Sikkens, one of the AkzoNobel brand profile, has been approved with all major OEMs in India and the latest approval portfolio expansion in India is for Audi, Kia, BMW, MG, Citron & McLaren Brand apart from Maruti, Hyundai, Honda, Tata, VW group, Nissan etc. By serving as the bridge between various stakeholders, such as Auto OEMs, Multi-Bodyshop dealership groups, Insurers and industry forums like – FADA, ASDC etc, the company has contributed to efficiency significantly by improving understanding between these key stakeholders. AkzoNobel has been able to provide customers with leading propositions through various customer engagement programmes for PAN level India.
Current Global and Indian Market for Automotive Paints and Coatings
India is a growth market and is considered “Attractive” by both global and regional paints and coatings players. Globally the automotive paints and coatings market is very dynamic and reflects different levels of maturity in different continents. Considering the expectation of each stakeholder – be it OEM, insurers, repairers, and car owners – the proposition and challenges in the market are also very different.
The automotive and specialty coatings market is broadly segmented into two categories – OEM coatings (high-bake) and refinish coatings (low-bake / ambient drying) basis the coatings usage. From the end-users, the market can be viewed in four segments – OEM, Automotive plastics, Vehicle refinish and Commercial Vehicle (CV) or Commercial Transport (CT). Another often used categorisation is the basis of the paint technology such as 2K paints – Polyurethane (PU) and 1K paints- Nitro Cellulose (NC) and Alkyd.
The automotive OEM paints supplies, be it 4W, 2W, CV or CT are directly proportional to the demand-led manufacturing at their plants. Simply put, the more the demand for new vehicles, the more the coatings sales globally.
On other hand, refinish paints sales is dependent on UIO (Units In Operation) or road-worthy vehicles. Fuelling this demand is the retention of accidental repainting at OEM networks and unorganised repair garages, insurance penetration and policies such as the Vehicle Scrappage policy.
As one of the largest automotive markets in the world, India is strongly driving the global automotive demand. As per SIAM, the domestic Indian automotive industry is currently estimated at 21 mln units annually. The good news is that key indicators strongly suggest that the automotive OEM growth story in India continues to add momentum.
The vehicle refinishes coatings industry in India is driven by automotive OEM control. The car-owner retention is higher at 3 ~ 4 years due to a mix of several factors – robust insurance programmes offered by OEMs, consumer preference for automotive OEM authorised dealers, genuine parts availability, the convenience of cashless tie-ups and ease of claim settlements by insurance partners (with features such as zero-depreciation policy). The trickle-down effect to local independent garages is typically seen either or small scratch repairs or post this period when consumers’ vehicle insurance skews towards higher direct payout. Customisation, which is popular in mature geographies of the USA and Europe, does not carry a significant contribution in India due to the Road Transport legislation in India. While the refurbishment car repairs segment has picked up pace in the past few years, the market which was dominated by OEMs and Pre-Owned car verticals is seeing new competition and investment by aggregation players like – Cars24, Spinny, Car-Dekho etc.
Key Underlying Triggers for Transformation in the Automotive Coating Industry
The automotive landscape in India has drastically transformed in the past two decades. Different automotive industry segments have witnessed different transformations. For instance, the OEM first-fill coatings have upgraded to Cathodic Electrode Deposition (CED) line for filler application while the base topcoat lines are now converted to advanced robotic paint applications. Similarly, the CV segment has moved to Direct-to-metal (DTM) product and systems, more-efficient mono-coat application for tippers and construction equipment, Wet-on-wet systems and topcoat hiding optimisation for bus bodies etc.
The transformation is similar in vehicle refinish business, which has upgraded from NC/NC-acrylic based paints (commonly called as single pack or 1K paints) to two pack PU paints. Accelerating the technology adoption in India has been the faster effect-colour launches from OEM’s and the expectation of high quality with high aesthetics from refinish paints.
AkzoNobe’s Automotive and Specialty Coatings (ASC) business in India is leveraging on these growth trends by bringing world-class innovations to the Indian market. Since 1999, our globally leading vehicle refinish brand ‘Sikkens’ has endeared itself to stakeholders in this segment due to the high-quality products, differentiated technology offerings, robust colour reproducibility, deep understanding of the market along with a strong people-centric approach towards Bodyshop service needs.
Over two decades, AkzoNobel inaugurated its Automotive Training Centre (ATC) in Bengaluru. Since then, this Industry-pioneer, among paint players and automotive OEMs, ensures to offer right application techniques, quality repair system equivalent to OEM finish and upgrade application techniques or paint processes avoiding product/ system non-compatibilities – especially PU basecoat over NC base or wet sanding for bare metal or at polyester putty level. AkzoNobel’s refinish business unique consultative approach ensures the business scale-up a win-win for all. Our technical experts’ holistic participation for skill improvement of paint technicians, waste & re-do reduction, and productivity improvement with high-quality repair output have been integral to the ASC business growth of AkzoNobel in India.
