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The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing Painting in Manufacturing

Many manufacturers require painting as a part of their manufacturing process. Paint is critical as it is often one of the first things that a customer sees when they receive a finished product. Additionally, paint can often be a source of headaches in your production as it is frequently an area where bottlenecks may occur, slowing down your factories production rate. To determine whether it makes sense to outsource your painting needs or potentially bring them internal to your manufacturing facility, you should consider the pros and cons of both approaches, as well as the costs of outsourcing vs painting internally.

The pros of outsourcing Painting as a Manufacturer

  • Potential Reduction in Regulatory Requirements-Painting in a lot of areas is a highly regulated process. Common regulatory agencies need to be involved to ensure you meet proper safety requirements and national codes which can include OSHA, the EPA, and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) as well as potential others that those organizations or your insurance company recommend
  • Reduction in capital equipment expenses – To be able to safely spray any coating you are typically required to have an appropriate code certified paint booth. Paint booths range greatly and cost will depend on the size of the product that you paint, whether you need an air make up with your paint booth, and a variety of other factors which you can read about in this article that gives an overview of how to determine a paint booths cost. In addition to the booth, you will have consumables like paint booth filters as well as paint equipment that will require routine upkeep. These cost of equipment and consumables for the paint booth itself can easily add up to a significant investment.
  • One less process step to have to worry about – Compared to other common manufacturing processes like stamping, welding, and bending painting has a lot of environmental influences, chemistry related factors, as well as technique requirements. All of these requirements can result in needing additional expertise to be able to ensure that you are able to effectively paint your product in a reasonable amount of time with a finish that is appropriate for your needs. By outsourcing your painting in your manufacturing process, you shift this responsibility often to a job shop that exclusively focuses on painting which can sometime allow them to potentially avoid many of the challenges associated with painting.

The cons of outsourcing Painting as a Manufacturer

  • Potential loss of production schedule – Depending on the size of your facility and volume of work you may bring to a contract manufacturer, you may often be placed near the end of a job queue that they have. This can result in issues with getting your product finished according to your schedule needs. In fact, the delay in meeting production times due to outsourcing painting is one a common reason that manufacturers begin considering no longer outsourcing their paint process.
  • Potential quality control issues – if you are manufacturing a product that has a rigid specifications for how the product surface is prepared and the coating is applied you may have issues with the contract manufacturer routinely and effectively meeting your paint specification. If the specifications are routinely not met, you may have to consider finding a new potential partner that offers the ability to meet rigid specifications. Even with a good partnership though, without one of your own employees routinely visiting the contract paint shop quality will be hard to ensure.
  • Potential profit loss – if you outsource your painting, the company that is outsourced to ultimately has to make a profit. Depending on the volume of work you offer them, transport costs associated getting your product to them, and how much of a margin they are aiming to make, you may end up spending more to get your product painted by the contract paint shop then you would if you were to paint your products internally.  By bringing in your paint process as an internal part of your manufacturing work you could potentially add additional revenue to each product that you sell.

SO How Should I Proceed to Evaluate if its Worth Painting Internally as a Manufacturer?

By understanding the pros and cons of outsourcing versus keeping painting an internal part of your manufacturing process you can begin to determine which may make more sense for you. A common set of steps to take to see if it makes sense to bring in painting internally would involve something like the following:

  • Determine the proper coating that you may need for your product – This step would involve contacting a paint manufacturer that offers products that will meet the requirements of your products finish specifications. You would then begin working with the paint manufacturer to perform any pertinent testing if it was deemed necessary for your individual product.
  • Evaluate the capital expense for proper equipment-After determining which coating may be appropriate for your product as well as what process may be required per your coating provider, you would then typically coordinate with equipment providers to get budgetary ideas of potential options to properly prepare and apply coating to your product. During this step it’s important to help the equipment provider know factors including the volume of product you expect to produce, how fast you want to be able to paint each product, and information about the coating you’re using.
  • Determine estimates of operating costs – After knowing the initial costs associated with the capital equipment investment, next you would want to start to determine an approximate cost associated with coating each product. Depending on the equipment you use cost can vary significantly common costs can include, any chemicals that may be used if your chemically treating the product, the cost of the coating you’re using (which will be dependent on the transfer efficiency of your paint equipment), utilities cost (electricity, gas), cost of any pertinent applications and permits, disposal costs for chemicals &filters, consumables you may use (like paint pot liners, filters, ect) the cost of additional labor as well as any required routine trainings or on boarding training costs.
  • Compared total costs to current outsourcing costs – After you determine the operating costs and initial capital investment you can then compare those costs to the cost that you are currently being charged to outsource your painting. Additionally, you would want to consider any lost opportunities or customer dissatisfaction due to any issues with getting your product finished on time or dissatisfaction due to poor paint finish quality.
  • Evaluate suppliers-if the process makes sense from a cost or quality control standpoint the next step would be to evaluate who will potentially provide your paint equipment as well is coatings that you may need. Important things to consider include how available is equipment that you may need when parts are needed or issues arise, how much support does the respective coating or coating equipment company offer, and how well do they understand the paint process because it in many ways you may be depending on them to help you learn all the critical information to begin painting in your own facility.
  • Obtain the proper equipment and coating – after deciding it makes sense to bring things internally and selecting what coating you will use as well as equipment you then have to get the equipment in place as well as the coating
  • Coordinate training with selected suppliers – Ideal suppliers will provide initial training to help your painters understand their equipment and coating they will use. They will also continue to provide support to ensure that any issues that occur are resolved to prevent production slow downs.

Ultimately evaluating whether it makes sense to paint internally is complicated and involves considering a variety of factors. If you need help determining paint equipment costs as well as which equipment may be appropriate we can provide free consultation. You can also download our Spreadsheet as a starting point to determine potential costs of painting as a part of your manufacturing process though as always you should perform your own complete due diligence as the spreadsheet is for reference only.

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