CHARLOTTE — Rarely does a company call both proud traditionalists and progressive adapters as their collective target client base.
|Axalta trainer Ron Haddix demonstrated the paint lines in Axalta's facility in Charlotte, NC.|
But Axalta has managed to straddle the line in the collision repair industry by offering high-technology products that can appease both, along with those who fall in the middle.
Their internal direction was not by accident. Keeping a close eye on the collision repair market, Axalta has seen the trends. Big insurers are becoming more and more influential. Since 2010, they have grown from 59 percent of the business to more than 71 percent of the business in 2016 by continuing to push their direct repair programs (DRPs).
In turn, the big insurers have also continued to reward DRP members — most notably multi-shop operators (MSOs) who have perfected and standardized their repair process — with more and more workflow. This has fueled MSO segment growth from 13 percent of the collision repair market in 2003 to 30 percent in 2014, said Harry Christman, Axalta’s North America Cromax brand manager.
“The MSO market size is growing. It is now roughly 30 percent of the market. But the non-MSO market size is still very large, at about 70 percent,” Christman said. “Despite all the consolidation fueled by the Big 4 growth, the non-MSO market is still very sizeable.”
Taking into account the market direction, Axalta wanted to respond with appropriate paint technology. “MSOs are about streamlined productivity, getting cars through as efficiently as possible,” Christman said. “And while the single-shop market may not typically have cars lined up out the door with insurer-driven traffic, they still need efficiency.”
Axalta has provided answers to these industry challenges in the form of two paint offerings — Cromax EZ and Spies Hecker Permahyd Hi-TEC.
Axalta’s state-of-the-art Customer Experience Center in Charlotte, N.C. — on the Hendricks Motorsports campus — is a sleek and modern training facility, but it educates with a focus on long-standing principles — hands-on learning and development through practice, repetition and mistakes.
Axalta invited members of the trade media down to their facility in February to try out the Cromax and Spies Hecker products that are making waves in the paint segment. As novice painters who collectively have handled spray guns maybe a dozen times, we weren’t expecting to walk away with a new career path. But as inexperienced as we may have been, the benefits of the paint lines were palpable.
We started with Cromax EZ. Christman walked us through the details of the paint — a waterborne basecoat that boasts exceptional end-result quality and color-match capabilities with the same coat-flash application process technicians have typically perfected over years of experience.
The product is a natural fit for painters who are comfortable with their process and “want to do it as they have always done.” Axalta did not want to change the process or the feel of working with a traditional solventborne paint, but they were able to work in some technology to improve speed and coverage while keeping the workflow the same.
With the tagline “Easy to mix. Easy to match. Easy to apply,” Cromax EZ is applied in the familiar wet on dry application process, similar to solventborne paints. There is no special application or blending training required, and because the toners do not need agitation, there is no need for a conventional mix machine in the shop. And while preparing waterborne basecoat to spray can, at times, be complex due to the interaction of temperature and humidity, EZ vastly simplifies things for the painter using just a single reducer and one uniform mix ratio across all environmental conditions and paint types.
But not every painter is a traditionalist. Axalta’s Steffen Apollo, North America Spies Hecker brand manager, discussed the Spies Hecker Permahyd Hi-TEC line and its appeal to the industry.
|(From left to right): Christman, Haddix and Apollo at the Charlotte facility.|
“There are those who say, 'I want to stick with what I know works,' and there are those who latch on to the idea of a product and efficiency steps that help them break out of the cookie cutter,” Apollo said. “MSOs desire to grow and improve in every step of the process. They keep a scoreboard and drive their business around improvement in their very large-scale, big operations. KPIs are key, and they cannot afford too much variability. They also want to cement their culture into all employees.”
To be successful to these customers, Axalta built a new system around its most successful basecoat. Spies Hecker Permahyd Hi-TEC is 55 percent faster than competition. It goes on in 1.5 coats with no flash between coats. It offers an increased capacity, higher pigment content, better coverage and 95 percent of colors cover in 1.5 coats. It offers less consumption and higher profitability.
“It gives you the edge to increase productivity and capacity with higher spray booth throughout,” Apollo said. “It is also a very streamlined product offering. It keeps less products on a shop’s shelves, so not as much money is tied up in products. Spies Hecker’s streamlined design simplifies training and inventory control without any trade offs in productivity, application range and quality.”
On-site trainers Bob Little and Ron Haddix demonstrated the products and proper painting techniques that best showcased the paint capabilities. We were able to try our hand with both products, and see the differences in paint coverage, time and technology.
But Axalta wants you to be the judge. Try both products, learn more about their technology and see which works best within your shop process. To learn more about Axalta’s paint offerings or to give the Cromax EZ or Spies Hecker Permahyd Hi-TEC lines a try, go to: axaltacs.com.