AkzoNobel’s R&D Centres in India and Global
AkzoNobel supplies the sustainable and innovative paints and coatings that our customers, communities – and the environment – are increasingly relying on. That’s why everything we do starts with People. Planet. Paint. Our world class portfolio of brands – including Dulux, International, Sikkens and Interpon – is trusted by customers around the globe.
We constantly innovate to bring surfaces to life by offering our customers the most sustainable solutions that go beyond generations. As we strongly believe in the importance of innovation to keep AkzoNobel at the forefront of the paints and coatings industry, we continue to invest in R&D. Our robust R&D infrastructure enables us to perform ground-breaking research, facilitate innovation to create world-class products to deliver sustainable solutions for our customers.
AkzoNobel’s R&D centres across the world are innovating specific to our businesses – paints and coatings. These in turn are supported by solutions lab in countries where we operate. In addition to AkzoNobel’s five global R&D centres dedicated to Automotive & Specialty Coatings (ASC), the RD&I Centre at Bengaluru supports not only India but the global development. Our second RD&I Lab is in Thane.
Vehicle Refinishing is considered a form of art by many. It is also a skill of the automotive bodyshop that returns a battered and damaged car to its owner in showroom condition. It’s a skill that underlies how a bodyshop ensures customer satisfaction, as well as faster key-to-key times and a ‘right first-time’ colour match.
A premium quality finish does not happen by chance. It is attributed to both the skill of the individual painter and the quality of the automotive refinish paints.
Over the years, investments in Research & Development (R&D) have increased to bring new resins and products to the market. Laboratory testing regimes have also evolved and become more stringent – with sophisticated robotics and automated weathering machines introduced to test products to the limit.
R&D is not just limited to the product but also focuses on making bodyshops more efficient. This is why new colour retrieval tools are being developed. It is also why we are seeing a shift towards greater digitalisation that allows bodyshop businesses to take operational effectiveness to new levels.
Need for Reskilling
Though the maturity & growth story for India is just 25 ~ 30 years old, India has become talent factory for automotive body and paint technicians and the skill imbibement in technicians is very fast.
In India, collective efforts from the Government, OEM’s, equipment suppliers, suppliers and industry bodies such as SIAM, FADA and ASDC have accelerated the automotive repair segment’s transformation from unorganised to organised ecosystem. At AkzoNobel, we are committed to integrating innovation with sustainability in paints and coatings since the launch of “Sikkens” brand in India.
Customers’ awareness towards quality finish is playing a key role in differentiating quality output basis the skilling of technicians. Hence, most of the bodyshops are investing to upgrade their sector-relevant skills; or alternatively paying higher salaries to attract skilled talent. Infact, India has become an attractive hub for paint and body technicians being hired even for Middle-East countries basis their business growth alignment.
Recognising this need early, AkzoNobel successfully aligned paint certification programmes with several OEMs. Under these programmes, technicians are trained and mapped basis skill requirement and nature of work in collaboration with Skill contest governed at district, regional or national level. We also contributed trainings for “World Skills” for India Technician’s nomination by extending instructor, conducting skill evaluation, and supporting for paint materials time to time.
As “Perfection” is a journey, Akzonobel have been continuous towards fresh-skilling and upskilling. Our flagship vocation skill-training initiativeAkzoNobel Paint Academies in Navi Mumbai and Bengaluru have provided certified training and facilitated employment for over 2000 paint technicians in our repair centre eco-system.
Considering the impact of COVID-19 disruption in physical trainings, AkzoNobel proactively initiated digital audio-visual trainings with interactive learning modules on various aspects of paint refinishing globally as well as in India. These series have been very popular on YouTube channels helping technicians understand the latest product technologies and application techniques.
AkzoNobel also invested in defining critical parameters closer to physical paint application for virtual reality (VR) based augmented technology. Our VR metaverse tool called Paint Simulator has been a great success helping evaluate the skill of technicians, training them on proper application techniques without wasting paints, thus saving on VOC emission. All our AkzoNobel Paint Academy technicians are practicing initial hand movement with the simulator tool and it’s extending excellent confidence while doing physical application during the course.
