Ready to proof -- CLJ 10/25/21

KJ proofed 10/25

KP proofed 10-25


By Kristin Johansson, Editor-in-Chief | PCI

WCS Addresses Advancing the Industry

I recently returned home from the Western Coatings Show in Las Vegas. As usual, it was a fantastic event, with a great turnout despite COVID (around 900 attendees), a fun Great Gatsby-themed welcome reception, five tracks of technical presentations, two excellent keynotes and an insightful panel discussion on powering through tough times. A lot of great technology was introduced, as well as several interesting sessions on advancing our industry, which I have highlighted below.

The first was keynoter Dr. Erik Sapper, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He spoke on how technology, innovation and education will advance and shape our field. Dr. Sapper stated that while statistical and mathematical design tools like design of experiments (DOE), predictive modeling and machine learning have been utilized in the past, these tools must become standard if modern R&D organizations wish to thrive in the modern era of virtual work, accelerated development timelines and constant innovation. And he emphasized that educators of tomorrow’s scientific leaders must also integrate these approaches into their educational roadmaps for today’s students. His presentation provided a really interesting and humorous overview of the most important tools for advancing the state of the art in our field, including accelerated materials discovery using DOE and computational strategies, rapid and iterative R&D, and design thinking approaches that artfully combine scientific product development processes with marketing strategies and customer needs.

Second was a keynote address given by Christopher M. Miller, Ph.D., Senior Global Research Director, Coatings Resins, at Arkema. He discussed the future of sustainability in the coatings industry. Miller noted that the challenge for our industry is that while sustainability is a major global theme and trend (over a quarter of the sessions at the WCS this year specifically mentioned sustainability or had key themes commonly associated with sustainable product performance attributes), surveys show that consumers still aren’t willing to pay more for sustainable products, and that 26% of people in the industry are still trying to define the meaning of sustainability. Miller addressed these challenges by taking a step back to examine what sustainability means to our industry, the tools being developed to track progress and the innovation challenges we face as we look to the future. He noted that all of this is heading toward product acceleration, impact measurement and valuation, and partnerships, partnerships, partnerships. Companies can’t do it alone.

Another really interesting session was a leadership panel on powering through tough times and preparing for a bright future. The discussion was moderated by Patrick Kelly, President, Dowd and Guild Inc., and panelists included John Gilbert, Chief R&D Officer, Behr Process Corporation; Sam Morell, President,; Tim Fetters, CEO, Dowd and Guild Inc.; Chris Dugan, Vice President Strategic Global Purchasing and Trading, Nippon Paint Automotive Americas; and Debra Gill, Group Business Manager, Paint & Wood Treatment, Buckman N.A. The panelists discussed challenges and lessons learned during the pandemic, opportunities for improvement to prepare for the future, how technology is changing, how to attract the next generation and retain talent, and positive changes that have taken place. Three positive changes resulting from the raw material situation include innovation, cultivating relationships with new suppliers, and a deeper portfolio for many companies.

I enjoyed all of the sessions that I sat in on, as well as re-connecting with many industry colleagues and networking with new contacts. And I have to say that the food in the exhibit hall was the best I have had at any conference! Great job all around to the Western Coatings Societies on a well-planned and executed event. I’m already looking forward to 2023.