For nearly 35 years, Ulrich Dawidowski has been working closely with people across industries and around the globe to put paint onto metal – and smiles onto faces. As Global Head of Product Development for Organic Coatings, he uses his deep knowledge and experience to turn megatrends into mega opportunities for customers to save time and resources during their metal coating processes.
Ulrich, what’s your job – and why do you enjoy it?
Since 1995, I’ve been developing paints that make people happy. I joined Henkel in 2005 and my daily work is split into two parts. First, I work closely with customers across industries and around the globe to help them find the best possible way of making their products. And second, I explore new ideas by leading Henkel’s research and development activities for organic coatings.
Why do I enjoy it? Because of people. I talk to people around the world with different attitudes, backgrounds and needs. They show me the unique way their products are made and sold, and I share my expertise from different markets and industries. Together, we find clever ways to improve their processes and make the planet a bit greener. It makes my life incredibly rich. And that’s a great feeling.
Can you give us a typical example?
Well… no I can’t! Every customer is unique, every product and process is different, and every region has its own character. I visit the customer and check out their existing setup, and then we think about how to optimize it together. My role is to work with people from across the business – from Product Design, Production and IT through to senior leaders and CEOs.
Each business case is different, but my philosophy never changes. I take a holistic approach that considers the whole value chain, from cradle to grave. At Henkel, we don’t just say “Here’s our product, you’re welcome.” We always search for ways to make the entire process leaner and greener. And because we work across such a wide range of industries, we offer insights no other company can match.
You’ve been in the paint industry for 35 years. What’s changed in that time?
A lot! The bans on lead and cadmium-based pigments, for example, transformed the paint industry because we had to find cost-effective ways of replacing them while delivering the same level of performance. Regulations to restrict the use of Volatile Organic Compounds or Hazardous Air Pollutants also made a massive impact and opened up completely new technologies. And the constant search for efficiency through automation and digitalization never stops driving change in this industry.
The biggest ever change, however, is happening right now.
Sustainability. Our planet’s population is rising – and so is its temperature. Every industry urgently needs to increase resource efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions. We have to rethink the way we use our planet’s resources and protect the climate before it’s too late. It’s that simple. And it’s that serious.
How are you helping your customers to respond to this trend?
By offering sustainable alternatives to traditional paint processes. Our BONDERITE MPP autophoretic coating process is a great example. It enables our customers to minimize the number of steps in their process, resulting in less waste and water consumption, and it also cuts energy consumption because it involves lower temperatures than typical processes. In fact, one customer told me that our technology decreased the CO2 footprint of his paint process by up to 40 percent. It’s also water-based, and free of VOCs and hazardous substances.
How exactly does the BONDERITE MPP autophoretic coating process work?
A steel part, like a radiator, goes into the autophoretic tank and a chemical reaction applies the coating. Next, the part goes into the drying oven to remove water and apply a film. Then, if required, the customer moves it into the topcoat paint shop. Finished.
We don’t use electricity for deposition, we don’t use pumps in the coating bath, and we don’t use traditional metal pretreatment approaches like phosphate conversion that involve a lot of stages and generate a lot of waste. That’s why so many customers want to switch to our process!
How do customers make this switch?
Our process can usually just plug into the existing production process, if there’s enough space. However, the switch to BONDERITE MPP is often part of a broader change to the entire production philosophy. Big transformations like this create big value – and put big smiles on our customers’ faces!
How does it feel when you see those smiles?
It feels… perfect. I work very closely with the customer’s team, so I know exactly how much time and energy they invest in starting up a new process. I stand beside them and see the look in their eyes when the first parts come off the line – and it’s wonderful. Knowing that I’ve helped them to improve quality, efficiency and sustainability is something I’m truly proud of. That’s why I love my job.
Are you working on new ways to make customers smile?
Of course! Right now, we’re exploring innovations for coating complex aluminum parts like castings or parts with hollow sections. We’re also developing coatings in a wider range of colors, which can enable our customers to cut later steps in the paint process. And we’re always looking for ways to even further improve corrosion protection because that’s the main function of our products.
Every day, I speak to people from different industries to understand what they need. That changes over time, so our portfolio has to change too. We want to make sure we’ve always got the right answers to the biggest questions related to paint and coatings. That’s how we keep our customers smiling. And it makes me smile too.
BONDERITE is the world’s leading brand of surface treatments, coatings, cleaning solutions and lubricants. Its innovative solutions create a competitive advantage for companies across industries and around the globe. The brand is owned by Henkel and has proven track record of reliability, sustainability and performance – supported by its expert team of technical engineers.
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