Innovative Coatings Support Sustainability, Cost-Efficiency GoalsBy Alejandro Enríquez | Mon, 05/24/2021 - 06:00
Q: What is PPG Industries’ footprint in the Mexican market and what are your main differentiators?
A: PPG is one of the world's leading paint and coatings companies. PPG has been in business for over 130 years and has operated in Mexico for more than 60 years. Today, we participate in a wide variety of segments with our paints and coatings. In the automotive sector, we work both with OEM’s and Tier 1 companies and OEMs. We also offer products for other industry sectors like food and beverage, airplanes, infrastructure, Oil & Gas, marine, mining, electronic, electro-domestic and other industrial applications sectors. In US, we are even working in the aerospace industry with NASA. In Mexico, our Comex brand is very well-known for architectural paints.
PPG does not only provide color and surface protection. Through innovation, we look at how our products better help our customers. For instance, our coatings help to make airplanes lighter while cooling their interior; the same applies to electric vehicles. Other coatings have electrical properties and so on. Our goal is to provide purpose-driven coatings. Our slogan is: We protect and beautify the world. On top of that, we help the object we coat to fulfill its purpose.
Q: What role does the automotive sector play for PPG in Mexico and how has the pandemic influenced your local operations?
A: The automotive sector is a key area for PPG. We ramped up operations in Mexico to support the growth of the OEM’s in the country. The sector is our backbone and I am glad to say that PPG also plays a fundamental role in boosting the automotive sector in the country through technology transfer that ensures the vehicles manufactured in the country are equal or superior in quality to those produced in other North American plants.
One data that highlights the importance of the coatings in vehicle manufacturing is for instance when an OEM decides to set up a new plant in a new location, approximately 40 percent of the capital investment goes to the paint shop. These areas have paint booths that are not only automated but also isolated, which demands special temperature, humidity and ventilation conditions. Given the size of the investment, OEMs are very selective regarding their paint and coating supplier looking not only for quality but also for productivity.
PPG has been fundamental in bringing innovative paint and coating technologies to the country’s automotive sector. We aim to increase our customers’ competitiveness and minimize errors so production goes smoothly and adheres to the quality and differentiators clients demand, while reducing environmental risks.
We work with every OEM in Mexico. All vehicles produced in Mexico have at least a PPG product and we are proud to continue supporting the growth of this sector.
Q: How is PPG innovating and adapting to the electric vehicle revolution?
A: The key element in EVs is the battery and the industry is working to make batteries more efficient, lighter and cheaper. At PPG, we think about what a battery is and what is happening inside. The battery requires different layers of protection and that is where coatings come into play. Batteries require dielectric insulation and thermic coatings given heat risks, and corrosion protection, among others. Coatings play an important role in this regard because the EV battery is a combination of various cells and each of these parts require their own coating. We help make batteries safer for the vehicle at a reduced cost and lower weight.
Q: What is the role of sustainability for PPG and how do you support your customers in reducing their carbon footprint?
A: First, the goal is always to develop lighter vehicles. This is significant because light-weighting increases fuel efficiency. Certain elements within the vehicle can increase weight significantly, such as noise cancellation, which is achieved though isolation materials and with special fabrics. To address this, we have created a different material that reduces the weight of these fabrics tenfold while increasing the sound insulation.
We are also making our paints water-based instead of solvent-based. Water-based paint helps the environment with less volatile emissions and reduced residual paint that contaminates less. This is similar to the previous elimination of lead and other heavy metals in our products. We are also constantly looking for more environmentally-friendly pigments.
Our product innovation has also led us to create paints that can be baked at lower temperatures, reducing the amount of fuel needed to heat the ovens. Paint applications have also been innovated. Traditionally, the painting process is done in four stages; we developed compact coatings technologies that reduce the environmental impact, while also significantly reducing the investment required to install and operate the paint shop.
Q: How are PPG’s innovation centers supporting automotive trends? How is Mexico contributing to PPG’s innovation goals?
A: Coating, for example, plays an important role in the development of autonomous vehicles. We have studied which colors are better recognized by vehicle sensors. We also study how coatings better enable communication through the vehicle’s sensors and other aspects relevant to boosting vehicle automation and electrification without compromising the aesthetics of the vehicle.
Mexico has been reinventing itself from low-cost labor manufacturing toward a more specialized workforce. The country now has relevant OEMs and Tier 1s investing heavily in engineering centers, helping the country transform into a design and engineering hub. PPG works closely with automotive companies to support the development of technologies in Mexico and often what is designed in the country is will being applied in other regions.
The automotive sector was born from teamwork and close collaboration. As supplier, PPG plays a fundamental role in new developments because we understand our customers’ needs, vision and goals. In our case, we support our customers through our innovation centers that help make vehicle production more efficient and economical, benefiting the end customer.
Q: What are the most recent products introduced by PPG to the Mexican market?
A: We are introducing our compact process technologies that reduce the number of layers in the paint system by eliminating one layer. This allows companies to simplify the application process and eliminate one production oven.
Other interesting area in which coatings plays a key role is the ability to support the use of other metals and materials in vehicles. As new material mixes are being incorporated into the car-body so too are new coatings.