Federico Menta, 46, PPG's global technical director for automotive in Milan, Italy, spoke with News Editor Lindsay Chappell about the new approach. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: This new tool that PPG calls its "digital styling program" — what is it?
A: It is a way for us to deliver our color proposals to our customers digitally instead of physically, to bring our proposals to the automaker in a way they can use.
Is it more or less a software program?
No. It's not something artificially created on a computer screen. It's a couple of things. It's the actual digital fingerprint of the paint.
First, we're talking about the definition of a new color. Our typical design phase for our styling team is two to three months, and we often have to create a range of five to seven new colors.
So to do that, we had to develop the technology to create the digital fingerprint of that color. But then we also have to be able to create the shapes, on the screen, of where the paint will be used. There are curves and bends, and parts with concave or convex surfaces. A lot of color now changes with the viewing angle. The paint has to take into consideration the different geometries, shapes and light of a vehicle. So all of that has to be done digitally.
How did PPG arrive at this idea?
We had been working on it for a couple of years — being able to communicate with our customers digitally. But with the pandemic, we realized we needed to put the idea to use.
Someday soon, the industry will return to life as we used to know it. Will you continue to use this remote customer collaboration when the pandemic ends?
Yes. We're already working to develop and augment it further. For us, it's the fact that we can collaborate more effectively. There's no reason we should stop.