At Hallman-Lindsay, making paint is far more interesting than watching it dry.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Behind the walls of the Hallman-Lindsay Paint store in Sun Prairie, Dave Dedie and his staff methodically make the paint that soon will be slathered on hundreds of exterior and interior structures around the state. Dedie, 50, has worked for Hallman-Lindsay Paint for 29 years, and as the company’s plant supervisor and production manager, he’s been a part of the process ever since taking a long-ago summer job.

Hallman-Lindsay, a family-owned company, will celebrate its 60th year in business in 2016. This is the headquarters for the company’s 24 retail outlets around the state, and its only manufacturing plant. The company employs 120 workers statewide, with about half of them located in Dane County.

The 83,000- square-foot factory located in Sun Prairie’s business park is surprisingly clean, not overly noisy, and of course, smells like paint. Metal racks rise to the ceilings and store paint of all kinds. Black metal canisters hold oil-based paint, while white plastic buckets contain water-based products. Latex water-based paints account for about 95% of the company’s production.

The floor area is light-filled and bright. Most employees wear white, and more often than not, white paint is being produced. Occasionally, colors are manufactured at a client’s request, but typically, tints are added later, using computerized formulas and consumer preferences.

Masks are optional, and most workers appear to go without. “We’ve had testing done,” Dedie says, “and the levels of dust, with our dust-vac system, are so low that masks are not required.”

Batch of color

Inside a large vat, above, ingredients are mixed into what will become 600 gallons of paint. Just before containers are filled with fresh paint, the liquid flows through a balloon filter to catch any stray or unwanted solids, below.

At this moment, Dedie’s focus is on a large yellow vat. “We’re running some titanium slurry and water in the tank right now,” he says. To the layperson, the concoction resembles soapsuds.

A mixing arm spins the liquid that will soon become 600 gallons of paint. The company has tanks that can accommodate as few as 100 gallons or as many as 2,700 gallons.

In a process akin to adding ingredients to a cake mix, Dedie adds a milky-colored defoamer to the spinning batter, followed by a clear liquid that really gets the mixture swirling. “This is an ingredient that will allow colorants to tint or be accepted into the paint,” he explains. “It also gives the paint flow-ability, so when someone is brushing or rolling it out, it levels and flows evenly.”

Multiple sacks of powders are emptied into the spinning bowl — pigment solids, thickeners, and whitening agents. A forklift is needed to hoist two huge bags of Tioxide into the air so Dedie can dump their contents into the mix.

“Now that we have all of the solids dumped in, it has to dwell, or grind, for 20 minutes to get it smooth,” he explains, checking his watch.

Next, he’ll add latex, comparing it to Elmer’s Glue. “It is the product that will make the paint stick to the wall and give it its different sheen.” The more latex added, the higher the sheen. Paints are produced with varying degrees of shine: gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, lo-sheen, and flat (flat has the least amount of latex). The company produces over 200 different kinds of interior and exterior paint designed for various surfaces and conditions. This particular batch will become Hallman Lindsay’s EarthScapes Lo-Sheen product.

After the first 20 minutes go by, Dedie will add more defoamer and more ingredients, mix it for another 20 minutes, and then take a sample to quality control to “get it on spec.” The paint made this morning will be in containers by afternoon and shipped out the next day.



Paint and pigments

Numerous bags of powdered materials are used to make paint. Some bags are so large that they must be hoisted by a forklift so they can be emptied into the vat.

Dedie’s day began at about 6:30 a.m. and he’ll work until 3:30 p.m. He arrives earlier than his crew so he can prepare for the day’s production schedule, which he scheduled the day before based on orders and stock movement. “Predicting what might go out in a day or week or month depends on orders,” he says. “That’s why I schedule on a daily basis.” Things can change on a moment’s notice.

Between shipping, receiving, manufacturing, and filling, the plant typically runs with about 17 employees, with an additional five seasonal employees added in summer to keep up with demand. Winters tend to be slower because the exterior paint market falls off.

The company offers thousands of paint colors, and can color match any color or fabric swatch. While it assigns names to some of its paint tints, the majority of names come from outside industry sources.

Once a batch of paint has cleared the quality-control process — which could take as little as 15 minutes or as long as a day — the paint is pumped into any of four different filling lines, where it will be pumped into quart-sized containers, gallons, five-gallon pails, and 55-gallon drums. Many will be stocked on the warehouse shelves, while others are set on pallets for pickup and distribution the next morning.

On this visit, one employee just finished filling 23 five-gallon, pre-labeled drums with paint from the vat that was just manufactured. Another employee secures the lids and lifts them onto a pallet. With that task complete, 350 one-gallon cans are next.

Before being emptied into any container, the fresh paint travels through a bubble-like cloth strainer that removes any unwanted materials. Then, in just a matter of seconds, paint flows into the can from a high-powered nozzle, its lid is secured by machine, and the can rolls along a conveyor belt, where it is brushed with an adhesive and affixed with a paper label. Seconds later, the can corkscrews out of the machine, where one employee attaches the metal paint-can handle, and another loads it onto a pallet.

Three hundred forty-nine cans to go.

Green: More than a paint color

Once filled, paint containers are either stockpiled in the warehouse or prepared for distribution elsewhere.

Except for some added automation, Dedie says the process of paint making hasn’t changed much since he’s been on board. He enjoys the challenges presented every day, and finds a sense of accomplishment in “getting products to customers when they need them.”

He is particularly proud of the fact that he was instrumental in making the Hallman-Lindsay process more environmentally friendly. About 95% of the water it creates is recycled back into the company’s products, using four different wash water categories: white, color-smooth, texture, and dark. Water is used to wash out tanks, pumps, and filling cups, and must be so categorized so it can be reused for subsequent batches.

“We have a machine that processes the water, separates it from the solids, and then shaves the solids off into a tub. The clear water just goes down the sewer drain, so we have no waste in the water. It’s just what we do,” Dedie says, noting that it’s not an EPA requirement.

He remembers a time when recycling was not a mindset. “But as time goes on, things change, and it became a big concern of mine to have the capacity to recycle the water. Each day as I schedule, I’m reminded that it’s not just about scheduling the paint, it’s about reusing the water we create.”

Go to to watch an exclusive video of Dave Dedie demonstrating the paint-making process.

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