beauty machine

 

If you want to have a successful car repair garage, this is the most important trait you must have.

Last week I had a minor health issue, and I had to visit the on-duty hospital during the night. I will skip all the hassle and long waiting in the Greek state hospital. It is awful. It is worth writing about, but not in Etalon Refinish Blog. However, while waiting in an uncomfortable chair for my turn to see the doctor, I realized that there is a similarity between health care providers and automotive repair professionals. But how?

From my point of view, the feelings we experience when we get sick or have an accident with our car, are very similar by nature. These feelings are sadness, distress, anxiety, disappointment and extreme discomfort. In both cases, a person seeks for understanding, quick relief of the pain and, most importantly, for compassion. The very nature of the collision repair business is closely related to negative events and accidents. Nobody likes to have an accident, even if nobody is heart; the view of a crashed vehicle is very unpleasant itself. Right?

In the relation to the above-said, I can conclude that if a car repair business owner wants to be successful, he or she needs to show his understanding of the customer’s feelings. He must express compassion and willingness to guide the customer through this negative experience quickly and as hassle-free as possible. There are many ways to do this. For example, a bodyshop could offer a courtesy car, help to complete the paper works with the insurer, or simply spend a few minutes listening to what the customer has to say. Being compassionate will always pay back with the returning loyal customers and good referrals. Recently, I stumbled upon an ad, where the bodyshop owner was offering a 15% discount for those customers who had to pay the damage from their pocket. In fact, any small move, like the above, will count.

To summarize, I would like to stress one more time that understanding the customers’ feelings are of utmost importance for any business, especially for the people involved in customer service in difficult life situations. About six years ago, I wrote an article with the name “4 things a car painter and a doctor have in common”, but I could add now another thing – a good doctor and a car painter both must be compassionate…

 

Do not start a new bodyshop without thorough consideration of these aspects.

Recently I have been involved in the planning session for a brand new bodyshop for servicing municipal bus fleet of one of the capital cities in Europe. While this process is not something new or unique to me, I had an opportunity to get into customer’s thinking and logic. And, I assure you that there is no better way to understand your customer, than to be in his shoes for a while. During the numerous round table meetings, I realized that there are certain key aspects one must consider while planning a new shop. Failing to make the right decisions on those aspects will make the future of the workshop seriously difficult. Below I will analyze how to make vitally important decisions on a bodyshop space and layout, key equipment and paint supply. Additionally you will find some useful links curated especially for you on this subject.

Space and bodyshop layout

Working space is probably the most expensive and vastly important asset of any business, and collision repair businesses are not an exemption. Here we need to distinguish two possibilities. First possibility is when you are already given a certain building to fit your new shop in. Second possibility allows you to build the new shop from scratch. In the first case, a deep analysis of the given space must be considered. For example, in the project I referred above, the initially proposed building was quickly dismissed, because number of restraints for a spray booth and prep area location. Second possibility is only limited by the budget, and it is a much easier option for any organization.

Advice 1

Never underestimate the importance of space in a bodyshop planning. For example in Greece, more than 50% of the bodyshops lack the vital space for easy moving the vehicles around the shop. As a result, body and paint shops become bottlenecks, causing delays in vehicles deliveries, while decreasing overall profitability. Remember that it is much easier and cheaper to lay out the shop correctly form the beginning rather than make adjustments later on. Additionally, allocate space for spare parts storage, paint mixing room, dressing rooms and a place for employees break.

Additional reading link:

http://etalon.gr/blog/2013/08/08/4-ways-to-speed-up-your-body-shop-productivity-1/

Equipment

Every new bodyshop requires a great number of equipment and tools for its operations. I don’t want to talk about everything, but three main ones: a spraybooth, a bench and a compressor.

Spraybooth

Probably when you imagine a car painting shop, the first image coming to your mind would be a spraybooth. It is probably the most expensive piece of equipment in the paint shop, so, needless to say, it is of a paramount importance to avoid any mistakes here.

Advice 2

Nowadays one can find a great deal of spraybooths for any budget and special requests. From many years of experience, I can assure you that the most important factor for choosing one booth over another should be a supplier, not the technical characteristics. Invest your money having in mind the proximity of the supplier, his experience, technical stuff and spare parts availability. Trust me, you don’t want a supplier of a spraybooth, who can not fix any problem within 24 hours. Ask your colleagues who have different brands of spraybooths installed. Are they happy with it? Are they satisfied with the after sales service?

