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Remember the Terminator movies? It was man versus killer robots. Soon, we may see something like that without all the running and shooting. The idea that artificial intelligence will forever change society is getting closer to reality than many realize. When a machine has the ability to change its function or performance from sensors or direct input from another machine, life as we know it will be done.

If robots can improve themselves and build other machines with little or no involvement from man that is it – a world changer. Picture the future: new buildings constructed by robots that skip coffee breaks, lunch and work 24-7, rather than just 40 hours per week. Not only may we be out worked, out produced, we may be out sequenced, since the robot subs will work as one team (company), rather than individual subcontractors. Imagine the end to shoddy project performance and disharmony among the scheduling of trades.

Autonomous trucks deliver the materials, robot cranes and laborers unload and distribute supplies were needed. Android craftsmen work with everything laid out in three dimensional drawings constantly beaming wirelessly from the project cloud. Changes can be made and implemented as the robots decide the most effective way to meet the schedule and maintain quality. Projects run without daily meetings, supervision and at a speed that some estimate will be three times faster than today’s pace.

If cars will soon successfully self-drive without a daily accident or turning the roads into Death Race 2000, then robots will be able to frame, hang, finish and apply paint and coatings. We are closer to this future in the new construction market segment than you think. Read Rise of the Machines to see what may begin in as early as ten years. Aside from the wake-up call, one point from the article that we know already: craftsmen must always upgrade their personal skill tool box.

We must learn hard skills continuously; acquire new and versatile craft techniques, as well as mature by advancing soft skills; improve associate interaction and apply win-win problem solving to daily challenges. Both physical and intangible personal innovation is the path to career fulfilment and as importantly, offers recognizable and financial value for customers. Plus, materials and substrates are changing and will continue evolving with new ctechnology. For example; exterior wood trim/siding is often replaced by newer and various composites. Substrate and material progress are real and affect product selection, tools and application methods.

Whether you are a tradesman business or the biggest entrepreneur on the block, many in the paint and coating business have hung a shingle to be a start-up: a single person serving as the sales team, prep crew, craftsmen application department and an over busy bill collector. This stick to the man or time to go out on my own phenomenon is very typical among all the craft trades. We feature a piece from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) titled One Person Firms, which provides practical details on income and the popularity of going it alone.  For a blast from the past read Expert Tradesman or Business Entrepreneur.

Thinking of expanding, adding office or supervisory people, well it may be worth considering protecting your customer base from employee defections. What can you do as a good business person both ethically and legally? We have an easy, fast moving read that may help: Best Practices for Non-compete Agreements. There are more than enough challenges to growing a great small business without having past associates or even subcontractors poaching customers. There are fair and reasonable agreements that may bind associates and protect the company.

In the News, Graco recently unveiled the new King airless line of sprayers at the Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) annual conference. According to Graco, the new sprayers exceed the performance of King products from decades ago in pressure, flow and icing performance. “We listened to our customers and King sprayers are the result: fully loaded and ready to tackle the toughest jobs operators face,” said Eric Rennerfeldt, Product & Business Development Manager.

Things are looking bright at PPG…both in color and financially. The company reported that sales were up about 8% to $3.7 billion for the 4th quarter as compared to the same period in 2016. CEO Michael McGarry noted that U.S. company-owned architectural coatings stores had mid-single-digit percentage sales growth. For the year, company–wide 2017 year-end sales were approximately $14.8 billion and the net income was $1.4 billion. McGarry stated that PPG is poised for continued growth and that the annual dividend increased again:  “We remain proud that PPG has paid annual dividends for 118 consecutive years, and increased per-share payouts for 46 consecutive years…”

RPM achieved record quarterly sales of $1.32 billion up 10.5% over the $1.19 billion reported a year ago. “…Sales growth was strong across all three of our business segments, with a balance of organic and acquisition growth. We are also seeing the benefits of last year’s product line acquisitions and cost reduction efforts on improved leverage, which more than offset higher raw material costs that have negatively impacted gross profit margins,” stated Frank C. Sullivan, CEO. “Our strong organic sales growth of 5.4% in the industrial segment was driven by North American roofing and those businesses providing polymer flooring to commercial and industrial markets…”

NACE International introduced a new standard; the Corrosion Prevention Control (CPC) standard, which has been formally adopted by the Department of Defense (DoD). A joint task forced from NACE International, DoD, and SSPC developed the standard. It is designed to modernize acquisition practices, foster innovation and improve/maintain the coating life-cycle of equipment, systems, facilities, and infrastructure.

Recently the California lead based paint lawsuit involving Sherwin Williams (and others) went before a higher court: $Billion Dollar California Lead Paint Appeal Decision Changes Award. The appeals court upheld the guilty finding, although it directed the lower court (trial court) to reduce the award amount based on a lack of evidence that the defendants “promoted” the use of lead based paint for residential interior use beyond 1950. According to some estimates, using the 1950 and earlier time frame could cut the $1.15 billion judgment by more than half.

The appeals court held that “the evidence, while circumstantial, was sufficient to support reasonable inferences that the Defendants must have known in the early 20th century that interior residential lead paint posed a serious risk of harm….” The court found that the Defendants’ affirmative promotion of lead paint for interior residential use played at least a “minor” role in causing the harm and that was sufficient to hold them liable under California nuisance law. Reportedly, the Defendants (including SW) intend to appeal this case to the Supreme Court of California.

Before the robot tells you, “I’ll be back”, get your learning game on and plug your own upgrade in.

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Thanks for reading Painting Pro Times!

Mark Casale, Editor

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