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Konica Minolta Sensing Americas Inc.

Metrology

Accurate Color Measurement Protects Brand Identity

Konica Minolta portable spectrophotometer helps manage color throughout the manufacturing process.

Published: Monday, January 25, 2010 - 06:00

Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co. KG is a global leader in the field of cleaning technology. Their innovative cleaning products are manufactured in Baden-Württemberg, continuously improved, efficiently marketed and have provided the company with continuous, organic growth. Today, almost 60 years after the invention of the European hot water high-pressure cleaner, the family company from Winnenden is synonymous with what is probably its most successful product in the commercial and private sectors. Many customers therefore often ask for a “Kärcher” when they are looking for a high-pressure cleaner in a do-it-yourself (DIY) store. Customers immediately identify “Kärcher” systems as soon as they see a selection of different cleaning systems. The compact, appealing design of the ergonomically optimized yellow high-pressure cleaners with the black components are instantly recognizable as Kärcher products. Both colors, especially the yellow, are an important recognition feature for Kärcher cleaning machines.

Color: A means of communication

Yellow and black are more than just the colors to Kärcher, they represent the promise of performance from the entire company. They are a meaningful and easily recognizable symbol and an emotional bearer of corporate communication and, therefore, an important constituent of the Kärcher brand. The colors orient customers when making purchasing decisions, and not just in DIY stores and specialized trade outlets. They stand for performance, service and quality products.

The use of a precise color makes customers automatically think about the product and brand concerned. And what’s more: in the customer's mind, a special product color is linked to its characteristics. More than just reflected light; a color is a symbol of quality and focuses the customer's attention to the product and the company. Color is a strategic tool for corporate identity (CI).

"For this reason, our products and the stand itself look like they came out of the same mold at every exhibition that we attend," says Kathrin Linkersdörfer, from the material lab at Kärcher. "Our CI is extremely important to us, and it is an essential part of our communication with customers. Even the smallest color change would be instantly recognizable."

Color measurement and management is key to success

To ensure that product color is consistent and that the brand image is protected, it is important that coloring results are consistent through each stage of production and fabrication. An accurate and easy-to-use color management system is critical to this goal. Color consistency is maintained by means of continuous color measurements. All color information is stored with reference samples throughout the production chain, from supply to prefabrication and final dispatch. A color management system must also have good ergonomics, measurement validity, measuring speed and efficient data transmission, particularly when the results are being determined in a harsh manufacturing environment. Competent advice, service and support, are also important when a color management system is being chosen.

All reliable quality management systems must have a coherent process control system, and it is particularly important for different hardware systems to work well together without problems throughout the departments at the individual production stages. All color measurements in a workflow must be comparable, i.e., the reference values of the desktop equipment in the laboratory must be comparable to the production samples acquired using portable equipment. In 2005 Kärcher choose to use the CM-2600d portable spectrophotometer manufactured by Konica Minolta Sensing, due to its quality and popularity.

“Konica Minolta Sensing has become the industrial standard in this area, a standard on which our suppliers are also reliant,” explains Linkersdörfer. “The use of the CM-2600d ensures that desktop and portable manual devices operate in the same way.”

However, Kärcher takes the comparability of the measurements further. Suppliers also have quality requirements to meet.

For this reason, the color values of the special yellow and black in the Kärcher corporate identity are stored as reference samples with the respective material-related formulas, and are available in the form of color samplers. Kärcher has its own standard for the color composition. The reference data serves as a production basis for its suppliers, so that corporate identity is maintained throughout the manufacturing process.

Strong features for demanding applications

The technical features of the CM-2600d are a major advantage. The spectrophotometer can use different standard light sources and different color systems. The measurements can be immediately shown on the display of the CM-2600d in different measuring modes and PASS/FAIL measurements can be quickly performed thanks to stored data (set points and tolerances).

“You can already see whether the color standard has been achieved while measurement is taking place”, says Linkersdörfer. In the color workflow, the data that has been acquired during the PASS/FAIL measurement appears directly on the display via the serial interface without additional conversion. This speeds the process up in comparison to systems in which the measurements have to undergo further processing using special software.

There is also the ergonomic design of the spectrophotometer. Its unique navigation wheel allows the user to access the different menus both easily and intuitively. All functions are literally “at hand” and are easy to access and operate.

“The Konica Minolta Sensing measuring system is the perfect companion to our quality management system with its easy to use, portable spectrophotometers. They are an important constituent with regard to our quality and our corporate identity,” summarizes Linkersdörfer.

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Konica Minolta Sensing Americas Inc.

Konica Minolta Sensing Americas Inc. (KMSA), a wholly owned subsidiary of Konica Minolta Holdings USA Inc., is the global leader in the industrial measurement of color, light, and shape. The company developed and introduced the first portable spectrophotometers and colorimeters, adding new dimensions of convenience and functionality. Its innovative products dramatically changed the way color, light, and shape dimension is measured. Products include colorimeters and spectrophotometers for color measurement, spectroradiometers and lux meters for light measurement, and 3-D noncontact digitizers for shape measurement. Thousands of companies’ (including food, plastics, paints/coatings, automotive, aerospace, and cosmetics) product quality is entrusted to Konica Minolta instruments.