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Archive for July, 2014:

Maintenance should be holding railcar coatings responsible

Maintenance should be holding railcar coatings responsible

A railcar faithfully serves for the length of its lease and then returns to the shop for inspection. The extent of necessary repairs is assessed. It’s repaired and then blasted with an abrasive. Next, the railcar is painted, followed by a curing period. Then quality control tests are run on the car to make sure the application measures up to standards. Finally, dry film readings are taken and some environmental measurements are recorded.

This process is repeated as a part of the railcar maintenance process thousands of times for thousands of railcars in shops all over the country. This leads to a lot of quality control-related paperwork building up. It gets damaged. It gets moved. Even if the measurements are diligently recorded in the first place, the paperwork may no longer be available when the railcar returns for maintenance after five or so years.

railcar inspections

This makes it difficult to determine the cause of damage to the owner’s railcars. Was the railcar coating or lining applied improperly? Or was the product deficient? Being able to determine the cause of the problem is essential to fixing it, and avoiding costly repairs in the future. Digitized, more objective, better-organized quality control is the key to making more informed decisions about the cause of breakdowns.

It’s also key to documenting damage. If you’re an owner that leases your railcars out, you expect normal wear and tear when your cars are returned. But in the case of extensive damage, the car needs to be repaired before it can be leased to another customer. Imagine contaminants or corrosive cargo have pitted the steel in a tank car. It must be cleaned, photographed, and then readings and measurements taken for documentation. The railcar maintenance process in many shops is time-consuming, and frankly, behind the times.

Take your QC digital

Railcar coatings documentation is in need of serious overhaul. Luckily, cloud-based storage already provides a smart alternative to stacks and stacks of paper records. Digitally stored accounts of quality control readings, inspection details and photographs and descriptions of damage can then be retrieved with a few swipes of the finger.

As tablets have become smaller, more durable and less expensive, their usefulness in industrial settings has increased dramatically. Software that’s compatible with paint thickness gauges has made quality control truly objective for the first time, while reducing errors from missed reading and sloppy transcription. And because quality control apps have the capability to sync in real-time, everyone involved in a project can stay on the same page.

For coatings manufacturers, this means it’s easier for customers to hold our products accountable. Better records make it easier to pinpoint the source of a problem. When you stand behind your products, this is a very good thing.

Let’s talk

In addition to supplying railcar coatings, we’re committed to modernizing the railcar inspection process. Get in touch and let’s discuss how the digital documentation software we provide is improving owners’ inspection experience and holding manufacturers accountable for their products’ performance.

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Archive for July, 2014:

Maintenance should be holding railcar coatings responsible

The benefits of high solids coatings for railroad tank cars

According to the American Association of Railroads, there are currently over 380,000 railroad tank cars in service. The vast majority of these cars are not owned by railroads, but leased by private customers who use them to transport their products. Many of these lessees encounter a similar problem with their tank cars. It has to do with the percent solids of the coatings used to protect them. For a refresher on the percent solids of a coating, check out this post we wrote on 100% solids coatings.

railroad tank car coatings

Due to the cylindrical shape of tank cars, and gravity, it’s more difficult to achieve the desired film build on the top of the tank, often leading to an unevenly applied coating. During its service life, this top portion of the car will be prominently exposed to repeated rain and harsh sunlight. Eventually, the stress leads to a problem known as “blooming,” or rusting on the top of the tank car. “Redheads,” as cars with this problem are known in the industry, are a good indication that something went wrong during the coating application process.

This problem can be avoided by using coatings with a higher percent solids. With fewer solvents flashing off, the coating dries more quickly and it’s easier to achieve high film builds on the top of the tank. The end result is a coating that’s more evenly distributed over the entire tank car. But that’s not the only benefit of using a higher solid coating.

Coatings that contain higher solids by volume also allow a shop to purchase less material to cover a given square footage. If a typical 60 percent epoxy has a theoretical coverage rate (where no loss occurs during the application) of 190 square feet applied at 5 mils DFT, an 80 percent solids version would have a theoretical coverage rate of 260 square feet applied at 5 mils DFT. The result is 27 percent less product that’s capable of covering the same area.

