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Small Shifts,
Exponential Gain

THE WASTE GENERATED FROM PAINTING FILING AND STORAGE UNITS IS A REALITY IN THE CONTRACT FURNITURE BUSINESS. Although excess powder coat is recycled within the line, a certain amount still ends up as waste when the paint color is changed or the size of the order is too small to allow reclaim of powder – that is industry standard. Teknion’s filing and storage production facility, and its paint line, was presented as an opportunity to redefine what is standard.

At a weekly, cross-departmental production meeting, the topic of powder coat paint waste was on the table. At that time, the paint line was generating 700 kilos of powder coat waste per week. An idea was floated. Why not move to 100 percent scrap powder to paint all of the drawers for every cabinet produced. Everyone was in agreement that in principle this would be a significant step in the right direction. However, the issue would have to be addressed that, because the recycled powder collected from the floor is an aggregate of all that has dropped off the paint line, the recycled powder would have neither the color specificity nor the customizability of virgin paint. Teknion would need to gauge the tolerance level of customers with regard to these color variances. With that task at hand, Teknion’s marketing team went into the field to collect feedback from customers. The response was unanimously supportive – go ahead and be the first in the industry to use 100 percent recycled powder to paint your drawer bodies.

With this go-ahead from the market, a cross-functional team comprised of design, manufacturing, marketing and purchasing was assembled with the purpose of transforming the waste powder paint into a recycled product. Soon thereafter, a procedure was put into place with Sherwin-Williams, Teknion’s paint supplier. Teknion would ship paint scrap weekly back to Sherwin-William’s facilities where it would sieve and repackage the product, then send it back to Teknion without expending energy or resources in cleaning or adding new materials.

“We’ve become what we behold. First we shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.”

- Marshall Mcluhan

What resulted was a cascading set of positive results. In addition to the 700 kilograms of powder coat waste diverted from landfill per week and significant energy saved by avoiding the use of virgin material, it turned out, as Jeff Stal, Vice President and General Manager of the facility explains, “The powder has unbelievable benefits. It applies as well or better than most of our expensive, virgin product. It also covers innate surface irregularities more effectively and, as a result, we produce less steel scrap. We now run the line faster and need less paint to cover the product. And here is another unexpected benefit. Because the recycled product so efficiently lays down onto the surfaces, we have a growing inventory of spare powder paint.” In this inventory lies opportunity: Teknion has opened discussions to sell this recycled powder paint to industry partners and peers so they, too, can benefit from the superior attributes of recycled powder paint, at approximately half the cost of virgin paint.

Once Teknion had identified the opportunity to set a new standard for paint recycling, the solution became apparent quickly and easily. Monica Capota, Quality Assurance team member, concludes, “In this case we learned that innovation does not have to be complex. Sometimes it can be as simple as sharing our vision with our customers in order to gain the support needed to go beyond the status quo.”

Perspective Gained: A corporation can enlist its suppliers and customers for the support needed to go beyond industry standard. Sometimes, all that is required is a small shift in client expectations to achieve a significant positive impact for the greater good.

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