Industrial Finishes & Coatings

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Industrial Finishes & Coatings


NAICS: 32-5510 Paint and Coating Manufacturing

SIC: 2851 Paints and Allied Products

NAICS-Based Product Codes: 32-55104 through 32-55104265, 32-55107 through 32-55107061, and 32-5510A through 32-5510A041


The three major subdivisions of the Paint and Allied Products industry, as defined by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, are: (1) architectural coatings, (2) product finishes for original equipment manufacturers, and (3) special purpose coatings, including all marine paints. Architechtural coatings, commonly known as house paints, are not covered in this essay. Here, the focus is on the finishes and coatings used in making other products.

Product finishes for original equipment manufacturers (OEM)

These products consist of all types of internal or surface coverings typically applied by manufacturers on the assembly line while making a product. An everyday example is the exterior finish on automobiles. A less obvious example is the internal coating applied to food cans to protect the metal from the food and the food from the metal, as well as the material applied to the outer coating of the can to protect it from rusting and to receive the inks of a label or brand image. The application of OEM finishes is an intrinsic part of manufacturing. These finishes are sprayed on as either liquids or powders. This group of products will be referred to as product finishes or as OEM finishes.

Special purpose coatings

This group of products, also called specialty coatings, is applied after the manufacturing process. They comprise a distinct product subdivision because they are applied away from the assembly line or the component manufacturing system. Marine paints are the only exception; whether applied during manufacturing of new vessels or during the process of maintaining older ships, all marine paints are labeled special purpose coatings by the U.S. Census Bureau. That is not the case in autos, however. Automotive finishes applied on the assembly line are known as product finishes, but automotive coatings applied after the manufacturing process in repair or paint shops are special coatings. Special coatings are applied to provide special protection to existing products, in maintenance or repair operations, or as markings. For instance, paints used in traffic signs and markings are considered special coatings.

The product finishes industry arose only after industrialization began and brought with it the mass production of products on a large scale. Product finishes were first used in the transportation industry. Two of today's top product finishes and special coatings producers were present at the marriage of coatings and the transportation industry. PPG Industries, founded in 1883 as Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, has roots in North America in the automobile center itself, Detroit, Michigan, while Akzo Nobel began as Sikkens in Western Europe, more specifically, in Arnhem, the Netherlands. In Detroit in 1902, the Ditzler brothers manufactured color varnishes and sold them to carriage makers and fledgling automakers. Fast drying super durable undercoats were developed to meet Detroit automakers' needs. In Arnhem, during the same time period, father and son Sikkens developed fast drying car lacquers that later protected aircraft, railroad equipment, and farm machinery and equipment. In 1928 PPG purchased Ditzler and introduced solventborne synthetic enamels, which became the standard in product finishes because they created strong, smooth, and glossy finishes. The 1950s brought innovations like powder coating finishes. The 1960s brought more innovation as product finish producers realized that electronics were a growth area. The 1990s brought high solids solventborne and waterborne products. The new century brought high performance finishes and growth in the special coatings market due to innovations known as smart coatings.

The transportation industry remains the single most important user of finishes and coatings. Trends often start in the transportation industry and then migrate to other industries. For instance, trends in metallics coatings began in the transportation industry and traveled to appliances and then electronics. In terms of relative size, product finishes represent the larger of the two markets, with special coatings being the smaller market.


The market for paints and coatings of all types in the United States was $20.8 billion in 2006 as reported by the Census Bureau in its Current Industrial Reports series. OEM finishes represented 29 percent, and special coatings 21 percent of this total. The combined value of these two categories had shipments in 2006 of $10.4 billion. Shipments in this combined grouping were $8.6 billion in 1997. Industrial finishes and coatings thus grew at a rate of 2.1 percent per year, underperforming the durable goods sector of the U.S. economy, which was growing at an annual rate of 2.6 percent. Durables are selected for comparison because these products are used to coat them. Figure 112 shows the big picture for the period 1997 to 2006.

Detailed data on components categories within the two major groups, OEM Product Finishes and Special Finishes, were available only from 2001 and beyond. An analysis of product categories is presented in Figure 113 for two years, 2001 and 2006. Twelve subcategories divide product finishes and eight divide the special finishes product cluster. Despite such detail, the tabulation is still highly aggregated because the subcategories, each explode into multiple products.

