One could say that Shelley Verdun’s work is a bit on the dry side. As business manager for powder coatings in the Americas, she oversees one of our most promising growth engines and sustainability enablers. She’s also forging new paths for women in the industry.
Career Flows from Liquid to Powder
Shelley joined us in 1988 as a recent college graduate with a strong interest in formulating coatings, which she did before shifting to the commercial side.
“This early part of my career was invaluable because it taught me about coatings and chemistry. I learned how we make coatings, how we apply them and how we test them. That was a very strong springboard for moving into the business side.”
Following leadership roles in color services and product management, Shelley was tapped to head the integration of IVC Industrial Coatings after our 2015 acquisition of the powder and liquid coatings manufacturer. That project began her shift from liquid to powder coatings, ultimately leading to her current role as one of four regional business managers for this high-growth technology.
Unlike the liquid coatings and paints that most people are familiar with, powder coatings are 100% solid dry material. They’re applied using an electrostatic process, where electrically charged powder is sprayed onto a grounded item’s surface. This electrical attraction causes the powder to stick to the item, which is then cured in an oven to create a seamless durable finish.
Powder coatings account for around 15% of the global coatings market today, but it’s the fastest growing coatings technology because of the performance and sustainability benefits customers can gain compared to liquid coatings.
In addition to a durable finish, these benefits include a highly efficient coating process that reduces waste, production time, labor needs and manufacturing costs. Powder coatings also have low volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and their solid state allows them to be reclaimed and recycled.
Overcoming Wood’s Barriers
Powder coatings have long been valued in the automotive, aerospace and other industries that use thinner metal substrates because of their durability and small environmental footprint. Their use on wood and wood-composite products, however, presented a bigger challenge due to wood’s low conductivity, warping, variations in moisture content and heat sensitivity. This is why liquid coatings, melamine and laminate historically dominated the wood coatings market – but at a performance, aesthetic and, most importantly, environmental cost.
“Our 2020 acquisition of Alpha Coating Technologies was the game changer, providing us with the low-cure technologies and know-how required to apply powder coatings on wood and wood-composite products like plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and high-density fiberboard (HDF). It’s also a go-to solution for dense metal products that require low-cure technology.”
We launched PPG ENVIROCRON™ HeatSense low-cure powder coating for the heat-sensitive wood and wood-composite market. In addition to all the performance and sustainability benefits of traditional powders, this patent-pending coating cures even faster and at lower temperatures. It can accommodate the shrinking and swelling of wood over the finished product’s lifetime even though its seamless finish totally encapsulates the substrate. The powder also enables a broader range of design options, colors, textures and finishes, including those that mimic stone, marble and granite.
Envirocron HeatSense powder coating is ideal for building and construction materials, kitchen cabinets, office furniture and other wood-based products.
This coating enables our customers to make more durable, more sustainable and more aesthetically pleasing wood and wood-based products, which today’s consumers are demanding. The product is also aligned with our own internal target to have 50% of sales from sustainably advantaged products
A First for Women
Shelley is not only advancing sustainability and technologies within our own company. She’s also guiding the industry in these areas as the first woman president of the Powder Coating Institute (PCI), which is a North American industry association focused on promoting and communicating the benefits of powder coating technology.
“I’m very honored to have been chosen to lead this talented group of partners, competitors, suppliers and others who have come together to grow the powder coatings market. Our most important work is educating the various industries about powder’s tremendous benefits.”
Accepting the role of PCI president falls in line with Shelley’s view that one must always continue to learn. She’s also a proponent of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“If you avoid challenges in your career that make you uncomfortable, you won’t grow or advance as quickly. The first time you do something that makes you uncomfortable, like public speaking, do your homework and be prepared. You may lose some sleep, but eventually that fear will be replaced with empowerment.”