Posted in: Industry News

Tough Talk: LeakedIn...Industrial Social Media Running Amuck

Posted on Tuesday, May 1, 2012

In the last couple years, both the IT and PR worlds have pounded into our heads their mantra that we must— we absolutely must—embrace social media in order to succeed. Establish a Facebook page and a LinkedIn account and even a Twitter account…and tweet, tweet, tweet. Personally I can’t think of anything important enough that I can capture in 140 characters that I would want to share with the masses. And who the heck would want to “follow” me anyway? Probably not the kind of people I would want to share my cool thoughts with even if I had any.

The point of this screed is not to argue the merits of connecting with the industrial world through social media, but rather the discourse that ensues when we do dive into the social media pool. Specifically, I am referring to the Wild, Wild West taking place at LinkedIn. Surprisingly it was just before Facebook became a regular part of many of our lives, that Reid Hoffman and a team from PayPal and SocialNet launched LinkedIn in 2003.

Since its inception, this network has amassed 150 million registered users from more than 200 countries. I took the plunge in 2009 and now have 967 connections “linking” me to over 5,755,000 like-minded professionals. In addition, I set up a LinkedIn group account for my business, The Powder Coating Research Group. It is an “open” group that currently serves 799 members. Sounds like I am a believer, and indeed I am. Nowhere else can you connect with so many qualified individuals within the powder coating and related industries. There’s no question that it’s good for business. So what’s my beef? My concern is the mountain of intellectual property that is freely dispersed en masse to anyone who asks. So who’s making all the queries? We are all painfully aware of what globalization has foisted upon our fair industry. Please be sure, I’m not an isolationist clamoring for the good old days. I realize that the world economy has evolved and consequently we must adjust and transition with it.

As manufacturing has grown in developing nations the need for high quality finishing technology has followed. Multi-national companies have typically downsized their R&D efforts in Western Europe and North America and redistributed their funds to newly constructed technical centers in the Far East and other developing lands. This has created a massive technology void in the places that are crying for powder coating technology. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a request through LinkedIn for powder technology that the Western world tackled decades ago. It is so indicative of the disparity of technology between these emerging economies and the West.

My gripe is not that the questions are asked, but that they are freely answered in detail by seasoned technologists from Europe and North America. It seems that all too many technical people feel it is their duty to demonstrate their formulating prowess by divulging proprietary knowledge to total strangers. Here’s an exchange that I witnessed that made my head almost explode: “How can we increase the transfer efficiency to the maximum? Although I am trying to simulate one of our competitors powder in everything, density, binder ratio, particle size, etc. I still receive the same from the customers, that his powder is covering more !!!

I tried to use anti-static additives to decrease Faraday cage, increased Al2O3 to enhance the fluidity,........etc !!!!!!! Does any expert know any new Idea ?!!!!!” —Mohamed from Egypt

The Abridged Answer from North America:

“Compare moisture content of your and the competitive product. Nothing kills transfer efficiency more that slightly damp powder. Perform a moisture content check at 105°C. Even small amounts (<0.5%) can damage transfer efficiency significantly.” —P. in USA The answerer then illustrates in great detail options for specific dry blend additives, concentration ranges, and examples of how excessive concentration degrades performance. This wasn’t enough so the clever technologist continues with: “Most people add dry flow additives in one of 3 ways…” and proceeds with minutiae as he expounds on the pros and cons of employing each technique, zeroing in on very specific levels of additive and how to perform quality tests to assure the delivery of precise concentration. This exchange should never have happened in an open forum of this nature. The technology needed to carefully balance powder fluidity, transfer efficiency and optimal electrostatic performance took many years to perfect. Doesn’t this U.S. technologist realize that divulging the proprietary materials and processing technology to his competitors may come to haunt him? Chances are that he is not even that owner of this sophisticated technology. That would be the owners of the company in which he works.

Here is an example of how queries such as these should be handled:

“Poly Urethane Powder Coating........ I want to work on Poly Urethane product...... How should do start study on that? Is it better than pure polyester? If it would, in what manner? What type of chemistry it will be?” —Rahul from India

The Answer from North America

“Hi Rahul - Polyurethane powder coating chemistry and performance is unique. It can outperform polyester technology in many ways. It can also cost more and can be worse in performance if formulated for economy and not quality. You can work with your resin and curing agent suppliers to get starting formulas. If you want to fully appreciate this technology you should contact a knowledgeable consultant and/or look into licensing the technology from a successful producer. I can give you direction privately if you wish.” —K. from USA

It’s not even a question of whether to impart technology to enterprises in developing countries. There is nothing inherently wrong with valid technology transfer. The point is, the technology you provide is an asset. You may not own it yourself, but even if you do, it has value. At the very least, some type of consulting stipend should be involved. It is wiser still to license the technology or build your own operation in that distant land and continue to own and exploit this intellectual property. In reality most technologists clamoring for new ideas are unfortunately unwilling or not in a position to adequately compensate you for this sophisticated and hard-earned knowledge. So the next time you want to show the world how smart you are, do so by keeping your mouth zipped.

Kevin Biller is a contributing editor of Powder Coated Tough magazine. He can be reached via email at