OEM Product Finishes

In 2006 product finishes accounted for 58 percent of the industrial finishes and coatings grouping. In the 2001 to 2006 period, the growth of this category was unremarkable at 1.5 percent annually, produced by some rapidly growing and some declining categories. The largest category in shipments was automotive finishes, including autos, light trucks, vans, sports utility vehicles, and parts for all these products. Next in size were finishes for wood furniture and wood products. Metal building products, which include sidings, were third. The smallest category with, furthermore, the greatest drop in shipments, was coatings for electrical insulation products.

All but one of the subcategories under product finishes, are liquid coatings. The exception is powder coatings. This powder subcategory had the most rapid growth in the OEM group, its shipments advancing at 3.9 percent yearly. The next two subcategories ranked by growth were paper, board, and foil finishes (3.8% per year) and container and closure finishes (2.8%). Growth was paced by a product category offering technological/environmental advantages and two others that largely represent commercial and consumer packaging products—corrugated containers and canned goods.

The powder coatings category (14.5% of OEM and 8.4% of industrial coatings), represents a group within a group because powdered coatings are used precisely in those OEM categories that show up, in Figure 113, with negative growth rates on the liquid side. Negative growth in liquid finishes is in part balanced by positive growth in powdered finishes. This shift is particularly notable in coatings for electrical insulation products which appear to be shifting strongly from liquid to powder.

Product CategoryShipments (million dollars)Annual GrowthPercent in 2006 of
(D) indicates data suppression by the U.S. Census Bureau.
OEM Product Finishes, Total5,6016,0351.5100.058.3
    Auto, light trucks, vans, SUVs1,2041,3502.322.413.0
    Other transportation (truck, air, rail)455374−
    Appliance, heaters, air-conditioning17797−
    Wood furniture and other wood products5816763.111.26.5
    Non-wood furniture479396−
    Metal building products5826502.210.86.3
    Containers and closure finishes4384821.98.04.6
    Machinery including road building4685362.88.95.2
    Paper, board, foil finishes1151393.82.31.3
    Electrical insulating coatings2919−
    Powder coatings7218723.914.48.4
    All other or not specified4124441.57.44.3
Special Finishes, Total3,2434,3245.9100.041.7
    Industrial (interior)21247517.411.004.6
    Industrial (exterior)5427075.516.36.8
    Traffic marking paints2803303.37.63.2
    Auto and other machinery repainting1,6722,3126.753.522.3
    Marine (ship, offshore)277243−
    Marine (yacht, pleasure)(D)9-0.20.1
    Aerosol paints for products(D)228-5.32.2
    Not Specified5821−
Total Industrial Finishes and Coatings8,84410,3593.2-100.0

Powder coatings were introduced in the 1950s. The dry pigment is applied to surfaces by blowing the powder. The powder is formulated so that resins it incorporates cause it to adhere uniformly to the receiving surface. The powder is then immediately baked in high-temperature ovens to a hard finish. Because heat is needed to set the coating, powder coatings are also known as thermosets.

Special Finishes

The lines between categories are not always clear. Thus, certain products that should appear under the OEM grouping show up as special finishes. Most notably coatings, finishes, and paints used in marine products, ships, yachts, oil rigs, and shore facilities are functionally misplaced. Whether the paint is applied to a brand new ship or to an old one, the paint used is part of special finishes. The category also includes paints that are put in aerosol cans and sold to consumers directly for use in homes but is included under the industrial category.

The largest special finish subcategory is coatings of all kinds used in repainting and maintenance of autos, trucks, and machinery in general. This category represented 53.5 percent of the special finishes group and 22.3 percent of industrial finishes and coatings overall. Second and third in shipments were industrial finishes for exteriors (16.3%) and interiors (11%). The U.S. Census Bureau describes these finishes as "Industrial new construction and maintenance paints … especially formulated coatings for special conditions of industrial plants and/or facilities requiring protection against extreme temperatures, chemicals, fumes, etc."

