March 17, 2009

Physical Performance or Marketing

by Kevin Morris

As professionals in asset protection you may find yourself in the position of relying on your suppliers to provide you with accurate and relevant physical performance data to use as your basis of design.

Over the years you may have been in a situation to review products for equality and deemed them as equal or unequal based on manufacturer’s published or non-published physical performance data.

As manufacturers compete for the same projects and sales opportunities, marketing has become a large contributor to the distortion of some of the physical performance data published today. Marketing strategies can provide the competitive edge to winning or losing some very significant projects in our marketplace. Marketing strategies are not providing false data, however they are placing emphasis on results that show greater numbers than competitors to provide specifiers and owners with a false sense of security.

Consider the following example to help see how marketing strategies come in to play: You are comparing product X and product Y for performance in immersion service of fresh water. Product X has results for 10 years with a 10 rating for blistering and rusting (Excellent result) and product Y has results for 50 years with a 10 rating for blistering and rusting (Excellent result). Does this make product Y better than product X or does this make product Y first to have recorded the results out this far?

There are other items that need to be measured when asking, “Physical Performance or Marketing?”, such as: Are the test methods being published and reviewed relevant to the industry, are they the most efficient means of predicting performance in a given environment, does the test method have some subjectivity or is it pass/fail criteria? For more information on writing relevant coating specifications see Writing Relevant Coating Specifications from INTERCORR 2008.

Relevance to the industry shall be determined in the description of the test method and its intent. Predicting performance is solely in the hands of the reviewer and their understanding of like tests that may provide more accurate information. Subjectivity or pass/fail criteria are based on the method of testing and the organizational test method.

Let’s dissect ASTM B 117 “Salt Fog Resistance”. Under significance and use of the test method the following statement is made, “Correlation and extrapolation of corrosion performance based on exposure to the test environment provided by this practice are not always predictable.”

Publishing very high results on this standard may give a false sense of security to the specifier or owner and is truly an area where marketing has won out over true physical performance. Consider the use of a pass/fail criteria like The Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) Paint No. “XX” standards, which incorporate more performance attributes than just one particular test method.

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