sPerhaps the most difficult objects of all to paint are large flat ripple-free panels directly abutting flat sheets of glass, which are attached to a vehicle that does the mileage of a truck, but must have the appearance of a new BMW or Mercedes.
This is the challenge that commercial and passenger vehicle makers have presented to paintmakers for several years. It's a challenge that is gladly and taken up by specialist paintmaker HMG Paints of Manchester, probably Britain's last significant independent supplier to the CV market. HMG is surprisingly hugely optimistic about this sector, despite sluggish overall market performance, and its optimism is based on just a few words: quality, enthusiasm and customer care.
First quality: those of us old enough to remember the 1970's and 80's will have an image of a commercial vehicle, particularly those involved in freight and transport, with its mixture of dull paint, rust flakes and angular steel design. That is now a thousand miles away from the current commercial vehicle image, which is used extensively to project world class brands, as they are transported around our roads. Not surprisingly this uplift in quality has benefited HMG, which has always focused on the higher performance end of the CV surface coatings market.
"The days when a lorry was something that just took goods from A to B and would not look out of place in an army convoy, are long gone," says Steve Louis CV Manager of HMG Paints. "Customers now demand the highest standards for their company fleets and this has meant that commercial vehicle builders have perhaps moved more rapidly than any other area of the market, to improve the quality of finish and appearance of their vehicles."
Steve adds that HMG's experience of working with vehicle builders and refinishers for over 70 years means the company understands clearly the role that a paint supplier / manufacturer should take. Refreshingly, the CV market is largely driven by the technical performance of coatings and partnership supply, both of which involve a real engagement between the paintmaker, the supply route, the vehicle manufacturer and all that occurs between. At its simplest, this can mean providing products in a particular pack size that suits the user, right up to developing a whole range of products for a specific market niche.
HMG doesn't hide the fact that it is really passionate about paint: "It isn't just something that we do to keep us off the streets!" said Stephen Falder, Marketing Director and grandson of the founder. "Paint is in the blood of all of the team here at HMG and we think that makes a difference to our customers. We don't have to write a slogan that we care - we believe they can feel it in everything that we do."
Serving the CV market requires any company that is going to take it seriously to be more than just a supplier of paints and HMG has not been backwards in ensuring that its customers have access to all of the facilities, which they need to drive forward along the road of quality improvement. Its products and services can now be accessed from a growing network of specialist distributors throughout the UK and Ireland, to streamline the supply route.
In addition, the company has recently developed a pioneering partnership with MANCAT, the local technical 'Centre of Vocational Excellence' in the centre of Manchester. Its relationship with MANCAT has meant that customers can benefit from full-scale, state of the art training facilities, as well as training courses that lead to nationally-recognised certification.
HMG feels that this gives both supplier and customer the reassurance that training and personnel development are just that; not the old-fashioned 'brand brainwashing', with which many builders and refinishers have now lost faith. The company also has a highly experienced team of technical and application specialists, who are available to HMG customers and are not afraid to point out where improvements can be introduced.
"We are not just 'yes men' at HMG," says John Fenton, Head of Sales. "All of my team make sure that they have a special relationship with our customers, with the ability to act as a critical friend when it comes to improving quality. This partnership involves a couple of important elements. The first is trust. Our established customers know that if we say something is right and the best for them, that we genuinely believe that. The second is progress. They know that if there is a better way of doing something, HMG will move heaven and earth to achieve that."
A recent illustration of this was HMG's developments work in scratch-resistant coatings, which produced a new product called Recover that offers a unique 'self healing' finish. This is capable of eliminating or minimising minor scratches, the marring caused by harsh brush washes and general vehicle wear and tear.
Another innovative HMG product is PVC94, a superb flexible paint product that has many different applications on a wide range of difficult-to-paint substrates. PVC94 comes into its own especially on curtain sides, which are widely used in the CV market. It is a 1K product that can be applied directly onto a PVC curtain, without the need for a primer, and is dry in 30 minutes, with excellent adhesion and complete flexibility.
Paint is the most frequently seen man-made object on the planet, although its environmental and material preservation roles are often overlooked. At HMG there is a real passion for the paint industry and its customers in the CV market. Next year, the firm celebrate its 75th birthday and is very optimistic about its position as the leading independent paint supplier in the field and the market potential the CV industry continues to offer.
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Telephone 0161 205 7631