Special finishes, the smaller part of industrial coatings, 41.7 percent of the broad category, had much better growth, with shipments increasing 5.9 percent per year, faster than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which grew at 5.4 percent and more than twice as fast as shipments of durable goods at 2.7 percent. The auto/machinery finishes category alone had annual growth of 6.7 percent, industrial interior finishes a dramatic growth of 17.4 percent, and industrial exterior coatings 5.5 percent per year. In general, during this period, finishes for maintenance were beating out finishes for new construction.


The companies present in the early years of the development of the industrial paint and coatings market—Akzo and PPG—are still at the top, along with Sherwin-Williams.


Although Akzo is number one in the world, with headquarters in The Netherlands and coatings sales worldwide in the $7.2 billion range, North America is important in the company's strategy for growth. On the last day of 2006, Akzo announced that it would make Nashville its North American powder coatings headquarters to focus on appliances and furniture. Akzo divides its portfolio into products for industrial applications such as powder, wood, coil, and specialty coatings; automotive refinishes; and marine, protective, and aerospace coatings. In Western Europe, to focus on wood finishes, Akzo acquired ICI Group's wood business in 2005. In North America, it acquired The Flood Company's wood coatings with its patented Penetrol technology in September 2006. Akzo reiterated in December 2006 that the company is continuing to target coatings market acquisitions.

PPG Industries

PPG Industries has been a leader in making product finishes and special coatings since its acquisition of Ditzler in 1928. Headquartered in Pennsylvania, PPG is a diversified manufacturer that recently married its historic interest in glass to coatings, capturing the emerging architectural glass market. PPG is ranked number two in the world with estimated 2005 global coatings sales of $5.61 billion. PPG divides its portfolio into applications for auto; auto refinish; industrial; architectural; aerospace and packaging. PPG announced in January 2007 the purchase of the industrial coatings unit of a South American paint maker. PPG recorded an after-tax charge of $106 million in the third quarter of 2006 in part related to environmental remediation at a former chromium manufacturing site in New Jersey. PPG has also acquired a Singaporean leader in powder coatings for the flooring industry, opened a Taiwanese coatings facility for small parts, and expanded an existing Chinese facility for automotive and industrial coatings.

The Sherwin-Williams Company

One of the founding firms of the United States finishes and coatings industry, Sherwin-Williams is considered number three in the world. Sherwin-Williams reported 2005 sales of $7 billion with global coatings sales of $5.55 billion, approximately 79 percent of the total, an increase of roughly $1 billion over the previous year. Sherwin-Williams divvies up its portfolio more simply than others, into automotive finishes; industrial and marine coatings; industries; and special-purpose coatings for the automotive-aftermarket, industrial-maintenance and traffic-paint markets. Sherwin-Williams is not diversified. It has always emphasized paint and coatings and is generally accepted to be the largest producer of paints and coatings in the United States. Fortune magazine named Sherwin-Williams to their 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

ICI Paints

A once prominent company was ICI Group. At the end of 2005 ICI Paints, headquartered in the United Kingdom, had estimated 2005 global sales of $2.972 billion and was number five in the world. Since 2003, in the wake of a devastating profit warning, ICI hammered its balance sheet back into shape with a string of well-executed sell-offs. This allowed ICI to pay off £900 million in debt and put £230 million into the company's pension black hole. As a result, ICI was in termoil in December 2006, when speculation was rife that Akzo Nobel of The Netherlands would mount a raid on ICI. It appears ICI is ripe for takeover.

Other prominent companies include DuPont Coatings & Color Technologies Group, Wilmington, Delaware, with estimated 2005 global coatings sales of $4.2 billion. BASF Coatings AG, Munster, Germany, had estimated global 2005 coatings sales of $2.8 billion, while Valspar Corp., Minneapolis, Minnesota estimated 2005 global coatings sales at $2.4 billion. Up and comers in the industry include Nippon Paint Co. Ltd., Osaka, Japan, with estimated 2005 global coatings sales of $1.7 billion. Nippon announced that it acquired Rohm and Haas Company's automotive coatings business in December 2006 and intends to create a leading position in the North American plastic automotive parts coatings market, a market that grew 25 percent in the five-year period from 2001 to 2005.


