The paint and coatings industry is also continuously adapting to environmental regulations and bans on select raw materials. Because of this, colour recipes are requiring more frequent reformulations to keep up with the shift to natural and mineral-based pigments. Cloud-based technology and digital colour matching tools help streamline the colour development process to minimise negative waste impact. Rising concerns over global warming combined with the desire to lower raw materials costs will continue, leading brands and manufacturers to choose digital colour management as a budget and climate friendly solution well beyond 2022.
Regardless of new consumer demand, supply chain challenges, remote work schedules or the evolving pandemic outlook, accurate colour decisions still need to be made efficiently and cost effectively to streamline the production process. As 2022 progresses, paint and coatings professionals will increase their utilisation of the most recent technological advancements to meet the needs of a changing marketplace.
Author: Jason Loehr, Product Manager, Datacolor