A cut above the rest

Carboline is a recognized leader in the manufacturing of coatings, linings, and fireproofing, having created numerous innovative products for the wide range of industries it serves

Carboline’s claim to be a developer of products that solve real-world problems and offer real benefits dates back to the event that marked the beginning of the company in 1947. It was then that founder Stanley Lopata created an original solution to a customer challenge, developing a carbon-based lining whose purpose was to act as a protective coating.

“Over the years, the company has launched an extensive range of linings and coatings, some of which have become the industry standard for technology,” begins Chris Tiernay, President and COO of Carboline. “For example, we invented a self-curing inorganic zinc primer that protects steel galvanically in the harshest environments – a technology embodied in our Carbozinc 11 product line that has set the standard for high-performance inorganic zinc protection on steel structures worldwide for over five decades.

“Also noteworthy is the Carbomastic product range, which has long been the leader in the surface tolerant coatings arena. Last but not least, we have the widest offering of passive fire protection products in the industry – from fire-stop materials, waterborne acrylic and epoxy-based intumescent coatings, to low-, medium- and high-density cementitious and gypsum-based bag goods. Essentially, we have become a one-stop shop in the fire protection for both the commercial and chemical markets which our customers have come to rely on over the course of many years,” as Chris mentions the most historically successful of Carboline’s products.

The beginning of 2018 saw the company release Carbozinc 608 HB – the first 8-10 mil zinc primer on the market. Highly surface tolerant and quick to cure, the zinc-rich primer boasts excellent film build properties yielding a high zinc loading per square foot. When coupled with a micaceous iron oxide (MIO), flake-reinforced epoxy phenalkamine binder, the resultant film is an extremely durable and effective corrosion resistant coating. Due to these unique combinations of properties it can (in one coat) replace a zinc + (epoxy) intermediate coating of a standard 3-coat (zinc/epoxy/urethane) system.

Award winner
Later in the year, the CarboQuick 200 was also introduced by Carboline. “It is a high-build, one-coat, quick-drying polyaspartic coating that dries in just 90 minutes helping to eliminate 27overall costs by reducing labor, and increasing speed of production,” explains Chris. Chris also announced that both Carbozinc 608 HB and CarboQuick have been awarded a 2018 Frost & Sullivan New Product Innovation award.

“We have structured our manufacturing process in a way that allows us to achieve a very high On Time In Full (OTIF) per cent when serving the large orders we receive,” Chris opens up on the company’s manufacturing strengths. “What differentiates us in particular, however, is our ability to produce made-to-order (MTO) products normally not in stock, in small batches and with color as well as our standard lead time being shorter than that of our competitors. Additionally, for a fee, we can expedite small batches even within one day, if required.”

Operating a total of five manufacturing plants across the US and Canada gives further advantages to Carboline, as these facilities enable the company to upscale its production to meet increased demand. “We continuously invest capital into our sites to optimize the manufacturing process. For instance, in the last 24 months, we have installed high-speed filling lines and dispersion equipment, increased tank sizes, and built a new QC lab in our Lake Charles, LA facility. In previous years, we have also invested in a multimillion-dollar robot to pick and stack 50-pound bags of fire protection product. Never late, never sick, the robot can replace the work of eight staff,” Chris adds.

In order to strengthen its product categories, Carboline has employed a strategy of performing a series of company acquisitions in recent years. Chris details: “We purchased Sentry Polymers (Semstone product line) in the late 1990s to improve our secondary containment offering. Then, in 2003, we acquired Plasite which became our primary tank lining brand. AD Fire and NuChem were acquired in 2005 and 2006, respectively, to become the basis of Carboline’s industrial and commercial fire protection lines. Ten years later, we purchased Specialty Polymer Coatings (SPC) – a global leader in pipe coatings.”

New opportunities
This trend of acquisitions continued well into 2018 with Carboline announcing the addition of the Strathmore and American Coatings product lines to its portfolio. “Strathmore has a long and rich history in the exterior rail car market. Strategically, we have identified the exterior rail car coatings as an excellent complementation to our dominant interior lining coatings position in the rail market. Furthermore, the addition of American Coatings will open up new opportunities for us to work with several OEM manufacturers in North America, Europe, and the Middle East,” Chris reasons.

Double-digit growth
As well as rail and OEM, the other six strategic markets for Carboline are commercial/architectural, food and beverage, marine, oil and gas, power, and water/wastewater. “Of these, the oil and gas market accounts for approximately 50 per cent of our total revenue in North America,” Chris points out. “As everyone knows, the oil and gas market has been in serious decline for the last few years. However, in the last 18 months it has seen a steady recovery which, in turn, has affected other key markets such as rail, OEM, and marine. Moreover, the resumed activity in the upstream market will drive the midstream and downstream segments as well.

“We believe that the oil and gas industry will continue to grow at a steady pace, and as a result, we expect our core protective business along with rail and marine to experience double-digit growth over the next few years, too,” he projects. “With the recovery of the US economy, coatings and fire protection related to our commercial/architectural market is also set to increase. The confidence derived from the growing US economy has prompted a significant rise in construction activities. As this is happening, a number of opportunities for both fire protection and medium-duty coatings for commercial buildings will emerge. Carboline will aggressively pursue these opportunities.”

Presently, Carboline is adding the final touches on its new full-scale, world-class fire lab in the company’s hometown of St. Louis. Test burns are scheduled to take place by the end of the year. “When completed, this will be a UL-certified facility and North America’s only vendor-owned lab in the coatings industry. It will be capable of running full-scale fire tests with full columns and beams driving what we expect to be second-to-none innovation and speed-to-the market,” Chris enthuses.

Global plans
Throughout the majority of its history, Carboline has been managed as a regional operator whose focus has primarily been the American market. “Our branches worldwide have more or less been independent of the central office, but we would like to change that in the next few years. We have already taken steps to realign our brands to operate globally, and we expect Carboline to function as one entity by the end of 2019,” Chris shares his thoughts about the company’s future. “Our goal is to cement the organization’s dominant position in the US and to strengthen our presence in Canada and Latin America. We also have high hopes for our activities in China which we anticipate to triple in size. Finally, I would like to see our European business operating in close conjunction with the US so it can capture more global projects in the coming years.

“The company is in the unique position of having the opportunity to operate as a totally independent business while being owned and financially supported by one of the biggest holding companies in the coatings and adhesives market space – RPM. This allows us to enjoy the best of both worlds which is something nobody else in the coatings industry can offer. Therefore, we need to continue making the most of the situation and expand the business worldwide,” he sums up.

Products: Coatings, linings, and fireproofing