Looking for the best advice on improving your company? Try your competition!

S&B Finishing Powder Coating 20-group

It’s logical—who’s most familiar with the issues you face day to day? People in the same business—in essence, your competitors.

Chicago Powder Coat is a proud 20-group member

For 13 years, S&B has been a member of a 20-group—a peer advisory group made up of Custom Powder Coaters from all over North America that get together twice a year to share ideas, address business challenges and identify best practices. 

That’s why S&B Finishing will open its doors on October 23-25 to host 19 other powder coat and finishing professionals who’ll examine and evaluate different aspects of the company’s operations—then give their expert feedback.

That’s why S&B Finishing will open its doors on October 23-25 to host 19 other powder coat and finishing professionals who’ll examine and evaluate different aspects of the company’s operations—then give their expert feedback.

“It’s a great benefit to have friendly peers visit your facility,” explains S&B President Kenny Spielman. “Their recommendations are highly valuable because they’re dealing with many of the same challenges we are and the group is big enough to give adequate feedback.”

To avoid conflicts of interest with direct competitors, shops that operate in different geographic locations are grouped together by the Powder Coat Institute (PCI) and Chemical Coaters Association International (CCAI), the industry associations that organize the program.

“The CCAI & PCI Peer Group Program is designed to provide a forum for small groups of custom coater owners & executives to exchange valuable information that can help improve your business and operational practices,” summarize the program sponsors on their websites.

The concept originated in the automotive industry back in the 1940’s when dealers from non-competing markets organized to share best practices. The idea was a winner—now there are 189 National Automotive Dealer Association 20-groups.

The measurable benefits of hosting a 20-group facility visit

Fall 2019 marks the third time that the 20-group visits S&B Finishing in Chicago. 

The visits mix time for socializing, listening to guest speakers with shop tours and discussion. 

 Topics discussed include everything from pricing exercises and packaging to masking techniques and equipment maintenance. Peer advisors tour and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the operation using Survey Monkey. On the following day the group reviews the survey results.

The company’s drive for constant improvement is one key reason it participates. 

Last time the group visited, they observed that S&B lacked proper storage. Since then the company has installed a temperature-control storage room with adequate shelving for all its materials.

When group members return after about 10 years (the time it takes for each company’s turn to come back around) they see what progress has been made based on their recommendations.

20-groups facilitate year-round support and comradery

Having an expert network to call on anytime is another perk of being part of the 20-group. Bi-annual meetings are just the tip of the iceberg as members of the group are in regular contact with each other throughout the year. 

Kenny shares that one of the companies recently sent out a request for advice on stripping parts for recoating. In a matter of a few hours, 10 shops had responded with tips. 

“Where else can you get such immediate and expert advice for a specific problem?” asks Spielman.

Not only do the companies reach out to each other for advice, they pass on customers. A client might ask if there’s a powder coating shop in another area where they have operations and we’ll connect them with the 20-group member in that city, reports Spielman. It’s referral that we can stand by with confidence because we know the shop first hand.

Viewing different facilities in other cities is an eye-opener 

There’s also a lot to learn from seeing another company’s strengths and areas for improvement. While all participants operate a coating business, their facilities and companies are unique so they can provide an alternative perspective. 

The meeting also offers an in-depth overview of the industry from a national and international level. Chicago has several powder coaters so the market is much more competitive than for many shops in other locations, for example.

Finally, the bi-annual meetings provide a change in routine and opportunity to travel to new places—the last facility visit was in Vancouver, Canada.

“Remember we’re guys who watch paint dry for a living,” laughs Spielman. “It’s good for us to get out and watch paint dry in someone else’s shop!”