The cost to purchase the materials needed to manufacture all paints and allied products increased 10 percent on average between 1997 and 2002. The largest categories of materials purchased are:

  • Resins (including alkyd, acrylic plastics, vinyl, epoxy and polyester)
  • Organic and inorganic color pigments (including chrome colors, zinc oxide, iron oxide, metallics and predispersed colorants) and titaniuim dioxide pigments
  • Solvents (hydrocarbon, alcohol, ester, ketone and glycol)

Resins can be either natural or synthetic, oil- or water-based, and are the material used as the binder to suspend pigments evenly. Binders make finishes and coat-ings adhere to the surface. Binders determine performance properties such as hardness, color retention and durability. Alkyd resin is a synthetic resin used in solvent-based finishes and coatings; acrylic resins are an expensive synthetic polymer used to make high-performance finishes and coatings; vinyl is a clear synthetic resin used in water-based finishes and coatings. In 2002 the entire $19.9 billion paint and allied coatings industry spent $2.2 billion on this important class of materials.

Pigments are a basic component of product finishes and special coatings. They are powdery substances that provide whiteness or color and hiding power. They can be organic or inorganic, and their quality and cost vary widely. High performance, high-end pigments are needed in finishes and coatings. High performance pigments like silica and silicates provide excellent durability; zinc oxide pigments resist mildew and corrosion and rust. Spending on this class of materials increased 6 percent in the period between 1997 and 2002, from $1.5 million to $1.6 million. Titanium dioxide is an expensive bright white pigment that is the most important color-producer needed to make product finishes and special coatings. In 2002 the paint and coatings industry purchased $868 million worth of titanium dioxide.

Solvents are a liquid in which pigments are dissolved or dispersed. Solvents include hydrocarbons like toluene and xylene; alcohols like butyl, ethyl, and isopropyl; esters include ethyl acetate and butyl acetate; ketones are methyl ethyl ketone and methyl isobutyl ketone; and glycols. Spending by the entire paint and allied products industry on this class of materials increased 10 percent in the period between 1997 and 2002, from $753 million to $837 million.


Single tier and two-tier distribution systems coexist in these two subdivisions of the paint and allied products industry. Single tier distribution is characteristic of the OEM product finishes group. Finishes and coatings are sold by the manufacturer directly to the industrial user who will incorporate them into their own production system. Because 38 percent of product finishes are purchased by transportation-related industries, the makers of OEM finishes are intimate with the assembly line processes of this industry. This intimacy frequently leads to custom-designed product finishes and other cooperative innovations.

Two-tier distribution systems are characteristic of the special coatings subdivision of the paint and allied products industry. These coatings are sold through specialized coatings, sealants, and adhesives distributors who sell to the smaller commercial automobile paint and repair shops—the automotive aftermarket. The complexity of this industry at the technical level provides a natural niche for distributors in the middle between producers and industrial consumers.


Key users of product finishes—38 percent—are the transportation-related industries who make equipment on a production line: light duty, parts, heavy duty, aircraft and railroad, machinery and equipment. Other key users are the building and construction industries, especially companies that make aluminum extrusions.

Key users of special coatings—53.5 percent—are in the transportation industry aftermarket. These are the many commercial operations engaged in repair and maintenance. Other key users of special coatings are industrial facilities.

This industry's own trade association, the National Paint and Coatings Association, which boasts a 70 percent participation rate within its industry, classes key users of product finishes and special coatings as the makers of 13 products: homes, buildings, factories, bridges, ships, automobiles, buses, furniture, appliances, machinery, metal food cans, highway safety markings, and aircraft.


Adjacent markets to finishes and coatings are those that provide the functional services of these chemicals in a different way. The most important category in the future could be engineered plastic surfaces that do not require coatings because the functionalities of coatings—such as color, reflectivity, resistance to abrasion, and protection of the underlying substance—are inherent in the plastic. Engineered plastics with such characteristics are still very expensive and are used only in limited applications such as in the form of small internal parts intended to reduce friction. Two other products the markets for which are adjacent to the industrial finishes market are lubricants and exotic metal alloys. Lubricants eliminate the need for coatings intended to protect internal moving parts. Exotic metal alloys make finishes unnecessary in many cases, by producing surfaces that will not oxidize. Rolls-Royce, the manufacturer of aircraft based in the United Kingdom, said coatings now account for 30 percent of production costs against 5 percent forty-five years ago because internal coatings are now crucial to the effective operation of all aircraft components.

