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Paint on Demand: Thinking Outside the Can


By Pamela Simmons

More items for Good Technical Practice

The terms green and sustainable are thrown around casually these days, but what do they really mean in terms of business practices?

Are they made of environmentally conscious materials using an environmentally conscious process? Are the by-products of their operation disposed of in an environmentally conscious way?

But products aside, green and sustainable also refer to efficiency when describing business practices. Many businesses are also growing continually aware of other types of waste—from time  to space—and have started from the ground up to analyze their energy costs with clever “outside the box” reinvention of operations we don’t typically think of.

 Paint Place

 Paint Place

Bryan and Anna Johnston outside their Las Vegas paint store.

Paint On Demand

Anna Johnston and her husband, Bryan, operate Paint Place in Las Vegas, but it’s not your average paint store. They provide contractors with freshly made paint, mixed on demand through an Automated Paint Machine (APM) manufactured by MicroBlend of Gilbert, AZ.

Occupying only about 250 square feet, the machine can mix up to 100 gallons of MicroBlend’s freshchoice brand paint in an hour, in any sheen, any color, and in quantities ranging from one quart to five gallons. Six liquid proprietary components are pumped from reservoir tanks to the dispenser, based on the type, quality, sheen, and color of the paint desired.  The APM precisely meters components and colorants in a one-step fill process.

Keeping it Nimble

“We have six 600-gallon tanks that store the six different components required to make the paint,” says Anna Johnston. “As we use the components, MicroBlend monitors the levels of each and ships replacement quantities as needed, in plastic bladders inside large cardboard totes.”

She adds, “The APM allows us to offer every product and sheen available with five minutes’ notice and without having to commit to thousands of square footage of warehouse space.”

 Paint Place

 Paint Place

Tanks containing MicroBlend’s six proprietary components, bearing their Greek “code” names.

Formerly in the accounting biz, Anna would help her husband review costs as he managed a large local paint contracting company. “The area dictates what you can charge customers—and you get what you pay for if you cut labor—so what was spent on materials was the logical place to look for cost savings.”

The Johnstons stumbled on the APM technology from a local paint supplier who had used it. When the supplier ceased operation (due to unrelated circumstances), the Johnstons purchased the set-up and opened Paint Place.

A-OK from MPI

Suitable for interior and exterior residential and commercial applications, freshchoice is latex acrylic, low odor and low VOC. It contains DuPont’s Ti-Pure titanium dioxide, and most of the product line has achieved MPI’s Green Performance Standard (GPS).

The APM system also complies with “every known environmental requirement, including current VOC standards and regulations,” according to MicroBlend.

Darrell May, owner of Smith Painting, a contractor in Tempe, AZ, leased an APM from MicroBlend. He’s done commercial and residential jobs with it, interior and exterior, and says that both he and his customers have been more than satisfied with the coverage and quality of the company’s medium-grade paint.

Because he can make paint for any job immediately right in his shop, no time is lost picking up paint or waiting for stock, says May. The equipment allows him to recreate colors identically and eliminate surpluses.  “If I ran out, I just made more and it matched exactly, every time,” he said.

 Paint Place

 Paint Place

 The APM dispenses product on site.

MicroBlend is thinking outside traditional procedures with a manufacturing and point-of-sale strategy that addresses green issues, apart from the product itself. When you can manufacture exactly what you need, on site, you reduce or eliminate shipping and storage costs and time spent locating and retrieving product, and time spent on inventory.

As issues of labor, cost, and efficiency continue to be overhauled hand in hand with issues of environmental impact, we will continue to see a revision of the business model as we know it. Necessity is the mother of invention, but necessity may have a new stepchild in reinvention.


Pamela Simmons

As Director of Marketing at Technology Publishing Company (publisher of Durability + Design, PaintSquare, and JPCL), I’m here to shed light on the human side of our collective endeavors in the industries and trades we find ourselves engaged in. We'll talk about the people behind the projects: creating the designs, using the technologies, industry interactivity, and achieving the synthesis that makes it all work.



Tagged categories: Business management; Business operations; Business types; Coating Business; Coatings manufacturers; Cost-savings; Distributors; Formulating; Franchise; Paint storage; Retail; Software; Sustainability

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