Maintenance issues have leapt to the forefront as retail expansion has slowed and retailers have turned their collective focus to maximizing the existing portfolios of stores.
Chain Store Age talked with Kenneth Trimber, president of Pittsburgh-based surface preparation and coatings consultant KTA-Tator Inc., about protective coatings and other measures that have become key to maintaining problem-free retail environments.
In an era of aggressive cost cutting, have you seen a change in the industry with regard to proper structural protections?
I haven’t seen cost-cutting measures in areas that affect the integrity of the buildings or the safety of patrons and employees. If those responsible for maintenance are aware of the issues, they are being addressed.
In the field of protective coatings, though, maintenance painting does not seem to be designed and implemented proactively with problem avoidance in mind, but I don’t associate this with cost-cutting measures. Instead, coatings only seem to be given attention when problems are noticeable, such as peeling and blistering, serious corrosion or excessive fading of vibrant colors. But these problems can be avoided, and maintenance costs reduced, by consciously deciding what should be painted based on need rather than age and designing the cleaning and painting requirements based on store-specific conditions.
What are the key elements in a retail project that must be protected, and why?
Coatings are applied to CMU (concrete masonry unit) to control water intrusion, which could lead to wetting of the insulation and a reduction in R-value, as well as to prevent moisture permeation to the interior wall surfaces. Under the right circumstances, the water intrusion can create an environment conducive to the formation of mold. Coatings are applied to steel, galvanized metal and aluminum to prevent corrosion of the base metal and the welds.
Specific elements that are protected include walls, structural steel, canopies, awnings, sign structures, light poles, doors and miscellaneous items such as bollards and cart corrals.
At what phase of a retail project do you generally become involved?
We are frequently contacted to determine the cause of peeling, blistering and premature corrosion. Our coatings experts examine the structure and collect coating samples. The samples are analyzed in our forensic laboratory at molecular levels to determine the cause(s) of the failure. Repair recommendations are also provided.
We are also engaged to provide coating condition surveys of all stores in a retailer’s system in order to establish cost-effective maintenance painting programs. The surveys inventory all of the painted items and components in each store, the surface areas of each, the type of coating used and the condition of the coatings. The surveys are conducted using specially prepared rating scales and photographic standards. The data is entered into our proprietary maintenance painting management system, which predicts the optimum point in the future that the coating should be touched up, overcoated, or removed and replaced, and prioritizes the painting between entire stores, typically over a five-year period. Scopes of work are prepared for the painting of each store, together with cost estimates for conducting the recommended work. Specifications are also prepared for cleaning and painting, including recommendations for the coating materials to be applied.
How has the sustainability movement impacted what you do?
Continued modifications to coatings systems to make them VOC-compliant have raised questions regarding their long-term durability. This has led to more accelerated performance testing in the laboratory. Concerns over wet insulation and reduced R-values have lead to the extensive moisture testing during inspection projects.
What specific products or processes make KTA unique?
The KTA CAPP System, our proprietary maintenance painting management system, is unique. All of our services are also governed by a corporate quality management system with detailed operating procedures at every level, and we provide a broad range of consulting, testing and inspection services in our protective coatings and welding specialties. We also have an environmental safety and health group consisting of certified industrial hygienists, certified safety professionals and technicians to address environmental protection, mold and worker safety compliance.