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Solutions in fluid management
04/01/2011 | Channel:
New Products & Services
With investments of up to $37 million a year in new product development, Graco is leading the market in innovative fluid-handling equipment
Graco is a leading producer of equipment for handling fluids with a worldwide presence. Since 1926, when the company began looking into ways of efficiently lubricating vehicles, Graco has continued to develop its equipment and knowledge in the world of fluids. As one fluid is not comparable to another, for Graco this ‘world’ is certainly not small. The company’s equipment for painting, coatings and sealants is used throughout the complex world of 1K, 2K and 3K materials. This K rating is based upon the different components making up the material. Through a combination of its technical excellence,top-class manufacturing and unrivalled customer service Graco sets the quality standard for fluid handling solutions.
“Over 2200 people work for Graco either at its worldwide headquarters in Minneapolis, its European headquarters in Maasmechelen Belgium, which also serves the Middle East and Africa, or in Shanghai serving the Asia Pacific region,” says Marc Zantinge, channel marketing manager of Graco. “Most of Graco’s production is carried out in the US and across the various regions we have warehouses for storage and assembly. We also have our own local sales and marketing department offering technical assistance and customer service. We work with many specialised distributors and service partners each with their own expertise throughout Europe to guarantee customer satisfaction.” Graco’s online system provides its partners with direct access to its stock and other information.
The company has a wide range of products for painting, coating, sealants, adhesives, process and lubrication. These products move, measure, control and dispense a wide range of fluids used in vehicle lubrication, and commercial and industrial settings. Today Graco is present in a number of markets including railway, automotive, offshore and onshore industries, alternative energy, wood and metal coatings, chemicals and the food industry. Marc highlights what makes Graco different from its competitors in the market: “One of the most important differences is our broad range of products, something which no other company can offer. All of our competitors have some similar products but we have by far the widest range of fluid handling equipment. Our personnel and product development are also key strengths.”
Looking specifically at the rail industry, Graco provides equipment for two distinct segments – infrastructure and rolling stock. Graco supplies many customers through its distributor network with equipment for painting and coating carriages. It also provides sealant and adhesive systems for construction, lubricating equipment, and foam products used in the insulation and production of cabin interiors and dashboards. Within the infrastructure sector Graco equipment can be found being used everywhere from stations, parking garages and offices, right up to tunnels, in the construction and insulation of roofing, and special coatings.
As a market leader in fluid-handling equipment Graco strives to maintain sustained profitable growth, a dedicated part of which comes from newly developed products. In 2008 Graco invested approximately $37 million into product development, with continued substantial investments throughout 2009 and into 2010. The company plans to continue this trend in the future to ensure it maintains a healthy product line, which is adapted to market requirements. “We regularly update existing material and launch on average a minimum of six new products a year,” adds Marc.
This high level of product development means that over its long history, Graco has built up an unparalleled knowledge base around fluid handling and has produced innovative solutions to the challenges of this market. This enables the company to easily incorporate into its products changes such as developments in material from solvent-borne to waterborne and government regulations on emissions. Marc explains Graco’s research and development process: “We have our own engineering team in the US, which uses the market knowledge and research we carry out in Asia Pacific and Europe to innovate new equipment. Of course we keep abreast of new regulations and work closely with all material manufacturers of glue, paint and other fluids so we can identify new market requirements and niches. Throughout production we test our equipment and where necessary make adaptations before bringing it to market.”
In October 2010, Graco launched one of its newest innovations – an entry-level two-component proportioner for protective coatings, known as the XP70™. This same configuration for finishing material applications is due to be available on the market shortly. Earlier in the year Graco also launched its new 2K and 3K ‘promix’™ system for finishing materials. Having identified that working with pneumatic pumps requires a supply of compressed air, in 2009 Graco introduced a complete product line with Merkur™ pumps that require less compressed air to operate, which helps increase efficiency and reduce costs for the end user. In addition, Graco Europe maintains a modern training facility in Maasmechelen where training and testing is carried out in order to keep its specialised distributors up to date with new products. “To maintain the position of market leader you have to have the constant desire to do things right,” explains Marc. “However, just doing things right is not good enough, if we can improve our services and do better we will. Graco has always had a top-class electrostatic gun for solvent-borne materials within a system that has a built-in generator instead of electrical lines. In line with the new waterborne materials that are entering the market we undertook the challenging task of adapting this system for these materials. Although it wasn’t easy, we succeeded and we now have a top-class PRO XS™ gun for this application as well.”
Looking to the future, Graco’s strategy is focused on maintaining its substantial investment in product development and continuing to grow the company particularly within developing markets such as Africa. By constantly striving to bring new innovative products to its diverse global market Graco has become a market leader in one fluid motion.