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A partnership that shines

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Not every painting is a masterpiece, but thanks to Valspar’s world-class commercial coatings, every Mickey truck body and trailer is a true work of art.

Neil Clarke

Neil Clarke

THE MICKEY SPIRIT editor Tim Davis sat down with Neil Clarke, Valspar’s Business Manager of Commercial Vehicles, to discuss how the partnership between the two companies benefits the customer, and how the paints that go on the vehicles can make or break the customer’s perception of overall unit quality.

TMS: What are the most important characteristics needed for paints and coatings in the commercial vehicle market?
Neil Clarke: Not only do the vehicles need to look great when they are first delivered, they need to stay looking great over time. These vehicles essentially serve as “rolling billboards” for the brands they represent as they traverse the country. Brand image and recognition are the most important factors when it comes to a customers’ brand. If a vehicle doesn’t look good rolling down the highway, it’s a negative reflection on the brand. And that includes perfect color matching on every vehicle to maintain consistent branding. Whether it’s a world-recognized beverage brand or an emergency vehicle, color matters when it comes to brand.

As Mickey’s exclusive supplier of commercial coatings, Valspar makes sure that Mickey delivers on its customer promise of “the best-looking, most durable paint job” in the body and trailer manufacturing industry.

TMS: How does Valspar meet the needs of this industry?
Neil Clarke: Valspar has raised the coating standards to deliver a smooth, glossy, high-quality finish that delivers robust performance over time. End users want the same quality finish on their commercial vehicles as they do on the cars they drive.

Valspar formulated Valspar Duraspar IP coating, which we are now testing on Mickey equipment, from the ground up to provide the characteristics of an industrial coating with great color coverage, strong corrosion protection and longevity with the appeal of a smooth, high-gloss finish typically seen on a car. Valspar Duraspar coating:

TMS: Mickey has a major manufacturing facility in North Carolina and 4 freestanding Reconditioning & Service Centers around the country. Are the Valspar factory finish coatings exactly the same for use at all Mickey locations?
Neil Clarke: When Valspar designs a custom color for a customer, the formulation information is stored in an on-site database at Mickey’s main manufacturing complex. We produce a panel with the color sprayed on it for approval and that panel is also stored long-term so the team has two data points — both the color formulation and the sprayed panel — to ensure custom color matching day in and day out.

TMS: What does the product development process for this market look like?
Neil Clarke:
Valspar is constantly innovating to meet changing market needs. For example, road-cleaning chemicals have evolved over time with the use of more acid/citrus-based products that are better for the environment but more corrosive to finishes on vehicles. To respond to this change, Valspar has reformulated its coatings with different additives that help defend against these acid-based cleaners and newer chemicals used to melt snow and ice.

Valspar Duraspar has been specially formulated with higher pigment levels to achieve full color coverage and appearance with less coating used. It also achieves greater edge coverage, less stone chipping from road use and less corrosion creep.

Another area of innovation is the development of anti-graffiti coatings that can be cleaned quickly and easily without requiring a vehicle to be recoated. This can save hassle, time and money.

Valspar has an on-site technical representative that works in Mickey’s application department. He provides training and makes sure spray equipment is operating correctly and consistent film builds are being achieved in the coating process with 2 mils of primer coating, 2 mils of top color and 2 mils of clear coat, if used. Valspar can deliver the best coatings in the world, but if they are not applied properly, they won’t look great or perform well over time.

Valspar's custom color formulation information is stored in a database at Mickey’s manufacturing complex.

Valspar’s custom color formulation information is stored in a database at Mickey’s manufacturing complex.

TMS: How do you work with Mickey specifically to meet its day-to-day coatings requirements and also plan for future developments in the commercial vehicle manufacturing business?
Neil Clarke
: From a long-term growth perspective, we meet regularly with Mickey’s management team to ensure we are doing everything we can to support their growth plans in the next five to seven years and beyond. We look at new coating formulations for new markets, improved coating and manufacturing operations to enhance efficiency, investment in new equipment and operator training.

From a day-to-day operational perspective, if Mickey changes a vehicle substrate or manufacturing process, we will tweak our coatings to continue to achieve the highest quality possible. Valspar’s on-site technical representative meets with Mickey’s engineering team regularly to discuss these changes. We take whatever they are doing and bring it into our world-class labs to make sure there are no issues. If changes are required, we will adjust our coatings quickly. We’re really good at that — it’s a key differentiator for us as a global manufacturer. We don’t just sell an off-the-shelf coating.

With all of the different vehicle types Mickey manufacturers, our in-field quality inspections are also important. We audit end users’ vehicles three to four times a year to see how our coatings are performing. This information is shared with Mickey and the Valspar lab teams to make continuous improvements in coatings and processes as needed or to keep doing what we’re doing to ensure ongoing quality.

TMS: Most of Mickey’s customers use decals to brand their delivery vehicles. Is there a relationship between the painting process, the paint, the quality of the decals and the decal application and presentation?
Neil Clarke: Yes, the relationship between the coating and decals is critical. We assess the material the decals are made of and the glue used for adhering those decals to see how aggressive the materials will be on the finish over time and with the added elements of sunlight, humidity, heat and temperature swings that vehicles are subjected to day in and day out.

Some customers have Mickey put decals on vehicles for a year and then remove them. We have to make sure the finish is not marred or damaged from this process. We work closely with Mickey’s decal and adhesive vendors to make sure all elements are compatible with our coatings.

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