Demand for product finishes and special coatings can be tied to the thirteen sectors listed under key users, who are also adjacent markets. Transportation related industries account for 38 percent of product finishes and 53.5 percent of special coatings; thus, what happens in the auto industry has an important and direct influence on demand for special coatings. Building and construction industries use nearly 11 percent of product finishes for aluminum extrusions, so what happens in that industry impacts the paints and coatings industry, making it an adjacent market. Special coatings related to facilities construction and maintenance are growing at a rate of 17 percent annually (for interior coatings), which affects special coatings growth.


U.S. product finishes and special coatings grew to $10.3 billion per year in 2006 primarily due to chance discoveries by creative and often unconventional ideas that were frequently labeled impossible when first suggested. This interest in doing things that have never been done before remains a hallmark of finishes and coatings manufacturers who employ 25 percent of their workforce in research and development. Without a doubt, both product finishes and special coatings makers—and resins manufacturers—are devoted to research and development in resins because resins are at the heart of coatings. Resins comprise approximately 30 percent of a product's composition. They are the substance that holds everything together, and the most expensive class of materials needed—$2.2 billion were spent on resins in 2002. Resins determine durability, gloss, hardness, and longevity. Newer resins that inhibit rust, for instance, are a paramount research and development goal at Krylon Industrial Coatings.

Research and development is typically focused on growing market segments. Since growth in the product finishes subdivision has essentially been flat, research and development is now focused on special coatings with their double-digit growth in both big segments; the automotive refinishing aftermarket and the facilities coatings. New markets for architectural glass and environmental regulations also contribute to R&D.

New markets contribute to research and development. There is growing demand in the building and construction industry for energy efficient, high performance glass products. Architectural glass has thin, transparent coatings applied to enhance performance. PPG, for instance, has melded its historic interest in glass to contribute to this growing market segment. It has added glass coating capabilities to its Wichita Falls, Texas plant. The new plant began operations in 2006 and is PPG's sixth glass coating line. PPG anticipates this fast-growing segment of the architectural glass industry will continue to increase demand for special purpose coatings.

Regulations contribute to research and development. The European Union mandated reductions in the use of hexavalent chromium and issued directives to the automotive industry, the household appliance industry, and the construction industry. Regulatory pressure to find substitutes for hexavalent chromium affects the steel industry that supplies the automotive industry and the household appliance industry with galvanized thin sheet steel. Thin sheet steel is coated with a thin layer of zinc to make it resistant to corrosion. Hexavalent chromium is the alloy used to galvanize and harden thin sheet steel and to make it corrosion resistant using a process that involves chromium (VI)-passivation. Henkel develop a completely chromium-free passivation system for galvanized steel called Passerite 5004 that offers the same level of corrosion protection. Voestalpine, an Austrian-based steelmaker, was using Passerite 5004 on all four of its galvanized thin sheet production lines as of 2006. It has completely replaced hexavalent chromium.


Three developments in the market for product finishes and special coatings stand out as trends in the market today. These include the continued commitment to consumers in North America, the ongoing debate over powder versus liquid applications, and the trends toward changes based on styling and design, especially the increased use of metallics.

Product finish manufacturers are still committed to steady growth in North America. The commitment to North America is demonstrated by capital expenditures for new plant construction in Indiana and Michigan. Vitracoat America Inc., built a 14,000 square foot powder coatings plant in October 2006 in Elkhart, Indiana. Akzo Nobel announced in August 2006 that it will add an 11,000 square foot addition to its Pontiac, Michigan, automotive plastics coatings plant—although much of the automotive industry is cutting costs, plastics remain important. On the last day of 2006, Akzo announced that it will make Nashville, Tennessee, its North American powder coatings headquarters to focus on appliances and furniture.