Future of Automotive Paint
The Automotive Specialty Coatings (ASC) business has been one of AkzoNobel long standing business. Contributing nearly 60% of the world’s population, Asia Pacific region is home to some of the fastest-growing nations in terms of population size and economy. The ASC business encompasses vehicle refinishes, commercial vehicles and automotive OEM components which are predominately plastic coatings. It therefore comes as no surprise that AkzoNobel is committed to innovate world-class products, and technology for the region to serve customers more efficiently and sustainably. It’s all about fast, efficient, sustainable solutions with regulated VOC norms leading the way for future paint technology & related services.
Some of the many regional highlights includes the introduction of the Carbeat digital workflow application system in 2019. As one the first in the region, the Carbeat application system is an easy-to-use digital system to improve body shop production efficiency.
In response to the latest specific environmental legislative framework in China, AkzoNobel has introduced an expanded low-VOC product assortment in 2020. The low-VOC product portfolio raises the bar when it comes to meeting environmental legislative expectations. This depicts AkzoNobel devotion to shift towards more sustainable practices, to help limit climate changes.
In 2021, two of AkzoNobel ground-breaking innovations, the Sikkens Autosurfacer UV and Sikkens Autoclear Pro HS were awarded Best Innovation in the Automotive Aftermarket Category in the 8th World Auto Forum (WAF) awards in 2021.
MIXIT Cloud: A Powerhouse with Instant Access to More Than Two Million Colour Formulas and Variants
Digital colour technology is huge in the automotive refinish industry today. Bodyshop owners are constantly seeking new and effective ways to manage colour digitally. In that front, AkzoNobel has introduced her cloud application MIXIT system in 2018.
MIXIT brings incredible convenience for colour retrieval, providing customers with more than two million colour formulas and variants instantly. With up to 20,000 new formulas being created manually every year, MIXIT Cloud creates a seamless experience by providing instant access and replication ability of all the colours in the world at any time through the colour identification and retrieval application.
Virtual Technologies and the Sustainable Future
Today, AkzoNobel is constantly pushing the boundaries for innovation. In the training space, the ASC Asia team has been developing virtual and augmented reality capabilities in view of AkzoNobel innovative direction. In 2022, a virtual reality spray training programme was demonstrated, showing a more powerful way to make the spray-painting process efficient, sustainable, and engaging.
Today, AkzoNobel is committed to becoming a globally carbon-neutral company by 2050. The ‘RETHINK’ sustainability campaign in Europe was recently introduced in 2022 for Sikkens, a premium refinishes brand of AkzoNobel. The Rethink campaign shows how re-evaluating the products, tools and processes used within a bodyshop during a repair process can contribute to achieving carbon emissions reductions, saving energy, and reducing waste.
Collaboration with Leading Carbon Neutrality Consultancy Firm Carbon Neutral Repair (CNR)
Guided by our People. Planet. Paint. approach, which lies at the heart of everything we do, we’ve identified three key global topics – climate change, circularity, health and well-being – and made a commitment to future generations that we’ll do everything we can to address them.
This determination to remain a necessary business for a sustainable future is driven by four key 2030 ambitions: 50% less carbon emissions in our own operations and across the value chain; 50% of revenue from sustainable solutions; moving towards zero waste; and helping to empower more than 100,000 people in local communities through education.
At AkzoNobel, we’re always finding new and exciting ways to make our products more sustainable and longer lasting. Because paint matters – to us, to you and the world around us.
Recently AkzoNobel did a global launch for industry-first tool to drive bodyshop sustainability. Bodyshops can now take advantage of the vehicle refinish industry’s first repair calculator to measure, manage and reduce carbon emissions, which has been developed by AkzoNobel.
Designed to help customers improve their carbon footprint when using the company’s premium refinish products, the CO2eRepairCalculator* is part of a new initiative which aims to encourage bodyshops to become more sustainable.
The tool is the latest digital innovation from AkzoNobel focused on making a long-lasting difference to customers. It identifies the carbon levels associated with the painting and drying process – including the energy consumed – and is linked directly to the vehicle refinishing products being used. It also provides data relating to the emission of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), therefore helping customers to understand where improvements can be made.
“The company has set a science-based sustainability target to halve its carbon emissions across the full value chain by 2030. Achieving that ambition will rely heavily on collaborating with partners and challenging each other to find innovative ways to overcome the unprecedented challenges everyone faces.”
When using the tool, the emissions and energy consumed are calculated based on a controlled two-panel repair in a spray booth to Greenhouse Gas Protocol accounting standards. The results are presented in an online dashboard, which allows local energy prices to be factored in.
“The tool is part of our global initiative for bodyshops to ‘rethink’ sustainability throughout the entire refinishing journey. By showing actual figures, we’ll increase customer awareness and support them on their journey towards becoming a more sustainable business.”
