When the word came down that my visit to the Los Angeles headquarters of BEHR would require me to wear closed-toed shoes, I got a little nervous. You see, I was already picturing the Breaking-Bad style jumpsuit that I'd be zipped into and the hard hat they'd plop onto my head. Turns out, it wasn't quite that intense (although I did don some very flattering goggles) but it was fascinating.
A little confession: I'm mildly obsessed with factories. When I want to relax, nothing does it like putting on an episode of the surprisingly soothing show How It's Made with its rhythmic soundtrack and deep-voiced narrator. So, needless to say, I was pretty excited about my first in-person visit to a real, honest-to-goodness factory.
The room itself is enormous. It could easily house a train station or a symphony orchestra, but instead, this soaring-ceilinged space makes the paint you will soon be rolling onto your walls. In typical factory-style, mechanical sounds of clanking metal and forklift beeping bounce around the room, which is filled with mysterious machines and topped off with a running track of empty paint cans continuously spiraling overhead. The process starts with dry materials which arrive by truck or by rail and are lifted onto towering racks.
Each batch of paint is controlled by a touch screen in the "command center" and is made completely hands-free. The BEHR team lovingly refer to their process as "making a cake" because they use essentially the same method as your favorite recipe: mix dry ingredients together then combine with wet. The bags of dry ingredients are first milled in huge underground dispersers to make sure the particle size is uniform. Here's something interesting I'd never considered before: various sheens of paint — matte, eggshell or gloss — require different sizes of particles.
The prepared dry ingredients then travel through tubes into enormous let-down tanks (described to me as giant Kitchen Aid mixers) which can hold batches of either 4,000, 8,000 or 12,000 gallons at a time. I stood above an empty let-down tank and let me tell you, it was indeed vertigo-inducing. Frankly, I'm surprised they let clumsy me anywhere near it.
Then it's on to the fun part: the cans. Plastic cans are not only lighter to carry, but they also remain dent-free. After their long journey around the cavernous room, they arrive ready to be filled on the factory floor. Remember my automated-factory craving? This is the part of the tour that was just so satisfying. The cans run on their track to the filling station, where they take a spin on a scale of all things! These cans are filled by weight so the paint pours until they've depressed their metal holder the perfect amount, then the flow stops. All the paint is white (it gets tinted at the Home Depot, the exclusive retailer for BEHR) so certain cans get a "low fill" to account for bright or deep colors which require a higher color-t0-paint base ratio.
Finally the filled cans get a spin on the labeler, a lid is tapped on and the metal handle is applied. Voila! Finished paint ready to deliver to stores.
This is not a sponsored post but my thanks for BEHR for providing my transportation and accommodations during this trip.