beauty machine

 

Why do we need more women in the bodyshop?

We are living in a time where clichés are being dethroned. Women serve in the army, run successful international corporations, fly to space and lead governments. Whether we – men – like it or not, women will take up more active role in every aspect of the modern society. Automotive industry is still dominated by men, despite the fact that the number of women behind the driving wheel match the men, at least in the developed world. So, why don’t we have an equivalent percentage of women (I don’t know what percentage this should be) in a bodyshop?

Women in the repair shop. Why we see women only at the reception desks?

I will concentrate on the bodyshop business, since it is closer to my usual readers. Apparently, there are a few reasons why women spraying cars are rather an exception.

  1. Prejudice. I strongly believe the main reason, is the negative predisposition of people – men – in the collision repair industry against women in a bodyshop. Just like with female taxi drivers, men do not like their cars to be fixed, driven or painted by women.
  2. Collision repair job is too hard for women. It shouldn’t be. If a bodyshop is properly equipped than none of the operations, especially in a paint shop, should be physically challenging for women.
  3. This work is too hazardous for women. Again, collision repair work must be safe for any person involved in the repair process, regardless of gender or age. Of course, I have my concerns if women should be working with chemicals, while pregnant, but this shouldn’t be an obstacle for women’s occupation in a bodyshop in general.
  4. Social disapproval. Just like with the first point, modern society puts labels on women. They can be nurses, waitresses, teachers, cooks or doctors. Most of the parents will discourage their daughter to choose a career of a car mechanic or refinisher.
  5. The job is not prestigious. It is hard to deny that the collision repair industry struggles to attract young people. This is the problem, which affects young men and women in the same way. Unless we find proper incentives, our industry will continue to grow older.

Emelie Dammare WorldSkills 2013 Silver Medalist in Car Painting

Why do we need more women in the industry?

The idea to write this post came to me after reading the article “Young Painter Creates “Girls Behind the Gun” in AutobodyNews.com about Konstandina Manjavinos – a young lady who is a very successful sprayer. Konstandina is also the founder of the movement “Girls behind the gun”. I follow her posts and cannot hide my admiration for her enthusiasm and skills. “Girls behind the gun” has thousands of followers! By the way, Konstandina has Greek roots. I tried to recall any female car sprayer in Greece. Never met one, even though a colleague told me that he knew … three!

  1. Women are more efficient and accurate in the routine tasks.We all know that vehicle’s preparation before it enters a spray booth, requires a certain routine of masking, sanding, de-masking, priming and cleaning chores. The importance of these jobs are difficult to underestimate. If you ever have visited an OEM paint shop, you would know that the majority of employees there are women. I guess that the biggest car manufacturers realized a long time ago that women are better than men in many tasks in the paint shop.
  2. Women are better in distinguishing colors.According to the research in the CUNY’s Brooklyn College, “women are much better in noticing subtle differences among shades of a color”. We all know how important this capability in colormetrics and color-matching is. Automotive refinishing business will benefit from more women in a spray booth or behind a color matching bench.
  3. Women handle better multiple tasks. According to the research of University of Glasgow, women outperform men when asked to do multiple tasks simultaneously. I think that in a bodyshop, employees have to run many things at the same time. For fact.
  4. Women keep their working place clean and tidy.Every year dozens of productive hours are lost because employees are searching for tools, equipment and consumables around the shop.
  5. Women are better in communication. It is not a secret that timely delivery of a vehicle doesn’t depend only on bodyshop capacity. Estimators, insurance companies, parts and consumables’ suppliers all influence delivery times. I am sure that more women in all positions in a collision repair shop will benefit the business overall.

 

Finally, I would like to mention another influential woman in the collision repair business –Kristen Felder – founder at Engage Target Media and Collision Hub. I follow Kristen’s work for a while now, and she is probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the automotive refinishing industry I know. I am sure there are many other women who make our trade move forward.

Why being “a Jack of all trades” in bodyshop is a disaster.

