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Controlling material inventories is a shop-wide effort

Monday, February 15, 2016 - 09:00
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I think most of you will agree that materials expense is a constant concern for collision center management. Some of the concerns I see when I visit shops is their inability to control inventory and waste.

Most painters usually have a little more paint in the rack than needed and may tend to mix a little more paint than they will need, so they don't run out in the middle of a job. I see that as a genuine concern, but I also see it as waste.

Inventory control solutions are somewhat simple but require cooperation of all the players, including shop management, painters, parts people and, most important, the jobber. The key to inventory control is to have materials when you need them in the quantity you need.

Most jobbers deliver daily to a shop others prefer weekly. Once shop management and the jobber agree on a delivery schedule, shop management and the painter can work on quantities required to ensure there are no production delays waiting on materials. The best tool to determine quantities to have on hand is the mix report from the scale. I would avoid using your purchase report as that  only shows what you bought and not necessarily what you needed.

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The painter can review mixes and determine the most popular toners, secondary toners and the least used toners. You can then mark your mixing machine with colored dots to signify toner usage. Green for most popular, yellow for secondary toners and red for the least used toners. Once you complete this process, you might be surprised to see how much extra material you're holding as inventory. As you develop your ordering process it's logical to keep a backup for the most popular toners. I recommend ordering a backup for the secondary toners when they're half-full and for the least used toners when they're one quarter full.

I mentioned the parts people and I'm sure you are wondering where they come into this process. They will help with the allied products. Allied products can be stored in the parts area and controlled by the parts people. Technicians can restock their work carts from that inventory and the main inventory can be replenished as it's consumed. Stocking levels should be determined by usage. However, the main issue to recognize is to ensure you are only using one type of any product. There is no need for two different types of body filler or two different brands of 80-grit sandpaper. Reducing the number of products is the key to effective materials management.

I know you have been waiting for me to give you the magic solution to painters mixing too much paint. I wish I had the magic solution, but I'm not sure how to rewire a painter. I do know there is a fine line in their “comfort zone” on whether or not they have enough paint on hand. Considering that fine line, I have convinced some to reduce the mix size by 10 percent, finding the painter surprised at the results. In the painters defense some of the over-mixes are beyond their control. Some special colors can only be mixed in larger minimum quantities.

Although I don't have a magic solution to the overmix issue, I do have some suggestions. When you have to mix a larger minimum quantity, it's a good idea to check incoming work to see if you might be able to paint two jobs with one mix. Another idea is to use any overmixes for a cut-in or as an undercoat. Painting the inside of a quarter panel, the bottom side of a floor or inner structure with an overmix that is close to the original color will often do the trick. Eliminating overmixes totally is difficult but with a little creativity you can reduce waste.

Another suggestion is to offer bonuses for decreases in material expenses. My thought is to get the painters and technicians to buy-in and success will follow. Show them the numbers as you see them so they feel ownership to the solution, then watch the magic happen. See the related article, “How to manage material expenses.


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