Carboline: 'Bigger and Better' at 75 Years
St. Louis-based coatings specialist Carboline is celebrating its 75th year in business in 2022. From humble beginnings in 1947, Carboline has grown into a global organization that has launched more than 500 products, with more than seven research facilities, 20 manufacturing facilities and hundreds of warehouses. Still, the company has remained laser-focused on quality, innovation and top-notch service.
“Our offering to the maritime market is very unique,” said Brad Treuting, Carboline’s director of sales for marine and offshore in the U.S. Gulf and East Coast. “One of the things that we pride ourselves on is that we provide products that have no equal within the market. We have various products that will give a lifespan that is above and beyond any product that our competitors offer, and we’ll stand behind a 10-plus-year lifespan of those products.”
Carboline’s U.S. marine business today is primarily focused on dredging and marine construction, as well as inland and oceangoing tugs, barges and offshore support vessels. “We do a lot of commercial vessels that are servicing the construction industry and the oil and gas markets,” Treuting said.
Within those markets, the company’s business model is very much “quality over quantity”, according to Treuting. “When we look at our maritime business, we’re not going to be your high-volume supplier,” he said. “If you're looking for the cheapest product, we won't waste your time. . . The products that we offer cost us more to make; we have some products that have a lamellar flake of aluminum that allows a layering where the penetration of water is almost nil so we get 10 plus years in oceangoing markets with no blisters on the vessels.
“A good coating on the vessel from the start not only increases the lifespan of the vessel, but it will also add to the amount of time that you can keep that vessel in service without picking it up and putting it on dry dock or doing maintenance on it. And time is money. Every day that boat is up on dry dock, it's costing you lost time in making revenues, and it's also costing you more to have a shipyard take that coating down and put on a new one.
“So, we can preach that and show evidence of that. And we're going to expect to get a higher price for a high-quality product and not just devalue it and just sell it in volume, because we don't want to do that. We want to be able to keep our intimacy and take care of our customer.”
Treuting emphasized Carboline’s complete service offering, which he calls “unmatched”. “We're involved in the front end when our customers bring in a vessel up to give them a free survey, to really let them know what they're coming in for, give our best recommendation for it. We're there during the process of the vessel undergoing maintenance or being built. And then we're also there at the final end to make sure that it's checked off and done correctly so that they're going to see the most benefit for the money that are put toward that asset.”
Another pillar to Carboline’s customer-centric service offering is the experience and expertise of its personnel. “We have people that have been within our marine team and in the coating business for 40 years. They've been around a long time on all sides of the business. I have reps that have been on the construction side, and I have guys that have actually owned vessels. We have the ability to put ourselves in the owner's position because they've been there and they've done it so long. It gives us a leg up when going to sell to our customer base.”
The marine coating business, like nearly every other, has been profoundly impacted by COVID-19 and its unique set of challenges, from activity slowdowns to supply chain and worker shortages. While many challenges remain, Treuting said he’s seeing growing interest driven by increased activity in liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, dredging, offshore wind and the shift to hybrid and greener vessels. “It's driven toward new markets. You're not going to see a lot of people looking to build what the maritime industry would deem dinosaurs of the past. The market has changed. The servicing of oil assets in the Gulf has been, in my opinion, forever changed as people are looking to do things with different fuel sources. . . That's where things are going, and in order to get there, it's going to require newbuild programs because the older vessels are strictly diesel driven vessels that are becoming outdated and too costly to operate. And they're not falling under the green footprint within the current sustainability initiatives.”
Similarly, Carboline is constantly working to improve its offering, with current R&D efforts aimed at checking off the boxes of its customers’ wish lists. The company is developing lower volatile organic compound (VOC) options, solutions that keep employees and contractors safe, and products that help to prolong the life of an asset. “Fast forward, we'll come out with the product and go back to customers who requested it to do product demos. If we see success, we'll release it to the market,” Treuting said. “I can tell you until the end of time within Carboline, our R&D efforts will continually move in a direction that leads us to the next best product.”
Asked about keys to success over Carboline’s 75-year history, Treuting said, “One thing that's been constant has been the intimacy and the service that Carboline has always been able to provide for the customer. We have a very, very strong technical presence, and we can provide solutions. These the things that have continuously kept Carboline moving in the right direction, and we use that foundation to build bigger and better.”
Other stories from March 2022 issue
- Interview: Jennifer Carpenter, President & CEO, AWO page: 10
- Infrastructure Funding Opportunities for Small Ports page: 18
- Recovery, Resilience and Demand Shifts to Drive Inland Waterway Cargo Flows page: 20
- Alt-fueled Workboats: Building the Business Case page: 26
- Current Direct: A Transition Effort in Europe page: 31
- 2022 US Shipbuilding Report page: 32
- Carboline: 'Bigger and Better' at 75 Years page: 37