Limiting VOCs

Higher solids coatings also significantly cut down on the amount of volatile organic compound (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) byproducts. Lower levels of evaporating solvents mean fewer VOCs are released into the atmosphere, and into the shop. For large-scale operations VOCs can add up quickly, making cutting back on these substances necessary to avoid fines. Tighter regulation of VOC outputs may increase the importance of alternative choices in the near future.

Some attempt to completely take VOCs out of the equation with water-based coatings. But this approach also has its drawbacks. They take longer to cure, potentially causing backups in the shop. Properly accounted for, this strategy can be a viable solution. But like we’ve talked about before, the best solutions draw on a number of key features.

A balancing act

Ideally, the right product will offer a balance of these key features. It should have relatively high solids by volume for film build, and low VOC output to ensure that the shops where it is applied adhere to environmental standards. It should be able to be applied efficiently and in a timely manner. And of course, it must be a cost-effective solution. Click the link read more about our railcar coatings, or visit our tank linings page for more on linings.

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Archive for July, 2014:

Maintenance should be holding railcar coatings responsible

Choosing the right railcar coatings

Choosing a railcar coating

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to choosing the best coatings to protect the railcars you own or lease. So how should you know which one to choose?

When it comes to selecting the right product to protect your cars, it’s best to consider your goals for the coating. How long do you expect it to last? How much time do you expect to spend applying it? What sort of abuse do you expect it to withstand? The answers to these questions will provide a good basis for your strategy moving forward.

If you’re expecting a long life cycle for your coating, it goes without saying that a more durable product is in order. But if you know the railcar is brought in every five years for scheduled maintenance, it may not make sense to go with the most durable multi-coat finish when a sufficient, single-coat system could do the job at a lower cost.

Many shop owners worry about long curing times causing a bottleneck in their facilities. Situations like these make single-coat systems attractive. After a sandblast, the railcar can be painted and then moved on down the line, therefore avoiding longer cure times. Epoxy coatings may cure more quickly, but may not be suitable if long-term UV protection is needed.

It is especially important to consider a tank car’s intended use where linings are concerned. The longer handling times associated with baked-on phenolics may be unavoidable if product purity is a concern. Since discoloration, odor or other interactions with the coatings system are unacceptable in the transport of food-grade items or sulfuric acid, a baked-on phenolic will likely be the best bet.

The importance of choosing the correct tank car lining has increased with the prevalence of hydraulic fracturing as an energy extraction method. Since water often accompanies this method as a byproduct, care must be taken to ensure that water, settling at the bottom of the tank, does not corrode and pit the steel. When leasing a tank car, this sort of damage could substantially increase maintenance costs upon returning the car. This is a concern tank car owners have only recently had to consider. There are also significant benefits of high solids coatings for these railroad tank cars.

Choosing the right railcar coating is all about how you expect it to perform. It’s important to consider your expectations for service-life, coating application time and the intended use of the railcar. Once an owner has decided what aspects of performance are most important, then choosing the coating that will provide those benefits becomes that much easier. Visit our railcar coatings page for more information.

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Archive for July, 2014:

Maintenance should be holding railcar coatings responsible

Safety coatings are a smart bet

Most safety directors are all ears when you tell them that for what amounts to a drop in the bucket of their safety budget they can be making their facilities safer places to work. In fact, when we talk about safety coatings as a smart investment, the response we get the most often is something along the lines of “Yea. That makes sense.” And we agree.

Consider that according to OSHA, slips, trips and falls make up the majority of general industry accidents. They’re responsible for 15 percent of all accidental deaths, with only motor vehicle accidents causing more work-related fatalities. Safety coatings such as glow-in-the-dark urethanes and non-slip coatings are an easy, cost-efficient way to guard against slips and trips.

Safety Coatings

There are situations where non-slip coatings are mandated in general industry, shipyards, construction and marine settings, but the responsibility largely falls on safety-minded individuals to utilize safety coatings to their full potential. Forward-thinking safety professionals at power plants, refineries, manufacturing facilities and so on are recognizing the diversity of ways safety coatings can be put to use. Non-slip coatings on the tops of railcars and glow-in-the-dark coatings in the hulls of barges are examples of the expanding use of safety coatings.

