Forty years in the Paint Industry

Posted in Firwood News Update by Firwood on July 19th 2016
A career in the paint industry is not necessarily the first choice for a graduate leaving university. The careers fairs are dominated by major employers in banking, accountancy and retailing. Smaller industries don't get a look in at these events but should not be overlooked by new graduates looking for a career. For my part an opportunity arose to join the family business and it was a case of join now or never. I thought I would give it a year!Looking back now after all this time it has been a great industry to be involved in. It has never been easy to sell paint and it is a competitive market in which we operate. If it was easy then the competition would be even greater and life wouldn't be half as interesting.

Staring work back in 1976 I soon began to appreciate that my colleagues had considerably more experience than I had at that time. I had a lot to learn and had a work force that needed to appreciate that change is a part of life. It is ongoing and a failure to change with the times will lead to the failure of any business. We have changed what we make, how we make it and how we sell it in this period.

Products which had served our industry well for many years have now been replaced with safer alternatives. Red lead and calcium plumbate did do a great job in their day but their impact on the environment was negative and even today there is a legacy of old buildings that remain coated in lead based paints.Even the replacements for these toxic products are now beginning to be questioned as REACH legislation impacts on the availability of chemicals going forward. Not only is toxicity an issue but also emissions to atmosphere from solvent borne paints. Most surprisingly products that have gone through the Reach registration and approval process are now being questioned as to their long term impacts on health and the environment. Key raw materials such as Titanium Dioxide and Xylene are being scrutinised, often unfairly, and it is important that we support their ongoing use in a safe and environmentally positive manner.

The basics of manufacturing paint have not changed dramatically over the years. It is just the plant and equipment that has been upgraded. It is basically a blending mixing and milling process. Having started in a factory full of ball mills these were replaced back in the 1970's. Modern production methods demanded more flexibility quicker colour changes and improved reproducibility of formulations. In came bead mills be they vertical, horizontal or basket mills. As IT usage increased in our industry then the PC began to take a more prominent role in our laboratories and factory. It is hard for our younger staff to contemplate a world that ran without the use of a computer some 40 years ago.

Looking forward our markets are changing rapidly. Britain may have an island mentality at times but our markets are global. Firwood Paints products, from industrial, maintenance, floor and anti-slip floor paint now go around the globes with regular orders from China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and the Unites States of America. The use of the world wide web has opened up markets to Firwood that could never be supported by traditional sales methods. What is obvious is that products suitable for the European market are also attractive to other nations around the world. The UK is a net exporter of paints and Firwood has its part to play in ensuring that export sales continue to develop. It demands a detailed knowledge of local markets, legislation and customers' expectations but exporting can be fun and profitable.

Our challenges going forward are significant. Not least the pending impact of Brexit on UK businesses. We need to be constantly developing new products and markets. Firwood Paints have a loyal and diverse customer base. Our customers have always demanded value for money, good customer service and products which meet or exceed their expectations. Back in 1925 when Firwood Paint & Varnish Company Limited was founded sound business ethics were as important then as they are today. We value our customers and will continue to serve them to the best of our ability. We are also dependent on a committed and loyal workforce without which the company would not survive.

We will see formulations for our products continually changing as we identify opportunities for improvements in performance. Sustainability is core to our operations and Firwood will constantly look for means of making products safer to use and handle. We value the environment in which we operate and seek to reduce the impact of our operations on the environment.

It is difficult to predict what will happen in the next forty years. There will still be demand for paints They will differ in their formulations from our current products. Production will become increasingly automated. New markets will open and some older ones will disappear. Very much the same story as over the last forty years.What will remain is a demand for cost effective products and good customer service something that Firwood Paints will continue to offer.

Achieve Outstanding Results With Firwood's Industrial, Maintenance, Floor and Anti-Slip Floor Paint

Firwood are a leading manufacturer of paints and coatings, we are dedicated to offering nothing but the very best paints, finishes and treatments for all of our customers' applications. If you're looking for high-quality, anti-corrosive primer and top coats for industrial and maintenance applications, floor and anti-slip floor paint, or even just the best products from the most experienced water-based paint manufacturer, get in touch with our team today on 01204 525231.

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