Not a long time ago I met a bodyshop owner in Greece, with whom I had a long and friendly conversation about life in general and business particularly. The guy, let’s call him Giorgos, gave me his courtesy card, which looked like it was designed by a five year old child. Giorgos was very proud and told me that he created his business card himself… I put the card in my pocket trying not to stare at it too much. “I do everything myself”, Giorgos told me, and invited me for lunch. To make the story short, we had a good meal enjoying sunny Greek afternoon. While having frappe – very popular iced coffee in Greece – Giorgos asked me what would be my advice for him to grow his business. My reply came rough. “Stop doing everything yourself”. Naturally, I didn’t have any intention to upset otherwise a good professional car painter and a friendly person. In fact, I really wanted to give a valuable advice. Frankly speaking, I meet people like Giorgos a lot in the collision repair industry, so below is my vision.

Jack of all trades, and master of none.

Probably you already know this proverb. Luckily, most of the people I rub elbows with, are real masters, craftsmen in their job, whether it is doing quality car repairs or selling materials for the bodyshops. On the flipside, many of them try, like Giorgos, to do every single business related function themselves. But until now I haven’t met a “master of all trades”. If you are good at color matching, it doesn’t mean that you will choose the right color for your business card. If you have deep knowledge about automotive refinish products, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be that great in bookkeeping or advertising. Having two thousands friends on Facebook doesn’t guarantee that your company page will bring you any customers. “Maybe you are right”, said Giorgos reluctantly while studying my business card. “But I can’t afford any employee or marketing manager”. My reply was laconic…

Outsourcing

What big international companies understood quite some time ago, yet small businesses struggle to comprehend? You have no reason to do everything in house, yourself or by hiring an employee. Business tycoons in every imaginable industry outsource a good deal of their operations. Call centers, customer care, accountancy, logistics, IT security, legal issues, advertising, organizing holidays, you name it, have been outsourced by narrowly specialized professionals from different parts of the world. So, why, for God’s sake, Giorgos designs business cards himself?

In Etalon we outsource accountancy, logistics, legal matters and IT. Our team is concentrated in developing, sourcing, testing and marketing the best car refinish consumables. This is what we do for living. I cannot imagine doing everything within the company.

Family affair

In order for the outsourcing to be successful, what you really need to do yourself is a good market survey. Ask people around you, not only colleagues from the trade. If you liked your doctor’s business card, praise it and ask for the reference. She will be more than happy to give you the contact details. Do not fall into the trap of giving the job to your cousin, who “is good with computers”. Do not delegate the bookkeeping to your wife just because she was good at maths in high-school. Frequently relatives or close friends are the worst help, even if it comes free of charge.

Giorgos was clever enough to listen to my advice. Now he has new business cards, website and corporate identity. Luckily he didn’t print too many of his previous cards.

 

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The best polishing machine for a collision repair shop is …

 

To make it clear from the beginning, I will not name the best brand or model, even if I do have a very strong opinion about the best electric tools in the market. The main objective of this short post is to clarify to our readers what machine they should have in their bodyshop to solve car refinishing problems. For the last couple of years, collision repair professionals have been approached with a great variety of tools, and I have been asked quite a few times about the best choice.

Types of polishing machines

All the existing polishing machines in the market can be divided into three categories: rotary, random orbital and dual action (DA). Below I am going to explain the major differences between them.

Rotary polishers

Rotary polishers are the oldest polishing tools in the market. They use simple circular motion on a single axis. Modern rotary polishers come in a variety of designs and with the possibility of speed adjustment (usually from 600 to 2500 rpm), but the two most important parameters we check in a rotary machine is the power output and weight.

Orbital polishers

Orbital polishers unlike the rotary polishers, which are using direct drive on one axis, have two centers – machine central spindle and pad’s own axis. The movement of the pad is orbital, like the Earth’s movement around the Sun. The shape of the orbit depends on the distance between the two axes. This distance is a crucial technical parameter and usually is somewhere between 8 to 21mm. The best example (at least from marketing point of view) of random orbital technology is Rupes Big Foot series. The good thing about orbital polishers is that they are very safe, and it is almost impossible to overheat or damage the coating while using an orbital polisher.