Facility managers are increasingly exploring the potential benefits of glow-in-the-dark (luminescent) coatings for industrial settings. Considering that some countries are testing them for their usefulness on highways, it makes sense that they be used to illuminate important pathways or obstructions in the workplace. These coatings can be used to illuminate pathways to exits if a power outage or other emergency forces an evacuation. By storing energy from lights during working hours, particles within the coating are able to glow for some time after the lights go out.

In order for these luminescent coatings to stand up to the harshness of an industrial setting, it’s important that they’re not any off-the-shelf paint. An interior paint with a glowing pigment inside will quickly wear out under stress. When formulated from more durable material such as a urethane, these coatings are able to withstand greater abuse.

While, gallon for gallon, non-slip and luminescents may cost more other coatings, it’s possible to do a lot with a little. Painting a curb, line, arrow or overhead obstruction ends up being a cost-effective safety measure. And when it comes to worker safety, it’s a small price to pay.

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Archive for July, 2014:

Maintenance should be holding railcar coatings responsible

Devising an industrial painting budget

There’s a lot to consider when managing an industrial facility. Regularly scheduled maintenance, repairs, coordinating with vendors, managing employees, the list is seemingly endless. Most of these tasks are line items on a budget. But regularly scheduled painting is something that’s sometimes left out. This can lead to surprise costs and lost opportunities for savings.

For reasons we’ve talked about before, a coatings maintenance plan is essential to the overall health of your facility. This post should provide some factors to consider when devising an industrial painting budget. It’s by no means an exhaustive checklist, and consulting with an industry professional will always be your best bet for a comprehensive budget plan.

Industrial painting budget

A few factors that affect budget

A well thought-out budget depends on a number of factors. The substrate being painted, and the stress that the coating is regularly exposed to will determine what sort of product is needed. If you’ve handled painting decisions before, you may already have an understanding of what you need. But what if a less expensive product can meet your needs? What if a more expensive product will reduce costs in the long run?

Accessibility and containment are some site-specific factors that should be taken into account. Staging equipment, mechanical lifts or cranes will increase the amount that should be set aside for the project. Containment will be more important near schools and residential areas compared to industrial parks, which will be reflected in the overall cost of the project.

When it comes to choosing an applicator, options range from small startups to highly professional organizations that regularly undertake multi-million dollar projects. Which one you choose will depend on the size of your project, budget and whom you’ve worked with in the past. But project managers trying to save a few extra bucks on this phase of the project should be aware that improper surface preparation or a shoddy application can seriously shorten the lifespan of your coatings system.

Quality control and quality assurance are closely tied to contractor selection. A trusted applicator should be able to handle the QC, but the owner needs an effective QA specialist. If the organization doesn’t employ someone capable of performing these services, consider seeking outside help and carve out some space for it in the budget.

Finding efficiencies

Taking into account what you’re already doing is a smart way to go about planning a painting budget. Could you create some efficiency in your existing coatings maintenance process to cut costs? Is your maintenance process strategically designed?

Take a project manager that applies a two-coat system every five years, for instance. Each time his asset, let’s call it a large storage tank, is repainted, he pays for labor, staging, containment, etc. The actual paint accounts for only a small portion of that budget, usually around ten percent of the total cost.

By spending five percent more and adding a third coat to the system, its service life can be extended for another five years. Even if labor for the additional coat adds a further five percent to the total cost of the project, the owner still realizes 90 percent savings by skipping the five-year recoat. Spending a little more on the product helps cut costs like labor and staging from your painting budget.

Creating efficiency may also mean reexamining the product you’re using. Facility managers often purchase the same product over and over again, simply because that’s the way they’ve always done it. But investing in a more durable paint upfront may lead to painting less often, resulting in net savings on painting costs. Buying in bulk from a single supplier is also a great way of generating savings.

If you’re ready to speak with an expert about devising a painting budget, we’d be happy to discuss it with you. We’ll even pay your facility a visit, so we can provide the best possible advice for your coatings maintenance plan.

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