Additional reading links:

https://www.dtc-uk.com/spray-booths/choosing-the-right-spray-booth/

https://www.pfonline.com/articles/7-steps-to-make-buying-a-paint-booth-easier

https://www.autobodytoolmart.com/paint-booth-size-guide-t.aspx

Bench

If your workshop will perform also the complicated panel beating works then you must decide on the purchase of a bench. Straightening benches are also expensive and require good market research.

Advice 3

Make sure that you understand the insurance companies’ policies on severely damaged vehicles. In many countries, insurers prefer to scrap a vehicle with serious structural damage rather than fix it. Once you know what will be the majority of insurance jobs, you will be able to choose the right equipment without overpaying for the unnecessary options.

Additional reading link:

https://www.bodyshopbusiness.com/frame-rack-or-bench-which-is-right-for-your-shop/

Compressor

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the air supply in any bodyshop. Spray guns and airtools are all essential to the efficiency in any collision repair shop. Before deciding what capacity of the air supply your shop should have, you must study carefully the technical characteristics of the spray guns and pneumatic tools to be used. Place, where the compressor will be, piston or rotary technology, length of the air supply network and potential air losses – all these crucial parameters must be carefully calculated.

Advice 4

Allocate adequate funds for the compressor to cater for all the needs and exceeding the estimated air supply capacity for this workshop at least by 15-20%. Compressor is not a piece of equipment to save money on. Consider a secondary backup compressor in case of the breakdown of the primary compressor. Choose a supplier who has the experience with paint shop needs. Keep in mind that air purity, absence of water and oil in the air system are important in the bodyshops like in no other workshop.

Additional reading links:

https://www.bodyshopbusiness.com/buying-tips-air-compressors/

https://www.bodyshopbusiness.com/air-compressors-what-to-consider-when-buying/

https://www.thecompressedairblog.com/compressed-air-application-automotive-paint-body-shop

Paint and consumables supply

Likewise, choosing the paint and consumables supplier is not an easy task. Probably the two most common mistakes I see in the market are choosing a potential supplier based on price or on “freebies”. Both decisions patterns may seriously affect negatively the future of the business.

Advice 5

Do not choose your paint supplier based on the price alone. First, the price and the cost are not the same things. Cheap may be very costly when it comes to the productivity. Initial “sweetness” of low price will fade out quickly when quality issues appear or/and due to the bad service a “cheap” supplier provides.

Another common trap is when a potential paint supplier offers expensive “gifts” in order to get your business. “Free” spray guns, tools or even a spraybooth, are actually always included in the future bills. The cost of those “freebies” is disguised, but you will always pay them back with a high interest rate. No suppliers, especially multinational paint companies, are charitable organizations.

Additional reading link:

http://etalon.gr/blog/2017/08/27/buying-bodyshops-business-paint-companies-sustainable/

Sum up

If you are in the process of the new bodyshop set up, please do not rush your decisions. A great number of businesses are doomed to failure before even opening their doors. You might be tempted to speed up the whole process to start working as soon as possible. However, a few weeks delay, spent on the meticulous preparations and research, will save you tones of money and put the solid bases for the future success.

 

Fake news, fake watches, fake guns (spray guns)

I would like to share with you some thoughts about one encounter I had recently with one painter in Greece. While we were talking about usual stuff in his paint mixing room, I spotted a new box of Devilbiss GTI Pro Lite Spray gun. I am selling this well-known brand for more than 15 years, and I am always happy to see painters using this excellent piece of engineering. “Good choice”, I said. “Yes, and very cheap too, only 130£ on Ebay”, he replied. “That is unusually cheap, indeed”, I thought, while taking the box in my hands. I asked if I could open it, and took the gun in my hands. From that very moment I realized that it’s not a genuine spray gun, it just didn’t sit well in my hand. “It is Devilbiss from China”, the painter replied seeing my obvious confusion and with a slight sign of guilt in his eyes.

I don’t want to bore you with the entire discussion I had with this painter. He knew it was fake, but, for some reason, just because it had the brand on it, he thought he got a good deal. The truth is, he was ripped off. The painter paid 130£ for a below average Chinese gun, which normally should be around 25£ max. Yes, it still sprays the paint, but it isn’t even close to a genuine Devilbiss product.

To be honest, I hate fake things. Whether it is feelings, news, a gadget or a watch. Well, for me, especially watches, since I love these small pieces of mechanical engineering in our digital world. If you want to buy a Swiss watch regardless of a price tag, you probably value the craftsmanship and work and time spent on making it. Nobody needs to buy a watch now just to see what time is it. You exchange your hard-earned money on something of a profound value for you; on something, which reminds you about your own achievements and hard work. If you buy a fake Rolex, for example, you deceive mainly yourself, not others.