Dual action polishers

Dual action or DA polishers are usually confused with orbital ones. DAs are actually a hybrid between rotary and orbital machine, in which forced rotary movement is combined with orbital. This machine is supposed to have the best from the two worlds. Flex XC3401 VRG is the most known DA polisher in the market. The Das indeed can do the job of minor scratches correction, on the other hands, it is very hard to remove wet sanding marks, for example.

What polisher shall we buy for a bodyshop and why?

First of all, we need to understand when usually we use a polishing machine in the collision repair shop? The main usage of polishing or buffing in a bodyshop occurs when a painter needs to remove certain paint defects revealed after the repair job is completed. The most frequent paint defects, which require buffing, are dust nibs, runs, excessive orange peel and clearcoat dieback. Usually prior to compounding, a painter use either wet or dry sanding paper to speed up the polishing process altogether. So, in other words, polisher is a kind of fire extinguisher helping to prevent the potential customer’s complaints. Nobody likes those nasty dust nibs on a freshly painted car. The key parameter for polishing is the speed. Paint defects must be removed quickly and effectively, so that the vehicle could leave the workshop on time.

From the three types of polishers I mentioned above, the fastest and the most powerful tool is a rotary buffer. Rotary machine quickly increases the temperature of the paint, softens it and by friction between pad, compound and the surface, removes the upper layer of the clearcoat. DA polisher and especially random orbital machines will fail in most of the instances to remove sand paper scratches even from grit P2000. Fact. Despite the ease of use and safety, dual action and orbital polishers are not the preferred tools for a bodyshop professional. They are very useful for the detailers to remove holograms, swirls and to apply wax or sealant, but this is another job.

Conclusion

If you need to buy a polishing machine (every bodyshop must have one), go for a reliable rotary polisher. Pay attention to the machine’s weight (something within 2-2.5kg range is a good choice) and power output (900 – 1100 Watt are good enough). However, if you consider to offer polishing and detailing services, which I strongly recommend you to do (read a separate article about this topic here), then a DA polisher or random orbital one will be a well-justified and worthwhile investment.

 

P.S. A car sprayer should consider purchasing a pneumatic orbital polishing machine. Unlike car detailing shops, all bodyshops are equipped with decent air compressors. Pneumatic polishers are powerful, durable, lightweight and almost maintenance free.

Is “buying” bodyshops business by paint companies sustainable?

After rubbing the shoulders with businesses involved in car refinishing for more than 15 years, I can surely state that certain paint companies implement aggressive market share acquisition as their main growth strategy. In practice, a paint supplier invests in the potential customer -bodyshop- by offering equipment, tools, spray booths and even cash money against the long term binding supply contracts. This is a very common practice in many countries, especially in developed and mature markets, where the growth in organic way is difficult.

Acquisitions, aggressive growth strategies and buyouts are not new in our business environment. In fact, it is very common in some industries. However, I would like to elaborate on this subject in the light of the automotive refinishing industry.

How does it work?

If you are not familiar with the above-mentioned contracts, let me describe them in a few words. Imagine a bodyshop with good or growing business, or even, a new, but promising collision repair shop. Any bodyshop needs primarily two groups of suppliers: spare parts supplier(s) and paint related materials supplier(s). If you are a potential supplier of paint materials, you have a lengthy road to go through in order to get the desired account. You have to prove that you have better product, prices that are more competitive, superior service and unmatchable technical support.  Sounds like very hard thing to do, and it is very hard indeed. There is another way though. If your company has plenty of “free” cash, you can offer the potential customer very tangible, benefits upfront. The size of the investment depends largely on the perceived amount of sales a soon-to-be paint supplier projects. From my experience, the investment may comprise from free spray guns, sanders, polishers, free load of toners to the mixing machine to brand new spray booth and a lump sum of cash into account. Looks very promising indeed.

