Singular focus makes all Kenwood Painted Metals clients a top priority.
Kenwood Painted Metals has evolved to supply goods for a range of industries, including parts and accessories for the transportation industry, appliances, office furniture and HVAC systems in the consumer market to lighting fixtures, roofing, exterior walls and doors used in construction field.
“We align the coating for the particular application. All paints have different properties of varying flexibility or hardness,” said Greg Underwood, the company’s president. “There are many variables that go into making a whole paint system. Some coatings have to be able to move with the metal while others have to specially withstand environmental impacts. Part of our success comes from understanding which coating works best for each application.”
Part of Kenwood’s market penetration stems from its approach to service and adherence to convenient and cost-effective methodologies that are also environmentally sound. The company functions as a relatively small family enterprise where trust and respect have permeated through all staff. Underwood is both a chemist and craftsman, as well as a father who takes pride in working with family members and emphasizing relationships when it comes to customers, too.
“With some corporate cultures, the customers are treated more like numbers as opposed to people,” he said. “Every one of our clients knows who we are, and we know who they are, too. We value and appreciate their business, as well as their needs, the way only a small business can. And because we’re small, our customers don’t have to jump through a lot of layers to access us when they need.”
Kenwood specializes in coil coating, a process in which a base metal is unwound, cleaned and rinsed. After a chemical pretreatment, the metal is again rinsed to prepare the surface for coating. A primer is followed by a top coat specifically tailored to client specifications. The metal can be coated on one or all sides, in the same or different colors, and after each coating, the coil is cured in an oven.
The metal is then recoiled and slit to width or cut to length, or laminated or embossed.
The precision application of paint allows for a more controlled thickness than other techniques, which reduces cost. And, because coil-coating lines run at high speeds – some at 600 to 800 linear feet per minute – efficiencies are gained as well. Additionally, Kenwood’s coil-coaters include water and air pollution equipment to meets federal, state and local environmental requirements.
The company has recently expanded into offering roofing systems that are coated with a paint possessing higher solar reflectivity than conventional paints, which yields reduced utility costs. The materials contribute to LEED points consistent with standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council.
“Cool roof systems are part of an increasing trend in green building and the Energy Star label has become very important to end users, so we’re happy to work with it,” said Underwood’s son, Aaron, who manages the company’s metal building division. “Fortunately, there are tax credits available to businesses and homeowners, too. If they replace or build using a cool roof methods, tax credits are in place to help offset the costs, so we’re working hand-in-hand with paint suppliers to help market the opportunities and advantages these coatings offer.”
A long-time company tenet has been partnering with industry to identify processes that will benefit all parties involved. Its relationships include the National Coil Coaters Association, the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association and the National Frame Building Association.
“This helps us to stay close to new innovations that come out of these industries, and we don’t see our involvement in terms of just selling,” Underwood said. “We try to stay engaged as an integral member of these organizations, too.”
Underwood was integral in developing new paint technology at U.S. Steel – where his father and grandfather had also worked – before leaving in 1983 to found Kenwood. In fact, when he announced plans to go off on his own, he received a particularly intense response from the previous generation
“My father said, ‘You’re going to do what?’” he said.
The transition came shortly after Marathon Oil had acquired U.S. Steel’s supply division, which prompted Underwood to ponder new alternatives because the post-acquisition future was uncertain.
In fact, he partnered with a former supervisor from U.S. Steel to begin the new enterprise, and a handful of Kenwood’s initial customers were ones who had maintained relationships at the previous employer.
The new business thrived because of an ability to access any kind of coating needed, along with efficient order processing and inventory functions.
“Customers appreciate that we carry their inventory,” Underwood said. “That means we’re carrying financial responsibility for that inventory. We try to run a 90-day supply and we’ll carry the burden of the inventory, stock it at different locations across the country and customers only pay for the portion they want released. We put the investment up front ourselves, to get the steel, get it painted, get it processed and ready to ship to them as their just in time needs arise.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Kenwood Painted Metals
WHAT: Distributor of pre-painted metals, including galvanized, galvalume, cold rolled, aluminum and film laminates
WHERE: Olympia Fields, Ill.