In a Q&A session, Andreas Ossenkopf, Mankiewicz’s director – head of aviation looks at the trends, demands and challenges associated with surface finishing within the aerospace sector.
Mankiewicz is one of Germany's traditional paint manufacturers and among the leaders in the production of both solvent-based and water-dilutable high-tech coating systems for industrial series production. The company supplies its high-quality paint products to various different markets such as machine construction, capital goods, automotive, aviation, railway, medical technology and yachts.
Q) Please begin by talking about your products for the aerospace sector?
Mankiewicz is a market leader in the business of painting aircraft interiors. What characterises our offer for aircraft interiors is a large product portfolio and individual, customised solutions. The Mankiewicz in-house team continually analyses the trends in all fields and develops paints derived from these for interiors – the resulting offer is a wide variety of colours, effects and gloss levels, which in turn make it possible to satisfy the individual wishes of airlines.
For painting aircraft exteriors, Mankiewicz is renowned for inventing the BaseCoat/ClearCoat system. The first aircraft painted with the ALEXIT BaseCoat/ClearCoat system has been in service for more than 12 years and is still wearing its original OEM dress. Here, the lifetime of the coating has more than doubled. This aircraft is proof of the longevity of the system. For the airline, this means extended maintenance cycles, less cleaning, no unplanned repairs, which translates into immense savings in cost and effort. The striking properties of the paint are its outstanding hiding power, rapid drying time and fading ability, as well as easy workability and repairability.
For structural parts, Mankiewicz has introduced many products, such as corrosion protection and fillers. As the latest composite materials often have irregular surfaces and structures, Mankiewicz has developed new fillers that smooth out the unevenness, ensuring there is a regular surface before the paint is applied. The work steps and layers required to compensate for the irregularities on the structural components can take time, which is why Mankiewicz has developed coatings that can be painted wet-on-wet. This means that long drying times between work steps are eliminated, and layers such as filler, primer and topcoat can be applied directly on top of each other.
Q) What are the types of trends and demands placed on your company?
Ramping up is definitely a hot topic: to produce ever more aircraft it is necessary to produce ever increasing quantities of interior components – without having any extra time or production capacity available. Mankiewicz offers approved paint solutions that help producers speed up their processes, increase their capacities and improve the quality of surfaces, ensuring they are uniform. The automation of solutions with water- or solvent-based topcoats and fillers range from automated mixing to fully-automated robot application.
Furthermore, there is an apparent contradiction between the desire for individual solutions and a trend towards eye-catching design effects on the one side, and extremely cost-conscious budget airlines on the other side. Mankiewicz offers products to satisfy both demands. For airlines that attach great importance to design and individual appearance, there is a variety of colours, gloss levels and textures available – even special colours to match the airline’s own design can be developed on demand. For low-cost carriers, Mankiewicz offers special products that save both time and materials, making efficient painting processes possible.
Another request we encounter is for training courses – either at our factory or onsite with a customer. Here, operators can learn directly from us how to apply our paints, ensuring they’re able to work as efficiently as possible. Not only does the training lead to savings in time and materials during the coating process, but it also ensures that the finish on the paint is as uniform as possible. This is especially important when several producers are involved in the project.
Q) What are today's customers looking for in terms of surface finishing solutions?
Consistent appearance is very important for our customers. Parts that are painted separately must ultimately match, even when some are produced under very different conditions worldwide. This is ensured on the one hand by our training offers, and on the other by the consistent quality of our paints and their easy workability. We pay special attention to the robustness of our systems, not only in terms of service life, but also during application.
We’re increasingly asked for added functions, such as antimicrobial additives and special textured paints, which have a look and feel reminiscent of textiles. These are proving very interesting for cabin designers, because the textures create a warm, inviting atmosphere. In the case of exteriors, shiny mirror-like surfaces are a good example. Our customers want a reflective, deeply-shiny surface that retains its brilliance for a long time.
Q) What kinds of R&D has been invested by your company to bring your products to market?
Mankiewicz undertakes extensive market research to stay aware of customer needs and to detect developments accordingly. In addition, it’s especially important to keep pace with present and future chemical regulations. We also invest a lot of energy in research as well as significant sums in R&D and employ a large number of staff in order to develop high-tech coating products of the future.
One special focus of our R&D department is working on new, environmentally-friendly paint systems. We’re constantly reducing the use of solvents and developing eco-friendly water-based alternatives to traditional paint systems. Water-based products have been in our portfolio for decades. We attach importance to holistic thinking and also like exploring new horizons to find solutions. We are continuously developing product innovations and devote a lot of our time and energy to this.
Q) What differentiates your company from the competition?
For us, customers are not numbers on an order form – we treat them as part of the Mankiewicz family and they receive our enthusiastic assistance, which in no way ends with selling them paint. We support our customers through all the challenges that arise before, during and after a paint process. This begins long before the start of series production with our advice on substrates, painting plants, design development and many other aspects. In many projects, we’re involved right from the start and accompany our customers over a long period. We also think it’s important to be available at all times for the customer as their technically competent advisor. We leave nobody alone with a problem, instead we find a solution.
Q) What do you feel are the most important assets of a company?
As we place a lot of emphasis on close, personal contact with our customers, our employees are of course key to our success: It’s thanks to our loyal and competent staff that we’re able to cement durable, sustainable customer relationships.
Our locations are also paramount: thanks to our facilities in Hamburg, Toulouse, Shanghai and Charleston, for example, we’re easily accessible for our international customers and in terms of geography never too far away. This is important for our customers, for example, in cases of cooperative development and research projects.
Experience is self-evidently important too: It’s only thanks to our many years of experience serving the aviation industry that we’re able to offer our customers expert and holistic advice. This makes it possible to foresee some developments and trends fairly early on and our customers can also profit from our cross-sectoral knowledge.