The launch means it will now be easier for bodyshops to take positive action in an effort to meet their sustainability and carbon reduction targets. This is becoming increasingly important, as insurance companies are putting greater pressure on preferred bodyshop partners to cut their emissions in line with supply chain ambitions that meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The CO2eRepairCalculator is currently being introduced in the UK market to Sikkens customers (with Lesonal to follow shortly). It will be rolled out across markets in Europe and at global level during the next few months.
Launched in 2019, Paint the Future is AkzoNobel’s global collaborative innovation ecosystem. It’s a bold initiative to accelerate, test, launch and scale ideas and solutions for the paints and coatings industry. Paint the Future runs a variety of programmes to accelerate innovation. Initially open to startups, it was quickly expanded to embrace academia, research institutes and two large groups of suppliers. As the ecosystem continues to grow and build on the success of each programme, it’s become the largest in the industry.
The India startup challenge is the third regional edition of AkzoNobel’s Paint the Future, and the first such challenge for the paints and coatings industry in India.
For the two winning startups of AkzoNobel’s Paint the Future India startup challenge, the journey of acceleration has just begun. Winning the prestigious Paint the Future award has opened more doors for these startups. Having signed the letters of intent, the two winners now join AkzoNobel’s accelerator programme.
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“Over the next six months, the goal is clear – to work together with our winners and develop a digital value proposition. The startups will have access to our global network of experts and resources leading up to ‘Demo Day’. That’s when they’ll showcase the results that will shape the future of their collaboration with us. By bringing Paint the Future to the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, AkzoNobel is transforming the paints industry in India. We’re bringing value – for our winning startups, our business and most importantly for Dulux consumers,” says Oscar Wezenbeek, Managing Director, AkzoNobel Decorative Paints, South-East South Asia (SESA) and Chairman AkzoNobel India Limited.
“This startup challenge is about collaborating with equally passionate Indian startups to boost the magic of Dulux and enhance the digital experience of our consumers’. Innovation is key to AkzoNobel’s approach to sustainable business, and we see a lot of potential in these winning solutions,” says Rajiv Rajgopal, Managing Director, AkzoNobel India Limited.
Run in partnership with NASSCOM Industry Partnership Programme (NIPP), the challenge on enhancing “Digital Consumer Experience” for Dulux paints in India attracted 207 submissions from 33 cities across India.
New Technology Trends in Automotive Refinishing
The technology evolution will continue to transform the automotive refinishing segment. Alongside the robots and automated systems that are now an intrinsic part of Industry, the skill of the individual is still very much in demand – whether that’s within the manufacturer, be it the scientists developing new resins, or at the bodyshop, where highly-skilled car body painters are integral to achieving a successful customer outcome.
Low-VOC coatings will drive the sustainable future of the coatings for this segment. continually developed in line with evolving global standards. These new coatings not only help body shops reduce potentially harmful emissions, but also offer improvements in gloss, film build, drying time with ease of use and durability. Together with UV and ambient curing technologies, these innovations will further reduce energy consumption and help body shops to achieve long-term business profitability.
On the colour front digitisation will continue to be at the core. The rapid adoption of digital systems and mobile technologies have hugely influenced operational processes in the auto repair business. One instance is in the colour retrieval process. Among AkzoNobel’s recent innovations includes the launch of our very own digital colour retrieval software – MIXIT. Available on mobile devices via the Cloud, MIXIT provides bodyshops access to a global colour database of more than two million formulas, with new colours and variants updated in real-time.
The use of technology is also evident in auto repair workflow management. AkzoNobel’s digital process control solution Carbeat enables body shops to track every job status easily and control the flow of multiple vehicles, activities, parts and information in the facility more efficiently.
New solutions that have only recently been launched will also become more mainstream. This includes Connect, an Application Programming Interface (API) that facilitates the exchange of data between AkzoNobel’s digital applications and third-party software applications used by collision repair customers. This is just an example of how in the near future, all digital solutions in a bodyshop will be ‘connected’ to create a complete digital ‘ecosystem’, enabling data-driven decision making and planning.
Vehicle refinishing businesses face several challenges, and body shops, insurance companies, OEMs, and other partners will need to work collectively and collaboratively to ensure stakeholder needs are addressed. Future trends in vehicle refinishing will therefore continue to focus on finding new ways for owners to do more with less, to become more productive and sustainable, while reducing energy consumption and costs, and where ‘right first time’ is business as usual.
(With contributions from Akzo communications, R&DI and Technical team)
*CO2e stands for carbon dioxide and equivalent gases. The tool measures carbon dioxide (CO2) and equivalent gases such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), which all fall under the term greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Strategic Sales & Transformation Manager,
Vehicle Refinish – India and Sri Lanka, AkzoNobel
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