It is not in my intention to make in-depth comparison between the real thing and the fake. There are too many points. I think Devilbiss managers should do it instead. In fact, I don’t understand why Ebay UK allows to sell fake products undisturbed? However, I strongly believe that sprayers should respect their work and be tidy with everything they use in their job. In the end of the day, the one who is fooled around is your pride and self-esteem.

 

UV or not UV?

Those of you, my dear readers, who have taken part in a trade fair as an exhibitor, know how exhausting it could be. However, trade fairs are still the best way to meet new people, catch up with colleagues and learn new things about your industry. Today, when the Collision Repair Expo in Melbourne closed its doors, I look back and think, apart from meeting new and old friends and colleagues on this fair, I definitely take with me the understanding of one future defining technology – UV curing coatings.

While UV technology is not something completely new to the collision repair industry, yet it is now, when all the major automotive paint producers actively market it. During the last three days in the Melbourne Exhibition Center I had an opportunity to get some deeper knowledge of the UV-curing products’ advantages over the conventional 2K coatings, and the challenges, which follow this trend.

Some of you may ask the question: ”Why do the major players in the automotive refinishing industry start marketing UV-cured products now?” Well, benefits of such materials have been known before – ultra fast drying, zero sinking (shrinkage), no heat curing (great for sensitive areas), one component materials (no hardeners required). Yet, what are the challenges? Is adopting UV technology an easy ride? There are a few obstacles though – high initial investment in equipment, products cost (UV materials are expensive) and resistance to change from the painters, when especially the benefits are questionable. Let me analyze what I mean.

Initial investment

One of the largest obstacles for any new technology is the cost and complexity of the associated equipment involved. On this direction I can clearly see some development for last couple of years. For example, I saw some new players entering UV-curing equipment, like the UV-curing brand Lihtan. Australian designed Lihtan brand attracted many visitors in Melbourne Collision Repair Expo this month. Milton Da Silva – cofounder of Lihtan – told me during our conversation in Melbourne that the interest for the UV technology is at its pick; this is why he works closely with all major paint brands to offer affordable and reliable UV light systems. Already many premium automotive coatings manufacturers approved Lihtan UV equipment (www.lihtanuv-a.com). It goes without saying that the more manufacturers of the related equipment appear, the better.

Cost of UV materials

This is probably one of the most important obstacles at the moment. With an aerosol UV primer retailed at more than 70 Euro per can, these products could hardly be described as affordable. What the suppliers of UV-cured materials need to do first – is to explain really well and in details how an ordinary bodyshop will benefit while paying such a high price. One could really claim, for example, that difference in drying time is not that big to justify the premium paid. If, on average, with IR lamp a spot primer would dry in 6-7 minutes, a UV primer would require about 2-3 minutes. Is the 4-5 minutes difference serious enough argument? The question should be answered by each sales rep selling UV stuff. On the other hand, if the UV technology really takes off, manufacturers will achieve economies of scale, and the prices may go down. Time will tell.

Resistance to change

By nature, a human being is reluctant to leave his comfort zone. This applies to all aspects of our life, including our work life. Therefore UV technology will have to go through painters’ and shop owners’ hyper-criticism, skepticism and doubt. However, there is nothing new here. Waterborne paints were met with a lot of criticism too, and now more and more collision repair shops switch to “water”.

I am sure that UV-curing materials will find their place in modern bodyshops only if the paint producers will explain and communicate legitimate, not just on PowerPoint slides, benefits for both painters and business owners. Those benefits must outbalance the expenses and costs of the materials for most of the bodyshops out there, and not only for the very top ones. Only if an average smash repair store profits by the novelty, we would be able to say with assurance that UV-cured technology found its place in the sun…

 

 

Private labels in automotive refinishing market

I have had an idea of writing this article since long time ago. Initially I believed that as the owner of a private label brand, I would be biased and subjective. Yet, now I feel that it is the right time to share with you my vision. If you visited the last Automechanika Fair last September, you would have realized that there are more and more new brands in the market, mainly private labels. For the known reasons, I cannot use the names of the companies and brands in the article, but in any case, the intention is not to discuss any particular company or brand, but to shed the light on the place of private label companies in the car refinishing market overall.