Possible pitfalls.

I do not want to criticize the paint companies.  Not at all. In fact, this strategy though might hide certain risks and pays off. Otherwise, highly skilled managers wouldn’t proceed with this. The risks are definitely well calculated. On the other hand, if I were a bodyshop owner, I would have considered a number of risks for my business.

Firstly, everyone should understand that multinational companies, and big automotive paint manufacturers are no exemption, are businesses with very well-tuned profit generating machines. Every investment, big or small, is planned to deliver cash to its stakeholders. Therefore, initial cash infusion in any form will be certainly calculated into the prices charged in the future.

Secondly, binding contracts limit a bodyshop owner in the choice of suppliers, thus new products and technologies from other brands would be beyond your reach. Some of those contracts are very strict, meaning that you must buy everything through a given channel, appointed by that paint company.

Third, in case you would like to sell business, any binding contract would be considered as a liability, which will decrease significantly the sales price.

In any case, any decision of undertaking restrictive obligations must be very carefully analyzed. Remember, sweetness of free stuff will be gone quickly, but bitter taste of obligations burden will stay for a long time.

 

Inventory management in auto paint supply stores. 6 problems and solutions. Part 2.

Poor delivery times from suppliers

When we select our suppliers, we usually consider two main parameters: quality of the goods and price. Nevertheless, a third parameter for the decision making is of utmost importance – delivery times. On many occasions, it is better to choose slightly higher priced supplier, who guarantees faster goods delivery. You will save more with less “frozen” money in stock and avoid back orders with customers (back orders may actually never become orders, if the customer buys the needed products elsewhere).

Solution

Always consider delivery terms as a vital parameter when choosing a supplier.

Storage problems of certain refinishing consumables

As I already mentioned, in auto paint supply shop there are numerous different products. Some of these goods, especially painting materials, must be carefully stored to avoid quality deviations. For example, most polishing compounds shouldn’t be exposed to very low temperatures; masking tapes and PU sealants might lose their properties if kept in places with very high humidity; aerosol sprays shouldn’t be exposed to high temperatures and direct sunlight.

Solution

Fortunately, virtually all automotive paint related materials are supplied with MSDS (material safety data sheets) and TDS (technical data sheets), where all the necessary storage related information is clearly stated. Keep all the necessary documents handy for all the employees in the warehouse so that they could consult these whenever it is necessary.

Natural disasters, robbery and other unpredicted events

Five years ago all my stock turned to ashes. Fire destroyed 100% of all goods, nothing was left. Even spray guns melted down. It was a very hard lesson. Natural disasters like fire or flood happen more often than we think. Robberies are also common in modern cities. Force majeure, as sometimes we refer to unfortunate events, are part of commercial risks, yet, we can and should protect ourselves against such events.

Solution

Warehouse insurance policy costs must be an integral, non-negotiable part of any company’s budget. Choose the insurance company as carefully as you choose a spouse. I mean it. In addition, do everything possible to prevent such disasters as fire or robbery. Nowadays, one can find a great variety of security systems, while fire systems installation is mandatory in places handling flammable goods. Please, do not cut the corners here.

Conclusion

I am quite confident that the information in this article is not new for you, my dear reader. However, from my point of view, we need some sort of reminder from time to time. This is exactly what I intend in this post and many others in Etalon Refinish blog. In modern collision repair industry we embrace new technologies, repair processes and materials, but forget timeless business practices. Inventory and stock management are taught in the business schools and MBA programs, and it is not a coincidence that larger corporations have highly skilled employees in charge of logistic departments. On the other hand, in smaller businesses like auto paint supply shops we act like “Jack of all trades”, therefore a complicated task of warehouse and inventory management is yet another task in our routine. Well managed warehouse is as important as loyal customers; it will save you money and headaches. The best time to work with your stock is in low periods, like summer holidays and Christmas break. Devote more time to fine tune your warehouse, and rewards will come immediately.

 

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