The growth of powder coatings relative to liquid coatings is another trend in the market today. Overall, powder coatings represents 14.4 percent of the product finishes subdivision in 2006, up from 13 percent the year before, and lead growth in the group. The debate surrounding the vivid growth patterns on each end of the spectrum in powder coatings will continue. For instance, automotive powders decreased by 63 percent while appliance powders increased by 17 percent during the same time period. The entire powder product class had been predicated to grow after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency implemented phased reductions in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), culminating in 2003 with total reductions of 45 percent. While benefits of powder coatings include that they are solvent-free, producing no VOC emissions, and that they are available in a variety of colors and textures, powder coatings growth has been lower than some in the industry had anticipated. Mushrooming growth may still be ahead. In 2005 Akzo constructed a new powder coatings plant in Russia; in 2006 the company created Akzo Nobel Powder Coatings in the Middle East near Cairo, Egypt, and built a powder coatings plant in China. Akzo also has headquarters in Tennessee to focus on anticipated growth in powder coatings for use on appliances and furniture.

Another emerging trend is the increased use by industrial consumers to use product finishes—especially metallics—to differentiate their products in a competitive marketplace. Known as the style and design trend, this trend is expected to continue to drive growth in sales. The style and design trend shows an increased use of vivid colors and textures to establish a unique style for the items on which they are applied. An early example being the metallic effects in the all important transportation sector. Metallic effects were first used in car paints with metallic silver comprising as much as 37 percent of new car registration in the 2000 to 2006 period. Other metallic effects growing in the transportation sector include metallic grays, blues, and blacks.

After metallics got wheels in the transportation industry, they traveled to appliances and then electronics. Metal effects pigments cost more, but it appears manufacturers are willing to pay more for the stylish results they produce. For example, classic organic pigments range from $7.50 to $20/kilogram (kg) while metallic pigments cost $22 to $58+/kg. High performance pigments have been formulated for design effects that include interference/color shifting and luminescent/phosphorescent. Metallic effects include sparkle, pearlescence, liquid metal effects, and combinations of these. For instance, LuminOre has a cold alloying process for composite metals. While the process involves only a single coating, a matrix of metals can be combined to achieve an endless array of metal colors including brass, aluminum, and even white gold. The style and design trend is expected to continue to stimulate growth for product finishes and special coatings.


With the product finishes subdivision having shown a nearly flat growth rate in recent years, manufacturers are targeting the two biggest special coatings segments—the automotive aftermarket and facilities coatings (industrial interior and exterior finishes).

The automotive aftermarket represented 53.5 percent of the value of special coatings shipments in 2006. The annual growth rate since 2001 of nearly 7 percent is expected to continue to hold. Facilities coatings represented 23 percent of the value of special coatings shipments in 2006. Shipments in combination (interior and exterior) increased at a 9.4 percent annual rate from 2001 to 2006. Growth is projected to continue. Two examples of how these segments with high growth rates are targeted in marketing are through the expansion of existing lines and the creation of smart coatings.

Expanding an existing product line

Sherwin-Williams' automotive finishes segment launched Planet Color, a collection of optically enhanced automotive coatings for the custom finishing aftermarket. Planet Color has color names to reflect moods like Bikini Brites consisting of wild, electric colors, Rugged consisting of coatings that create texture and dimension, and Alloy coatings that blend natural elements to reflect gold, silver, bronze, and copper. Sherwin-Williams is targeting the dominant automotive aftermarket segment, with its large market of custom repair and painting outlets, its high growth rate, and its $2.3 billion-a-year market.

Creating smart coatings

To be smart, a coating has to be able to be active by responding to environmental changes. Most smart coatings are derived from titanium dioxide pigments, which is known for its photocatalytic characteristics. As a result coatings with suitably prepared titanium dioxide particles can be made smart. With the help of nanotechnology, which increases the surface area of titanium dioxide particles, energy from ambient light can be used as an energy source for photocatalysis. This chemical reaction can cause the breakdown of organic toxins and odors. It gives coatings capabilities such as deodorization, water purification and removal of environmental pollutants like nitrogen and sulfur dioxides. Titanium dioxide-sourced photocatalysis is now being used to make surfaces super-hydrophilic so that they have self-cleaning properties and antimicrobial capabilities. Sherwin Williams is using such smart coatings to target the pharmaceutical and food industries, sectors where microbial growth on floors is problematic. The company added a silver-based antimicrobial protection product to its existing FasTop product range of flooring coatings. This smart coating protects against a broad spectrum of bacteria and mold and is targeted at the facilities coatings segment.


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