Systematic infra-red fingerprinting is a foolproof way of ensuring a heavy-duty coating available globally is all it claims to be, wherever it's supplied, says International Protective Coatings.

''Fingerprinting' effectively identifies chemically whether a product specified at head office, and registered as such, is the same as the product supplied on site,' says Jim Kavanagh from IPC UK. 'It's common knowledge in the industry that it's possible to mislead the client as to the content of a paint formulation, thereby appearing more competitive. But it isn't always just a backdoor way of improving profitability. For many companies, the globalisation of the coatings business has inadvertently caused problems of consistency and supply of goods, particularly in the more remote geographical areas."

Construction contracts in the high-performance sector may involve the application of coatings in several different countries, or even different continents. Manufacturers using a number of production facilities may have to meet a contract specification with products from more than one factory. Ensuring the finished goods are consistent is not easy, Kavanagh says.

Where brands are made under licence, as many are, the brand owner is not able to control the details of manufacture: and may not even know whether the formulae are strictly adhered to or not, he says.

"The quality of raw materials bought in a different locations may vary too, and even if the brand owner has insisted on identical formulae, equipment and production control procedures will often differ from site to site," says Kavanagh. "Then there are the usual temptations of using more easily available ingredients in order to meet tight delivery schedules, or cutting costs by substituting a lower quality product, or in extreme cases, even leaving out an ingredient altogether."

"Whatever the reason, the results can be catastrophic for the customer and give the coatings industry a bad name," he continues. "With performance coatings it is essential that the product meets the agreed specification if it is to afford the protection it claims. Cutting a few dollars off the coatings bill and using substandard products, is false economy and has been known to cost millions. In the worst case, the coating may totally fail to offer the protection the customer needs, leading to expensive and time-consuming maintenance or even worse, damage to the structure itself.

For more than two years now, International Protective Coatings has been promoting the use of independent random infra-red fingerprinting on any of its global product range, wherever they are produced.

The company has 21 factories around the world, each producing wholly-owned products to identical formulae and raw materials suppliers are required to ensure all their products are supplied to the same grade and quality worldwide, he says.

"All specifiers need do," advises Kavanagh, "is to write into the specification the requirement that suppliers of coatings will be subjected to random, independent infra-red testing. We actively encourage our customers to request this. We are the first, and the only, coatings business to offer this guarantee, right round the world."