A little bit of history

In order to understand why there is a growing number of non-manufacturing brands, one should analyze first the very nature of the products portfolio needed in a car body paint shop. The reality is that a contemporary painter requires a wide range of tools and consumables to get the job done. Abrasives, masking products, sealing and anticorrosive materials, personal protection products, fillers, clear coats, primers and, of course, paint itself, are just a few to mention. The range is vast and diverse. It is not possible, even for big multinational brands, to produce chemicals and, let’s say abrasives, at the same time. Yet the end user searches for a one-stop shop to get all his consumables needs covered. Inevitably, even large manufacturers go after the outsourcing of the big part of their products portfolio. Actually, the concept of the private labeling has been introduced by the producers, not traders.

Different types of private label companies, partial manufacturers as I mentioned before, the very first private labeled products have been introduced by the leading paints producers, who wanted to enlarge their offerings by non-paint products, like tapes or sanding discs. I call them “partial manufacturers”. A typical example of a partial manufacturer would be a liquid chemicals producer, who has under its brand’s umbrella all the rest of materials needed in a car repair process. However, for the last couple of years, we see the opposite examples just as well. Producers of abrasives, for instance, add chemicals and other products to their catalogue, and with a great success in certain countries.

Pure private label brands

You can find nowadays a good deal of the brands, which do not produce any or the vast majority of their products they sell. These companies are assembling their products range like a puzzle, working with different manufacturers virtually all over the world. A part of those companies became really sizable businesses, and, they are actually lined up with many leading physical manufacturers. Success here depends on how well-tuned their range is, how the marketing works, and whether they have enough financial background to back the endeavor. Building successful private label brand involves a huge amount of time spent on sourcing and testing the products, which would fit the existing range and create a uniform product offering with consistency and coherence.

Fake manufacturers

I know at least one company, which built its corporate story around a decades old factory, which never existed. The intentions are clear, this brand wants to attract customers, who want to work with “real” producers. Is it good or not? I don’t want to judge.  But believe me, the false or misleading marketing has been used by many companies in different areas of business. One famous notebooks producer boasts that it notebooks were in favor of Ernest Hemingway. Small detail, the world renown writer died before the brand was born.

Advantages and opportunities of private label brands
  • Flexibility. Most of the private label brands are very quick and flexible. They react much faster on the market’s shifts than the physical manufacturers. For example, if a customer of Etalon needs a particular product, which is not in our range, within 30-45 days we can have it ready. Larger companies may need months if not a year to react. The secret here is that we don’t rely on a single manufacturer with its existing range and production restrictions.
  • Using the best producer for the product category. It is not a secret that every manufacturer has strong and weak production sides. A purchasing manager of a private label brand knows very well where he or she should go “shopping” for bodyfillers and where for clearcoats.
  • No geographical limits. This is my favorite. If your market is saturated and/or the local economy is in recession, with your own brand you can literally sell anywhere in the world. Etalon is a proof of this. Actually I am writing this post on my way to Australia and New Zealand.
  • Possibility to serve diverse customers segments. If you are a physical manufacturer in Switzerland or Germany, for example, you may experience a difficulty to cater for the price sensitive markets simply because your fixed costs are high. However, if you are a private label owner, you can create two product ranges, by placing your orders with different producers depending on their price levels.
Disadvantages and difficulties for private label companies
  • High order volumes. If someone decides to launch a private label brand, he or she must be aware of high order quantities required by manufacturers. Usually it is minimum a pallet per product, size or color. Therefore financial backing in this case is very important.
  • Logistics. Big order quantities will require large storage facilities and a fine-tuned logistics are imperative. It is also important to have really professional people in the purchasing department, who will monitor constantly the stock levels and place the needed orders just in time.
  • Overstocking and under- stocking could ruin all the efforts.
  • Marketing. Don’t even think about starting private label without professional marketers and designers onboard. Poor appearance, slow webpage, outdated labels design will never allow you to grow. Unfortunately, many private label brands go unnoticed because of unprofessional marketing. Also, since we are dealing with chemicals, it is crucial to have experienced labels’ designers, who would know all the regulations for safety and dangerous goods handling.
Takeaway

The main idea, which I wanted to share with you is that private label brands could be as valuable suppliers as physical manufacturers. However, launching a brand or a product group with your label is much harder than one could imagine. Constant market prospecting, product testings, innovative marketing techniques, smart brand name, catchy corporate identity, trade mark registration, professional design, miles and miles of traveling, all these are required for success.

Enjoy!

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