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Use experiences of other shops to better your own

Inspired by others, becoming a dust-free shop is a key goal for my business
Monday, March 20, 2017 - 07:00
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If you are not finding the time to visit other successful body shops (across town or across the country) on a regular basis, that’s something I’d challenge you to start doing this year. Over the years, I’ve often been inspired by ideas I’ve seen implemented by the shops operated by the other members of my 20 group.

Something I saw recently at my friend Joe Amodei’s collision business, The Collision Centers of New York, for example, inspired one focus of my business this year: eliminating dust. Joe took me to an area in one of his shops where a technician had just finished a big quarter-panel job. Unlike in most shops (including mine), where that amount of mud work would have resulted in an inch of dust on everything, that work area in Joe’s shop had no dust, on the floor or elsewhere.

Also think about what that dust is costing your business. There are added costs associated with cleaning the shop, buffing or de-nibbing painted panels and detailing vehicles. Perhaps most importantly, there are potential health costs for our employees. We’ve all seen a technician surrounded by a cloud of dust.

So I’m on a kick to remove all that dust from our shops. We are in the process of switching to a vacuum system in our facilities, and we’re also putting in new filtration systems in our buildings to filter the air.

We are also making some other investments as well. Like Joe’s shops, we’re getting some mobile work stations that include a vacuum system, along with everything a tech needs to do mud work. It’s all on a cart that can be moved to wherever the vehicle is in the shop. I talked to a tech who was using such a station in one of Joe’s shops, and he concurred it was the “real deal.” You can cut dust down to next to nothing.

Also, based on some rave reviews from members of my 20 group and their employees, we recently added a Stat-Gun to each of our paint departments. The gun essentially removes any static electricity from parts that are about to be painted or clear-coated. A number of processes in the shop can produce the static electricity on a vehicle, but tacking off parts just prior to painting is one of the highest generators of static electricity. Running this gun over those parts just prior to spraying eliminates that static electricity.

I talked to two of my painters a week after they started using the gun, and they said between color match and buffing, it is the biggest game changer they’ve seen in this industry in a long time. One painter, who probably averaged about 20 dirt nibs per vehicle, said his average now is three dirt nibs. We’re talking drastic changes.

They’ve also found some night-and-day difference in color match, especially when comparing a metallic on a bumper to a quarter panel. In the past, the metallic on the bumper might stand up on end where they may lay flat on a quarter. So you’d have two different colors. The gun removes the static electricity and helps prevent that.

As I said, this is another instance of when talking to other shops made the difference for me. I’d seen ads for these guns and seen them at trade shows, but I never gave it a lot of credence. Another toy, right? But once Connecticut shop owner Bob McSherry, of North Haven Auto Body, tried one out and told our 20 group, “This is big time,” we ended up getting three of them.

So, yes, removing the dust from our facilities by the end of 2017 is requiring some investment. But I’m convinced that the savings — in terms of improved productivity, quality and employee health — will be gigantic.

That’s my goal — all thanks to what I’ve learned from other shops I’ve visited.

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