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The impact of training, OEM procedures and equipment

Monday, April 1, 2019 - 07:00
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In four previous columns (“Maintenance, inventory management to boost KPIs,” March 2019; “Use a paint list, right vehicle prep to boost throughput,” February 2019; “Maximize your paint shop performance,” January 2019; and “Track and improve these numbers in your refinish department,” December 2018) I outlined some of the factors you should consider when trying to improve your paint shop’s KPIs. Here are the final factors on my list.

Make sure your paint team is well trained

Has your painter been to the latest manufacturer training classes for the product line you are currently using? Industry-wide, I see this as a real failure. Too many shops presume if the painter has at some point been to a tinting or application class, that’s sufficient. But the materials can change, and certainly one manufacturer’s training can’t take the place of another, if you’ve switched lines or product. Each system has its differences – in terms of recommended gun settings, air caps and fluid tips, for example – and your paint team needs current training on the particular products they are using.

Training for improved paint shop performance can’t be limited to just your paint team. It could be your estimators who are responsible for your paint department seeming less productive or profitable than it should be. Tech-reps tell me frequently that they see paint departments performing labor that isn’t included on original estimates or final invoices. That not-included labor has a double-dip impact on the paint shop’s numbers, because the shop is not being paid for the procedures it is doing and also receives less paint and materials compensation based on the lower labor hours.

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There’s a long list of not-included refinish procedures that are often left off estimates or supplements. They include:

            - labor to refinish the backsides of panels;

            - labor to tint a second color for a trunk area or under-the-hood;

            - labor to prep raw plastic parts; and,

            - labor to mask an engine compartment or sunroof opening.

Chances are good your paint shop frequently does many of these steps to make the car look like it did prior to the accident. But their productivity numbers will look worse than they really are if that labor time isn’t being captured by the estimator.

We’re not talking about inflating estimates here. We’re talking about capturing real refinish labor hours that that the paint shop is performing but that you may not be billing for.

Follow OEM procedures

The industry tends to think about automaker repair procedures mostly in terms of welding specifications, cutting locations and other body department operations. But there are a growing number of OEM procedures for the paint shop as well.

With the number of cameras and sensors expanding, for example, paint film thickness is increasingly an issue. Estimators and painters need to know what can and can’t be refinished.

Many manufacturers have issued bulletins saying there can’t be any overspray on wiring harnesses. The smart-wiring that connects high-tech vehicle systems can register such overspray as resistance, impacting performance.

Check the paint shop equipment you’re using

Each paint manufacturer specs out things like recommended gun settings for their products. Yet I often see painters deviating from the manufacturer guidelines for such things as air caps and fluid tips. They may be using settings that worked well for another product line they’d used previously, but that can mean they’re now applying too much or too little material. They’re building in a potential premature failure or may be consuming more than is needed.

Air compressors and spraybooths are also among the equipment impacting paint shop performance. You may not need to replace either to improve outcomes; good maintenance or modifications may suffice. I’ve been in some spraybooths, for example, with incredibly dim lighting, especially on the sides of vehicles. Just getting the proper color-corrected lighting in the booth and throughout the paint department can improve the speed of color match, application quality, and overall throughput.

Monitoring ramp-up time can be important as well. How long it takes to get the vehicle metal temperature up to a 140-degree bake cycle can vary widely from booth to booth – and can change as a booth ages. You have to take this into consideration if you don’t want to be pulling “half-baked pizzas out of the oven.”

Working on any of the factors I’ve discussed here and in previous columns offers your best shot at boosting paint shop productivity and profit.

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