I’m standing on a coating job at Sutter Health in San Francisco. I can’t help but think of that classic story where a woman always cut the ends off her pot roast.
When asked why she says, “Because that’s how mom did it.”
When mom is asked why she did it that way, she replies, “because my pan was too short.”
It’s a classic illustration of a problem innovators face. Most people do things a certain way because that’s “just how they’re done.” It’s hard to change how people do things. Rather than fix a problem, most people grin and bear it, when they could dare to “think different” and solve their problem.
The Big Problem with Coating Primers
Case in point: White commercial roof coatings are placed on top of a coat of grey primer. Primer has ALWAYS been grey, ever since roof coatings entered the market 30 years ago.
The problem is there is little contrast between grey and white, so it’s hard to see if you got your coating on thick enough. Why?
Imagine looking across a field of snow on a beautiful day. It’s insanely bright and hurts your eyes so much that you reach for your sunglasses.
Now imagine you are the roofer. It’s a bright, sunny day and even though you got your sunglasses on, you’re squinting as you spray a highly reflective coating over a grey layer of primer.
What’s going to happen?
Since your eyeballs have been blasted with sunlight all day long, it’s going to be hard to tell the difference between grey and white.
You’re going to miss some spots.
Maybe you’ll catch them later, maybe not.
That’s just how it’s ALWAYS been since commercial roof coatings first hit the market thirty-some years ago.
FINALLY, somebody has fixed this glaring problem.
The three stages to roof restoration.
GACO Thinks Different
In 2015, GACO debuted a multi-purpose primer known as A4207 BleedTrap. It was a grey primer that also prevented oils from an underlying asphalt roof from bleeding up through a white coating and turning it yellow.
Yellow is bad because it’s less reflective than white. It also looks gross.
Then, in early 2020, GACO decided to change the primer color from grey to red, so it would be easier to see the areas where the roof coating was applied too lightly.
I want to say it’s brilliant (so I can make another bad pun), but I also want to ask “why didn’t this innovation happen sooner?”
In the 35+ years roof coatings have been around, apparently, nobody ever said “Grey is hard to see in a field of blinding white. We could do things differently.”
Fortunately, somebody at GACO said “Hey, let’s make the primer red. That way it will be easy to see if the coating isn’t being put down thick enough.”
You’ve probably heard these words of wisdom: “Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”
But when we don’t take anything for granted, no matter how humble, it opens the door to innovation.
On a side note, another benefit of making the primer red? It makes roofs look like a piece of modern art.
These abstract geometrics are reminiscent of a Mondrian painting.
Anyhow, good job GACO. Your people broke with tradition and fixed a real problem. Hopefully, more companies will follow your lead.
I can almost hear them kicking themselves asking “why didn’t we think of that?”
About the Author
Donovan Rittenbach Jr. is the digital marketing manager at ACS. He is a photographer, web developer and copywriter.