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Over 10 years ago, the Iowa Waste Reduction Center (IWRC) at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) discovered a key factor in spray painting operations - that spray technique could essentially make or break a paint job. Poor technique used by improperly trained painters could lead to defects, corrosion and numerous other coating failures. On the other hand, a sufficiently trained spray painter using proper technique not only improves the quality of the finished product and saves money, but could also reduce rework, save materials and decrease their environmental impact.

STAR4D

This valuable knowledge was transferred to military painting operations through the IWRC’s Spray Technique Analysis and Research for Defense (STAR4D) program which is preparing to hit a milestone – 10 years in operation this month. The program began in 2003 under the oversight of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) before transitioning to the Corrosion Prevention and Control (CPAC) office of the Marine Corps in 2011. In the last 10 years, STAR4D has trained and certified military painters from bases all over the country and from every branch of service.

Certification Training

Painters travel to Cedar Falls, IA to participate in a three-day certification program which takes them through the entire painting process from start to finish. Throughout the program, painters go through three intermixed processes for training. They participate in the classroom lectures and hands-on training to learn the basics of preparing parts, the coating itself, proper equipment setup, technique, cleaning, and maintenance. They spend time in the spray booth using real equipment and military specification coatings. They also practice using the UNI’s virtual reality system, VirtualPaint, which provides the opportunity to focus on honing particular skills and techniques. Combining the three processes creates a balanced and complete program for painters to optimize their potential from training and be able to apply what they have learned once back on the production line.
takes them through the entire painting process from start to finish. Throughout the program, painters go through three intermixed processes for training. They participate in the classroom lectures and hands-on training to learn the basics of preparing parts, the coating itself, proper equipment setup, technique, cleaning, and maintenance. They spend time in the spray booth using real equipment and military specification coatings. They also practice using the UNI’s virtual reality system, VirtualPaint, which provides the opportunity to focus on honing particular skills and techniques. Combining the three processes creates a balanced and complete program for painters to optimize their potential from training and be able to apply what they have learned once back on the production line.

The benefits of proper painter training are multi-faceted. Production can be increased by reducing time needed for rework, decreasing coating failures that lead to corrosion and ensuring a quality finished product. Military facilities save material and money by using less material while increasing the quality of the finished product. From an environmental perspective, facilities reduce hazardous waste and air emissions. These culminate to saving valuable time, money and resources.

Expansion to Satellite Sites

Military facilities have found the training so advantageous that STAR4D began a satellite site program. The program works similar to a franchise system. For larger bases with an expansive workforce, it is not economical to send all their paint staff to Iowa for training. In lieu of this travel, training becomes available to them at their facility, certifying their painters when they do their annual base-required trainings or when it is convenient within their production schedule. Instructors at the base are trained by STAR4D to run STAR4D training through a separate certification course. “We work closely with the base to ensure their instructors are prepared to conduct their own STAR4D training program. We provide classroom materials, equipment and assistance to ensure the program is a success,” says Rick Klein, STAR4D Program Manager.

The program currently has 10 sites located as close as only a couple hours from STAR4D in Rock Island Arsenal, IL and as far away as Camp Kinser in Okinawa, Japan. One of the biggest benefits of being a satellite site is the ability to provide painter training on-site. In the past, facilities had to send all of the painters to Iowa for the three-day class. Now it can be done at their convenience working around production schedules. Michael Jackson, the paint supervisor at the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base in Barstow, CA, one of STAR4D’s satellite sites says, “We are going on our fourth year of using STAR4D. Since then, our cost in paint related waste has gone way down.”

What began as a small training program in Iowa has now transformed into a certification program that not only continues to conduct painter training but has disseminated through a satellite site program to train and instruct hundreds more painters. When dealing with military assets, it is imperative to ensure safety and readiness. The proper training can do this through reducing corrosion and coating failures, eliminating environmental waste and rework, in conjunction with saving time, money and resources.

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