Four Critical Challenges for Wood Finishers—And How to Overcome Them

Keeping up with demand. Training new employees as labor continues to shift. Staying on trend with the color combinations your customers want. These are just some of the challenges faced by today’s industrial wood finishers—and overcoming them is at hand with the right assistance.

Author: Lance Schultz, Director of Technical Services, Sherwin-Williams Industrial Wood


In industrial wood finishing operations, it can seem like there’s a new challenge around every corner. Whether it’s finding enough people to operate your line successfully or maintaining optimal product quality and production efficiency, there’s a lot on your plate.

But with the right support, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Let’s explore some of today’s most pressing challenges for industrial wood finishers—as well as how to overcome them with the help of the right partner.

#1. Maintaining Color Consistency. It’s no secret that color is in when it comes to everything from furniture, kitchen cabinets and building products.

But offering on-demand color variety can be a significant operational challenge for small to medium-sized industrial wood shops. Oftentimes, you’re at the mercy of your wood color coatings supplier to deliver an exact match when you need it. What’s more, even when you can be certain of the pigmentation consistency from your supplier, proper application techniques must be followed in order to achieve the desired look again and again.

#2. Finding Skilled Labor. In order to successfully paint and coat the wood products your customers demand, you need the people to do it successfully.

Any wood professional will tell you, though, that finding and retaining those people is no simple task. It’s estimated that 3.5 million new manufacturing jobs will be created by 2025—but over 2 million of those may go unfilled due to a widespread lack of skilled workers. What’s more, attracting and retaining a quality workforce is a top focus for 83% of manufacturers surveyed.

When you do find the workforce you need, there is also the matter of providing them with the proper training to do their jobs effectively. The wood finishing process can be tricky to master, requiring finesse from the applicator to achieve the desired look and feel. Even seasoned finishers can benefit from training opportunities to refresh their skills and abilities.

#3. Production Efficiency. When skilled labor is hard to come by, maintaining process efficiency within your operation becomes even more important.

Optimizing your production process can involve anything from small improvements to complete reinventions. Whether you’re expanding an existing line or adding a new one, there are a lot of factors to consider, including your choice of coating product and equipment, worker safety, and overall sustainability. And even for experienced production managers, it can be a challenge to harmonize those choices in a way that contributes to comprehensive production efficiency.

#4. Maintaining Product Quality. Quality is an existential concern for industrial wood shops—your reputation depends on it. Poor quality products can lead to a loss of trust and the subsequent loss of business.

It means that quality must be built into the finishing process from top to bottom. But challenges to that mission can crop up in unexpected areas. For example, it may only take a small applicator error during the finishing process to cause an aesthetic flaw. Elsewhere, suboptimal weather conditions may cause your wood coatings to hang or dry differently than your applicators are used to.



So—what’s the solution? Helping our customers overcome these challenges and drive their businesses forward is why the Sherwin-Williams Industrial Wood Technical Services team exists.

Consisting of industry-leading technicians with extensive finishing experience, and located across North America, our Technical Services team is committed to helping you identify and implement improvements to every part of the finishing process. Whether it’s overcoming a production issue, uncovering a cost efficiency, or something else, we can help you in a variety of areas, including:

  • Color Assistance. We can help your teams understand the art and science behind applying color to your products, contributing to a beautiful result every time. Plus, with access to our Color Express™ system, you gain access to thousands of on-trend colors backed by more than 150 years in the paint and coatings business.  
  • Training. Whether it’s a new hire or a seasoned professional looking to refresh their skills, we can help get your teams up to speed on all things wood finishing, from the basics to advanced skills.
  • Process Optimization. We work with you to create a customized and comprehensive finishing process that combines the best industrial wood coatings, the ideal equipment, and a people-oriented focus on motivation, safety, productivity, and sustainability.
  • Quality Support. Struggling with quality consistency in your finished products? We’ll work with you to identify the root cause and make the right fix

Interested in learning more?

Sherwin-Williams Industrial Wood can bring color leadership to your business, helping you deliver on evolving demands with reliable, high-quality products. Reach out to your Sherwin-Williams representative to get started today.

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